Colo. Rep. Lauren Boebert - HS dropout -and her Glock
Insurrection on Jan. 6 based on swallowing Trump lie
Rep. Paul Gosar - circulated cartoon in which he kills AOC
The issue of anti-intellectualism evidently has a long history in this country, originally documented by author Richard Hofstadtler in his 1963 book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. Hofstadter's book provides a unique insight into a historical malignancy that's still growing in this country via dumbed down news sources like FOX News- plus talk radio .
The increasing dumbing down of the populace- fed by corporate-consumer swill, political propaganda and puff pieces that substitute for real news- combined with a metastasizing and narrow-minded religiosity, has served to spawn at least two generations of anti-intellectuals. The current incarnation - the span of manifestation displayed in the above images- may well be the most worrisome of all. This is given it's affected the brains of more than a third of the country- who now inhabit a parallel universe of lies and stupidity.
Worse, this recent manifestation has led to the almost total absence of critical thinking or logical analysis in the American populace at large. One need only look at recent polls showing so many fed up with the current economic policies - yet they are out in Malls - or online- spending like madmen, on high end electronics, video games, fitness equipment, you name it.
All told, Americans spent $638.2 billion in October, a 16 percent increase from last year. While they also piss and moan on the tube about how hard they have it, they don't mention the hundreds of bucks extra they're getting each month from Biden's child tax credits (part of the America Rescue Plan) and the cash they've stashed since several big spending bills were passed. They like the extra cash for their spending, but evidently hate that it's causing inflation.
In the words of Jack Kleinhenz chief economist for the National Retail Foundation:
"Consumers are very concerned about inflation, but that has not held back spending. People have the ability to spend — not only from the savings cushion they built up over the last year and half, but because we’ve added new jobs, which means new income and new spending.”
This from yesterday's Wall Street Journal ('Rising Prices Yet To Trigger Changes In Consumer Patterns', p. A2):
Americans are paying higher prices for groceries, gas and holiday gifts, yet many are living and spending as if it isn’t happening.
This total disconnect of citizen mass behavior from the results of recent polls is irrational and discloses an absence of coherent thinking and in its place erroneous assigning of blame. It is as if too many poll respondents are unable to process that the resurgence of job numbers (625,000 ) is tied to the inflation. (It turns out from June to September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics job estimates missed 625,000 new jobs - the biggest revision since the 1970s.) As Chris Hayes sagely noted last night on ALL In:
"This is the fastest recovery right now in recent memory. Demand is high. Wages for the bottom 40 percent of workers are rising very fast. Fast enough to help overcome what is the big central problem that everyone is rightly discussing right now, inflation. If you listen to Republicans, they will tell you it is all President Biden`s fault. They went too big with the American Rescue Plan, the government spend too much, overheated the economy. But the alternative, the cost of doing too little would be catastrophic."
As he asked at the end: "Given the choice between this economy we have right now and one in which prices are low and gas is cheap and tens and tens of millions of more people are out of work, which would you want? It's an easy call."
Would people really like lower prices and tens of millions of jobless such as in the wake of the great recession? Well, kind of, because these negative poll respondents can't grasp the inflation is tied to a resurgent, energized economy but with much more demand chasing limited supply- the latter owing to the pandemic and companies 'just in time' inventory model.
Then there is the corrosive political bunkum which runs on propaganda that never ends, and never admits facts. E.g. the twaddle today from WSJ hack Daniel Henninger who believes Biden displays more "excess" than Trump. Also that Durham's bogus investigation is real, writing:
"Exhibit A: The Russia-collusion narrative, which prosecutor John Durham is—to choose a word at random— debunking. How other than via mass political neurosis could something like that have run the length of the Trump presidency? Stories about the nonexistent collusion filled media outlets for years, based on a labyrinth of sources who “requested anonymity."
Seriously? You need to pull your had out of your ass, Henny, and check your sources. Also check this important link :
To see Durham hasn't debunked anything. But apart from this - but perhaps on account of it - we behold the spread of more political disinformation, Covid misinformation, paranoid ideations, and general irrationality among the general populace. I.e. Too many still blame Biden and the Democrats for 'losing freedoms' if a vaccine mandate is imposed, or if they (unvaccinated) are the ones designated to be locked down so the rest of us can partake of life in an open society. (In Austria now it is the unvaccinated who are locked down, and can't visit theaters, restaurants etc.) They can't have it both ways (freedom plus no vaccine) , rationally, but they do demand it.
These are points I've emphasized in the introductory chapters of my own books: 'Atheism: A Beginner's Handbook', and 'Dialectical Atheism'. In both books, I referenced what Richard Dawkins once called "mind viruses" to show how this sort of phenomenon is spread. Of course, an anti-intellectual culture provides fertile soil for the virus. And we now behold its infectious power particularly in misplaced fundo-religiosity peculiar to the Trump cult (i.e. Crackpot traitor Michael Flynn insisting there must be "one religion" in the U.S.) and the QAnon fruitcakes who were waiting in Big D for JFK Jr. (and his dad, JFK) to appear.
In my books I suggested the ongoing loss of critical thinking, and associated cognitive functions, can be linked to a society brainwashed 24/7 by a deformed, consumption-driven news cycle and its assorted array of powder puff pieces - which thirty years ago wouldn't be accepted into the most rank tabloid. Exacerbating this is a smart phone obsession in which the devices have become virtual appendages for too many citizens. Add in a social media addiction: people checking phones every two minutes and you have a condition which is turning most brains into mush, leading to an inability to think logically. Especially for adolescents who are literally out of control in the overuse, to the point of contemplating suicide if their 'buds' display better bodies than they have.
This progressive loss of critical thinking (and the inability to discern moral gray areas) is part and parcel of the same phenomenon, As Hofstadter notes (p. 135):
"The fundamentalist mind will have nothing to do with all this: it is essentially Manichean, it looks upon the world as an arena for conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, and accordingly it scorns compromises (who would compromise with Satan) and can tolerate no ambiguities."
The "fundamentalist mind" now means not just of the Christian mold to which Hofstadter refers, but a dogmatic binary mind that divides the world into ;good' and 'evil' and bases paranoid, quasi- religious beliefs upon it, e.g.
This is also perhaps why Bush & Co. - during their lawless reign, invented the term "axis of evil" in their advertising campaign to wage an endless war across the globe. By invoking this black-white term along with "crusade" and "evil doers" - they instantly transformed our side to the cause of the just and good. Everyone else "not on our side" became fodder for "regime change" or at least being labeled as part of the "axis of evil". This insanity seeded the invasion of Iraq, the overturning of a secular state (with Saddam Hussein) and its replacement by Islamic fanatics - leading, of course, to ISIS.
In the current iteration, Trump's zombies - including the QAnon bunch - are totally convinced that Democrats and their party are part of the "deep state" and that they sacrifice Christian babies in Satanic rituals, then devour them for lunch. Meanwhile, the traitors that stormed the Capitol on January 6th continue to believe they had a quasi religious mandate from Trump to "bring down the anti-Trump congress that was preparing to steal the election" from Trump.
Layered on top of this now is a heightened rhetoric, and stoking political violence to the extent armed renegades even showed up at the home of Rep. Debbie Dingell in Michigan not long ago screaming about her being a "traitor" and calling down death on her kids. And only yesterday the House had to censure Paul Gosar- the unhinged, psychotic Reep from Arizona - who had rendered a cartoon of himself slaying AOC and President Biden. Numb and dense to the effects of violent iconography on weak minds, he (And his cockroach Reep supporters) dismissed it merely as a joke, a cartoon after all. Meanwhile, House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy said it was merely a case of Dems seeking "control". Both of these numskulls need to read Joan B. Freeman's book The Field Of Blood, e.g.
On how violent congressional rhetoric paved and presaged the path to the Civil War. Words, and cartoons (ask the victims of the 'Charlie Hedbo' incident) have consequences which Gosar and McCarthy need to appreciate. But this isn't the half of it. Yet another poll disclosed nearly a third of Republicans - a failed party and more a cult - believe political violence is "sometimes needed." And yet one beholds the last WSJ editorial today bloviating this gibberish about the necessary censure of Gosar:
"Their (House Democrats) political purpose is to use Mr. Gosar’s tweet to assist their 2022 campaign narrative that the GOP is the party of inciting violence. This is overkill,"
NO, it is not "overkill"! It takes into account the potential effects of violent rhetoric, imagery and iconography on weak minds or those disposed to violence. Such as the domestic terrorists who tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power in the January 6th insurrection, and the armed nuts who showed up at Rep. Debbie Dingell's home to terrorize her. Here the motivation of the WSJ editors is clear: They are fearful that if the Dems generate ads showing the insurrection- or other unhinged Reep behavior - before next year's midterms the GOP will lose. But they should lose because the GOP is a failed party of trolls and liar traitors operating in a democracy, only to undermine it and convert it to authoritarian fascism. (See the Atlantic article :
By Anne Applebaum. If Americans don't enhance their political IQ by this time next year, the 'bad guys' will win in this country too.
In each of the aforementioned mind virus examples we behold the 'My way or the highway to Hell' syndrome. In each case, serious intellectual contemplation is junked, cut off at the pass in favor of a deformed, deleterious meme. And at this moment in this nation, it is the deformed memes of fascism that are running rampant.
With the perfection of social media algorithms the spread of virulent memes is even more rampant (not to mention the effluent spewed by Fucker Carlson). And we know that millions of the weaker-minded will buy into it, like they buy into everything else they see or hear on TV. They've already been dumbed down and Pavlovian- trained as indiscriminate consumers by the ad-hocracy and corporatocracy.
So, what Hofstadter really showed is that prejudice, religious mania and intellectual fundamentalism as well as absence of critical thinking, are all of a piece in American Anti-Intellectualism.
And further, that this hasn't changed in nearly fifty seven years (from the time the first edition came out). All that's happened is that anti-intellectualism now assumes more varied and sophisticated guises. For example, Carlson with a barely concealed smirk just "asking questions" about the vaccines.... or anything else.
Hofstadter, however, couldn't capture the spread of this mind hostility over time, because it effectively ceased scrutiny ca. 1962-63. Therefore, if one is to more clearly perceive the evolution of anti-intellectualism in the USA a new source must be added- after one has read Hofstadter. The two I most heartily recommend as the optimum follow-ups are:
'Twilight of American Culture' by Morris Berman (W.W. Norton, 2000), and
The Dumbest Generation, by Mark Bauerlein.
Bauerlein's book is important because it reveals how whole generations of youth are being dumbed down by their aversion to reading anything of substance. Opting instead to feed their addiction to digital crap via Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, You Tube, Facebook....errrr Meta... etc. Wasting time when they ought to be developing their minds by accessing the (written) works for politics, science, history, economics etc. (And no, as the author notes, getting your info online will not do. For one thing, you can't be sure how much of a book has been bowdlerized in its transfer to digital format.)
Meanwhile, Berman's effort not only paints the warp and woof of our national dumbing down, in culture, media and everything else- but provides solutions to at least slow it. Many of these, indeed, may also be applicable now, e.g. his Chapter 4, 'The Monastic Option in the Twenty-First Century', wherein herecommends intellectuals of all stripes strive to preserve what was best in our culture - including all other major works of art and science.
And to do this in preparation for a new 'dark age' - which we can already see encroaching on the horizon, especially after the rise of Trump and the wholesale sacrifice of one whole political party on his altar of narcissism, treason and psychosis.
An age already marked by a global pandemic that 50% of Trump's tribe still believe to be a "hoax", along with the vaccines that could enable us to put Covid in the rear view mirror. Add in the January 6th insurrection and the massive voter suppression laws passed in nearly 49 states and you have a perfect recipe for reversion to a more primitive, fascist ideology - and government. Will it arrive with Trump in 2024? We don't know but certainly the signs are not auspicious. Especially after a recent ABC/ Washington Post poll showed 51 % of voters would vote for Republicans if the mid terms were held now, this month. There is no better illustration of full blown American insanity, unreason and a dearth of critical thought.
The conclusion must be, alas, that anti-intellectualism has not only become entrenched in this country, but is spreading under the guise of Trumpism coupled with a lack of citizen percipience to see through all the propaganda.
Gosar’s anime video of killing AOC is no joke
[Originally posted at John Stohr's Editorial Board substack. Subscribe here.]
Mike Flynn and Josh Mandel do not stand at the center of the Republican Party. They do not stand at its margins either. Flynn is the former's president's former advisor. (He's a pardoned criminal, too.) Mandel is Ohio's leading Senate candidate. Both men have said in recent days they don't believe in the separation of church and state.
I'm paraphrasing. See for yourself what they said. However, their remarks should be familiar. They reflect the GOP's theocratic wing. For decades, it has opposed the incorporated interpretation of the First Amendment's establishment clause. They used to be way, way out there. But, even if I'm missing something, Flynn's and Mandel's remarks suggest the GOP's theocratic wing isn't as marginal as it once was.