Anti-intellectualism aka the Cult of the Stupid is more dangerous than any terrorist to America.
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’ ” ― Issac Asimov
American intelligence has been under attack for decades. The concept that intellectualism is uncool has been pushed by all kinds of media — print and electronic. The terms nerd, and geek were minted to label intellectuals. Although some have embraced these terms to take away the sting, as some genders and races have done with other slurs, they are generally not used as terms of affection.
Partially because of the advent of the internet and social media we now have platforms where people dumber than Balaam’s donkey can spout ignorance.
Corporations took over the media, people who say egregiously stupid things are featured widely. Truth and reason were exchanged for entertainment and platforms for those who say something counter to fact. This desire to have belief trump fact is, actually, older than the internet. In his 1964 book “Anti-intellectualism in America,” Richard Hofstader describes how anti-reason and anti-science have been infused into the political and social systems of America. The internet, social media, and the corruption of the media by corporate greed only exacerbated what he described.
According the National Science Foundation, 25 percent of Americans believe that the sun revolves around the earth — sorry Copernicus, your research and the grief you took for it does not matter to these folks, but then they probably never heard of you anyway so don’t feel bad.
The Theory of Evolution, a basic tenet of western education, has been called into question, not because of new science or new discovery, but because some people do not want to believe it. There are people who believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old and they have no interest in any fact that contradicts that. There is a museum about 60 miles from my house that shows dinosaurs and people interacting, in other words they believe “The Flintstones” was a documentary. It is easier to convince the gullible that Pebbles rode a small dinosaur to kindergarten than it would be to explain Einstein’s scholarship.
This anti-intellectualism means that our society is in a permanent state of uncertainty. No one is accepted as an expert anymore. Brother Josephus from the Church of the Holy Magic Rainbow Aardvark Ascending is as worthy of having airtime to share his findings or beliefs as any PhD.
We have to reclaim our intelligence in this country. We have to go back to a time when reason, logic and, facts dominate discussion and intellectualism is not viewed as something to be feared.
I always told my students not to believe what people tell you, including me, without doing your own research.
Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and guest columnist.