Anti-intellectualism is killing us

mg20227076.000-2_300Jac sends this, an interesting Psychology Today essay by David Niose that includes this:

America is killing itself through its embrace and exaltation of ignorance, and the evidence is all around us. Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter who used race as a basis for hate and mass murder, is just the latest horrific example. Many will correctly blame Roof’s actions on America’s culture of racism and gun violence, but it’s time to realize that such phenomena are directly tied to the nation’s culture of ignorance.



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  1. Bristol Palin, bless her heart, is pregnant. Again. But by all means let us continue to preach abstinence, and even pay for it with taxpayer money. But at least Obamacare survived yet another challenge in the Supreme Court, so she can stay on her parents’ medical insurance for another couple of years.

    Racism has been nurtured by ignorance and anti-intellectualism, but American/European racism has its origins firmly planted in economics. It was economically advantageous to enslave human beings and ship them over the Atlantic to the American South and to the British Caribbean, and so for decades anthropologists and historians and theologians knocked themselves out trying to come up with “scientific” and biblical rationalizations for the practice.[1]

    From the Mississippi Declaration of Causes: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. “[2]

    There is nothing irrational about that. It’s the same argument corporations, especially Big Banks, make today as to why they shouldn’t pay taxes — they’re too big and too vital to the economy.

    [1] Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People.
    [2] Ta-nehisi Coates, The Confederate Cause in the Words of Its Leaders.

    1. I read her blog last night. I wish for her a life lived in private because frankly? I don’t want to watch.

  2. It’s a Brave New World.

    “[I]n which ignorance is a political weapon and pleasure as a form of control, offering nothing more that the swindle of fulfillment, if not something more self-deluding and defeating.” (Giroux

    War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

    Lee McIntyre/The Attack on Truth

    We have entered the age of willful ignorance…There is simple ignorance and there is willful ignorance, which is simple ignorance coupled with the decision to remain ignorant. Normally that occurs when someone has a firm commitment to an ideology that proclaims it has all the answers…The strategy is to say, “I refuse to believe this,” and then filibuster in the court of public opinion.

    I understand Niose’s frustration but I don’t entirely agree with his viewpoint. Noise states “it is beyond dispute that critical thinking has been abandoned as a cultural value.” This ignores both the definition of critical thinking…the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment…and the fact that critical thinking is not exclusive to intellectualism. If critical thinking has indeed been abandoned as a cultural value, (which it hasn’t…ask any mechanic…logistics consultant…customer service rep…political wrangler…advertising executive…healthcare professional), then it is the fault of those intellectuals who claim exclusive dominion over critical thinking.

    Religion is exploited here as the always convenient target, implying that intellectualism is incompatible with religious faith…particularly “fundamentalist” faith. That, as any true intellectual…(start here)…would be forced to admit, is some high-order intellectual bullshit. Some critical thinking might reveal a disparity between religion and Religion®, (highly politicalized and capitalized faith-based social solidarity), in America. Maybe not….

    Noise gets close to the mark when he calls out “corporate influence…shaping life around materialism and consumption.” (Which would require some corporatist critical thinking skills…don’t you think?) He never, however, calls it what it is…Capitalism. (Which implies a certain lack of critical thinking intellectualism…don’t you think?) This allows him to avoid calling out the political roots of anti-intellectualism (Reagan Era/emergent neoliberalism) as well as the institutional origins of willful ignorance, (see McIntyre above), and any contribution of science, (the alleged dominion of reason), to the promulgation of racist ignorance…as well as bias-motivated/class-motivated ignorance in general…worldwide.

    Then Noise wraps up this particular filibuster in the requisite packaging of “racist and gun-crazed culture”, ties it up with a bow of “abandonment of reason” ribbon, perfectly confident the reader will accept, without question, that American intelligentsia is devoid of any culpability in any of this deplorable but somehow completely predictable…to intellectuals…activity.

    He does keep it close to 1,000 words though. There’s that…..

  3. I grew up with Anti-intellectualism. In the midst of it. Here’s the deal.

    My intellectually high-powered, very educated and extremely articulate parents were, nonetheless, rather impecunious, so they bought a house in a very poor neighborhood populated by very uneducated people. That is where I grew up, and my location there dictated the public schools I attended. Meaning public schools populated by the kids of uneducated people.

    I wanted to learn as much as I could as fast as possible, so I worked hard at that. My peers did not like that. There was a moderately aggressive push to NOT learn, and they were hostile to anybody who wanted to. It wasn’t pleasant.

    I’ve noticed a similar attitude in the public realm about “elites” and “intellectuals” and that the only people who are solid philosophers or know anything real are low-intelligence Bubbas from the bayous.

    Holy crap.

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