Monday, November 2, 2015

Important Distinction, If Useless

Ignorance vs anti-knowledge. They aren't the same, and the latter has become the central motivation of today's Republican party. This opinion piece says it well.
... Fifty years ago, if a person did not know who the prime minister of Great Britain was, what the conflict in Vietnam was about, or the barest rudiments of how a nuclear reaction worked, he would shrug his shoulders and move on. And if he didn’t bother to know those things, he was in all likelihood politically apathetic and confined his passionate arguing to topics like sports or the attributes of the opposite sex... 
... At present, however, a person can be blissfully ignorant of how to locate Kenya on a map, but know to a metaphysical certitude that Barack Obama was born there, because he learned it from Fox News. Likewise, he can be unable to differentiate a species from a phylum but be confident from viewing the 700 Club that evolution is “politically correct” hooey and that the earth is 6,000 years old. 
And he may never have read the Constitution and have no clue about the Commerce Clause, but believe with an angry righteousness that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. 
This brings us inevitably to celebrity presidential candidate Ben Carson. The man is anti-knowledge incarnated, a walking compendium of every imbecility ever uttered during the last three decades...
The author goes on:
The current wave, which now threatens to swamp our political culture, began in a similar fashion with the rise to prominence in the 1970s of fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. But to a far greater degree than previous outbreaks, fundamentalism has merged its personnel, its policies, its tactics and its fate with a major American political party, the Republicans... 
... Buttressing this merger is a vast support structure of media, foundations, pressure groups and even a thriving cottage industry of fake historians and phony scientists. From Fox News to the Discovery Institute (which exists solely to “disprove” evolution), and from the Heritage Foundation (which propagandizes that tax cuts increase revenue despite massive empirical evidence to the contrary) to bogus “historians” like David Barton (who confected a fraudulent biography of a piously devout Thomas Jefferson that had to be withdrawn by the publisher), the anti-knowledge crowd has created an immense ecosystem of political disinformation...
This is, of course, exactly what I've been saying, surely less well-articulated, for years. It defies understanding and, except for the fact that it's undeniably true, belief. A democratic republic can't long endure when one of its two political parties has turned entirely to promoting such anti-knowledge, such a concerted effort to denigrate expertise. It's a transparent admission that they can't win by appealing to an educated public; and it explains their commitment to degrading public education, among other things.

Sadly, no more than I, the author has no suggestions of what might lead to change; nor, like me, evinces any sense of hope that it ever will.

[Image source]


  1. Sid, your last sentence makes the most sense.

  2. Thanks for highlighting the Lofgren article and Asimov's succinct quote, which I had forgotten. Reading such wonderfully constructed commentary - yours included, despite your self-appraisal - is so very satisfying. Ahh, to be able to write like that!

    It is unfortunate that Carson will not be the Republican chosen. I have to believe that he will eventually be demolished for his ignorance and ridiculous beliefs. I suppose that depends on some member of the press, in a televised forum, not letting go of his wingnut beliefs simply because they're "old news". I mean, aside from huge ego or spiritual belief, how the hell does this guy think he's even remotely qualified?!

    In a related piece about ignorance and less about anti-knowledge, the first article in this month's Atlantic, Amateur Hour by Jonanthon Rauch, describes the U.S. electorate's alarming, increasing prevalence for inexperienced presidents.


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