[FoRK] The fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism - deliberate gullibility: My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Sun Jan 25 13:25:06 PST 2015


The belief is that it is worse now because of the Internet, political polarization and manipulation, etc.
In the past, the unthinking masses had trouble reinforcing each other quite so effectively.  Now, they have almost equal publishing 
and visible, documented association as academics, and they can do it in a self-selected online monoculture that avoids much 
tempering with other views.

The meme marketplace dynamics have been changing.  We should pay attention, encouraging valid seeking of knowledge and discouraging 
various sicknesses and poor approaches.

Snopes, Wikipedia, universities, etc. are good starts.  The Onion, Daily Show, and Colbert Report (may it rest in peace) are also 
good at exposing dumbth.

What else can we do?  How is this going to evolve?

sdw

On 1/25/15 12:37 PM, Greg Bolcer wrote:
> It's always been there.  With the invention of YouTube vine and Instagram, it's just more accessible and visible,
>
> Sent from my iPhone
>
>> On Jan 25, 2015, at 12:13 PM, Stephen D. Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
>>
>> I thought I was onto other topics, but these quotes are pithy.
>>
>> https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201407/anti-intellectualism-and-the-dumbing-down-america
>>> There is a growing and disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism in American culture. It’s the dismissal of science, the arts, and humanities and their replacement by entertainment, self-righteousness, ignorance, and deliberate gullibility <https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/deception>.
>> ...
>>> "Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture; a disjunction between Americans' rising level of formal education <https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/education> and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism."
>>> There has been a long tradition of anti-intellectualism in America, unlike most other Western countries.
>>> ... describes how the vast underlying foundations of anti-elite, anti-reason and anti-science has been infused into America’s political and social fabric. Famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said: "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."
>> ...
>>> We’re creating a world of dummies. Angry dummies who feel they have the right, the authority and the need not only to comment on everything, but to make sure their voice is heard above the rest, and to drag down any opposing views through personal attacks, loud repetition and confrontation.
>>>
>>> Bill Keller, writing in the New York Times(link is external) <http://keller.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/05/the-bullying-pulpit/?_r=0> argues that the anti-intellectual elitism is not an elitism of wisdom <https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/wisdom>, education, experience or knowledge. The new elite are the angry social media posters, those who can shout loudest and more often, a clique of bullies and malcontents baying together like dogs cornering a fox. Too often it’s a combined elite of the anti-intellectuals and the conspiracy followers – not those who can voice the most cogent, most coherent response. Together they ferment a rabid culture of anti-rationalism where every fact is suspect; every shadow holds a secret conspiracy. Rational thought is the enemy. Critical thinking is the devil’s tool.
>>>
>>> Keller also notes that the herd mentality takes over online; the anti-intellectuals become the metaphorical equivalent of an angry lynch mob when anyone either challenges one of the mob beliefs or posts anything outside the mob’s self-limiting set of values.
>> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/15/AR2008021502901.html
>>
>> sdw
>>
>>
>>> On 1/24/15 12:03 PM, Stephen D. Williams wrote:
>>> Good points.  Embrace your anti-intellectual brethren as a necessary counterbalance?
>>>
>>> "Intellectuals dwell in the realm of ideas and values, where almost nothing is ever right without qualification. So if anti-intellectualism is a natural aspect of a democratic society, humility ought to be a natural aspect of intellectual life."
>>>
>>> Are you an expert, an intellectual, or both?
>>>
>>> Interesting definition of bohemian.  Maybe more properly "intellectual bohemian".
>>>
>>> I would accept these as the more general type:
>>> http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bohemian
>>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohemianism
>>> Interesting, in 1860's America: /Bohemian/ became synonymous with /newspaper writer/.^<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohemianism#cite_note-Twain-8>
>>>
>>> The opposite is Philistinism.  Philistine is a term I always avoided.
>>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philistinism
>>>
>>> The problem with a philistine is that, lacking intellectual self-defense, they can be coopted easily by someone with the right degree of guile and cultural insight.  The combination of conservative intellectual concepts and neoconservative populism seems to have done that well recently, causing many to vote against their own best interests.  Getting people to publicly shout " Keep your government hands off my Medicare." has got to the the ultimate.
>>> http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-cesca/get-your-goddamn-governme_b_252326.html
>>>
>>> http://www.cjr.org/second_read/richard_hofstadter_tea_party.php?page=all
>>>
>>>> The Tea Party is timeless (In print: The American way)
>>>>
>>>> Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism In American Life reviewed
>>>>
>>>> ...
>>>> In other words, to Hofstadter, intellectualism is not at all the same thing as intelligence or devotion to a particular set of ideas. It is a distinctive habit of mind and thought that actually forbids the kind of complete self-assurance that we often associate with very smart or committed people. You can see how the all-out quality of fundamentalist religion, or of salesmanship, or of ideologically driven politics, would have been anathema to Hofstadter. Being himself an exemplar of his conception of the intellectual, he saw the essential problem that is the subject of the book as being an unresolvable tension between intellectualism and democracy:
>>>>
>>>> "Anti-intellectualism . . . is founded in the democratic institutions and the egalitarian sentiments of this country. The intellectual class, whether or not it enjoys many of the privileges of an elite, is of necessity an elite in its manner of thinking and functioning . . . . Intellectuals in the twentieth century have thus found themselves engaged in incompatible efforts: They have tried to be good and believing citizens of a democratic society and at the same time to resist the vulgarization of culture which that society constantly produces. It is rare for an American intellectual to confront candidly the unresolvable conflict between the elite character of his own class and his democratic aspirations."
>>>> ...
>>>> Another way in which Hofstadter’s framing of the issue is useful is on the question of intellectuals and power. Two categories related to “intellectual” that he discusses are “bohemians” and “experts.” One could think of the first as being made up of people who have chosen to preserve their intellectual integrity by living entirely outside what Hofstadter calls “accredited institutions”; the second is made up of people with specialized knowledge that they have chosen to put at the service of people in power. Each side thinks of the location it has chosen as the only defensible one, but Hofstadter, typically, prefers to think of what will inevitably be an uncomfortable balance between the two as ideal: “We are opposed almost by instinct to the divorce of knowledge from power, but we are also opposed, out of our modern convictions, to their union.” Though proximity to power can corrupt intellectuals’ integrity, Hofstadter insists that too much distance from power can be corrupting, too, because one’s ideas don’t get tested. So, once again, equipoise, compromise, and nuance are required. - See more at:
>>>>
>>>> Just as it’s tempting, if you don’t know the history, to fall into the view that anti-intellectualism is a threatening new development, it can also be tempting to believe the opposite: that intellectuals have now assumed their rightful place of power and respect in American society. (A related idea is that the United States has become a “meritocracy.”) Hofstadter’s book is valuable as a guard against the second temptation as well as the first. Anti-intellectualism has always been with us, and always will be; that isn’t shameful, because it’s an aspect of our being a democracy. Conversely, intellectualism should be inherently uncomfortable, not triumphant. Experts, Hofstadter reminds us, have been important since early in the 20th century, but to point out that our complex society increasingly needs people who are intelligent and have formal technical education to staff government and business is not the same thing as saying that the United States has a rich intellectual life. Experts try to dwell in the realm of rigorously derived knowledge and facts. Intellectuals dwell in the much more difficult realm of ideas and values, where almost nothing is ever right without qualification, and where contention, contradiction, and uncertainty are inescapable. So if anti-intellectualism is a natural aspect of a democratic society, humility ought to be a natural aspect of intellectual life. If you ever begin to think of American life as a struggle between the superior, enlightened few and the mass of yobs, pick up Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. It ought to cure you.
>>> Potentially interesting reading, although it will take a visit to the library apparently:
>>>
>>> http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/24570851/historical-development-anti-intellectualism-american-society-implications-schooling-african-americans
>>> The Historical Development of Anti-Intellectualism in American Society: Implications for the Schooling of African Americans
>>> (The name of the journal, in 1990, is kind of shocking now.)
>>>
>>> http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/8688471/consequences-democratizing-knowledge-reconsidering-richard-hofstadter-history-education
>>> The Consequences of Democratizing Knowledge: Reconsidering Richard Hofstadter and the History of Education
>>>
>>> sdw
>>>
>>>
>>> In other words, to Hofstadter, intellectualism is not at all the same thing as intelligence or devotion to a particular set of ideas. It is a distinctive habit of mind and thought that actually forbids the kind of complete self-assurance that we often associate with very smart or committed people. You can see how the all-out quality of fundamentalist religion, or of salesmanship, or of ideologically driven politics, would have been anathema to Hofstadter. Being himself an exemplar of his conception of the intellectual, he saw the essential problem that is the subject of the book as being an unresolvable tension between intellectualism and democracy:
>>>
>>>    Anti-intellectualism . . . is founded in the democratic institutions and the egalitarian sentiments of this country. The
>>>    intellectual class, whether or not it enjoys many of the privileges of an elite, is of necessity an elite in its manner of
>>>    thinking and functioning . . . . Intellectuals in the twentieth century have thus found themselves engaged in incompatible
>>>    efforts: They have tried to be good and believing citizens of a democratic society and at the same time to resist the
>>>    vulgarization of culture which that society constantly produces. It is rare for an American intellectual to confront candidly
>>>    the unresolvable conflict between the elite character of his own class and his democratic aspirations.
>>>
>>> - See more at: http://www.cjr.org/second_read/richard_hofstadter_tea_party.php?page=all#sthash.dFVsHsXy.dpuf
>>>
>>> In other words, to Hofstadter, intellectualism is not at all the same thing as intelligence or devotion to a particular set of ideas. It is a distinctive habit of mind and thought that actually forbids the kind of complete self-assurance that we often associate with very smart or committed people. You can see how the all-out quality of fundamentalist religion, or of salesmanship, or of ideologically driven politics, would have been anathema to Hofstadter. Being himself an exemplar of his conception of the intellectual, he saw the essential problem that is the subject of the book as being an unresolvable tension between intellectualism and democracy:
>>>
>>>    Anti-intellectualism . . . is founded in the democratic institutions and the egalitarian sentiments of this country. The
>>>    intellectual class, whether or not it enjoys many of the privileges of an elite, is of necessity an elite in its manner of
>>>    thinking and functioning . . . . Intellectuals in the twentieth century have thus found themselves engaged in incompatible
>>>    efforts: They have tried to be good and believing citizens of a democratic society and at the same time to resist the
>>>    vulgarization of culture which that society constantly produces. It is rare for an American intellectual to confront candidly
>>>    the unresolvable conflict between the elite character of his own class and his democratic aspirations.
>>>
>>> - See more at: http://www.cjr.org/second_read/richard_hofstadter_tea_party.php?page=all#sthash.dFVsHsXy.dpuf
>>>
>>> In other words, to Hofstadter, intellectualism is not at all the same thing as intelligence or devotion to a particular set of ideas. It is a distinctive habit of mind and thought that actually forbids the kind of complete self-assurance that we often associate with very smart or committed people. You can see how the all-out quality of fundamentalist religion, or of salesmanship, or of ideologically driven politics, would have been anathema to Hofstadter. Being himself an exemplar of his conception of the intellectual, he saw the essential problem that is the subject of the book as being an unresolvable tension between intellectualism and democracy:
>>>
>>>    Anti-intellectualism . . . is founded in the democratic institutions and the egalitarian sentiments of this country. The
>>>    intellectual class, whether or not it enjoys many of the privileges of an elite, is of necessity an elite in its manner of
>>>    thinking and functioning . . . . Intellectuals in the twentieth century have thus found themselves engaged in incompatible
>>>    efforts: They have tried to be good and believing citizens of a democratic society and at the same time to resist the
>>>    vulgarization of culture which that society constantly produces. It is rare for an American intellectual to confront candidly
>>>    the unresolvable conflict between the elite character of his own class and his democratic aspirations.
>>>
>>> - See more at: http://www.cjr.org/second_read/richard_hofstadter_tea_party.php?page=all#sthash.dFVsHsXy.dpuf
>>>
>>> In other words, to Hofstadter, intellectualism is not at all the same thing as intelligence or devotion to a particular set of ideas. It is a distinctive habit of mind and thought that actually forbids the kind of complete self-assurance that we often associate with very smart or committed people. You can see how the all-out quality of fundamentalist religion, or of salesmanship, or of ideologically driven politics, would have been anathema to Hofstadter. Being himself an exemplar of his conception of the intellectual, he saw the essential problem that is the subject of the book as being an unresolvable tension between intellectualism and democracy:
>>>
>>>    Anti-intellectualism . . . is founded in the democratic institutions and the egalitarian sentiments of this country. The
>>>    intellectual class, whether or not it enjoys many of the privileges of an elite, is of necessity an elite in its manner of
>>>    thinking and functioning . . . . Intellectuals in the twentieth century have thus found themselves engaged in incompatible
>>>    efforts: They have tried to be good and believing citizens of a democratic society and at the same time to resist the
>>>    vulgarization of culture which that society constantly produces. It is rare for an American intellectual to confront candidly
>>>    the unresolvable conflict between the elite character of his own class and his democratic aspirations.
>>>
>>> - See more at: http://www.cjr.org/second_read/richard_hofstadter_tea_party.php?page=all#sthash.dFVsHsXy.dpuf
>>> In other words, to Hofstadter, intellectualism is not at all the same thing as intelligence or devotion to a particular set of ideas. It is a distinctive habit of mind and thought that actually forbids the kind of complete self-assurance that we often associate with very smart or committed people. You can see how the all-out quality of fundamentalist religion, or of salesmanship, or of ideologically driven politics, would have been anathema to Hofstadter. Being himself an exemplar of his conception of the intellectual, he saw the essential problem that is the subject of the book as being an unresolvable tension between intellectualism and democracy: - See more at: http://www.cjr.org/second_read/richard_hofstadter_tea_party.php?page=all#sthash.dFVsHsXy.dpuf
>>>
>>> In other words, to Hofstadter, intellectualism is not at all the same thing as intelligence or devotion to a particular set of ideas. It is a distinctive habit of mind and thought that actually forbids the kind of complete self-assurance that we often associate with very smart or committed people. You can see how the all-out quality of fundamentalist religion, or of salesmanship, or of ideologically driven politics, would have been anathema to Hofstadter. Being himself an exemplar of his conception of the intellectual, he saw the essential problem that is the subject of the book as being an unresolvable tension between intellectualism and democracy:
>>>
>>>    Anti-intellectualism . . . is founded in the democratic institutions and the egalitarian sentiments of this country. The
>>>    intellectual class, whether or not it enjoys many of the privileges of an elite, is of necessity an elite in its manner of
>>>    thinking and functioning . . . . Intellectuals in the twentieth century have thus found themselves engaged in incompatible
>>>    efforts: They have tried to be good and believing citizens of a democratic society and at the same time to resist the
>>>    vulgarization of culture which that society constantly produces. It is rare for an American intellectual to confront candidly
>>>    the unresolvable conflict between the elite character of his own class and his democratic aspirations.
>>>
>>> - See more at: http://www.cjr.org/second_read/richard_hofstadter_tea_party.php?page=all#sthash.dFVsHsXy.dpuf
>>>
>>> In other words, to Hofstadter, intellectualism is not at all the same thing as intelligence or devotion to a particular set of ideas. It is a distinctive habit of mind and thought that actually forbids the kind of complete self-assurance that we often associate with very smart or committed people. You can see how the all-out quality of fundamentalist religion, or of salesmanship, or of ideologically driven politics, would have been anathema to Hofstadter. Being himself an exemplar of his conception of the intellectual, he saw the essential problem that is the subject of the book as being an unresolvable tension between intellectualism and democracy:
>>>
>>>    Anti-intellectualism . . . is founded in the democratic institutions and the egalitarian sentiments of this country. The
>>>    intellectual class, whether or not it enjoys many of the privileges of an elite, is of necessity an elite in its manner of
>>>    thinking and functioning . . . . Intellectuals in the twentieth century have thus found themselves engaged in incompatible
>>>    efforts: They have tried to be good and believing citizens of a democratic society and at the same time to resist the
>>>    vulgarization of culture which that society constantly produces. It is rare for an American intellectual to confront candidly
>>>    the unresolvable conflict between the elite character of his own class and his democratic aspirations.
>>>
>>> - See more at: http://www.cjr.org/second_read/richard_hofstadter_tea_party.php?page=all#sthash.dFVsHsXy.dpuf
>>> _______________________________________________
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>>> http://xent.com/mailman/listinfo/fork
>>
>> -- 
>> Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net stephendwilliams at gmail.com LinkedIn: http://sdw.st/in
>> V:650-450-UNIX (8649) V:866.SDW.UNIX V:703.371.9362 F:703.995.0407
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>>
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-- 
Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net stephendwilliams at gmail.com LinkedIn: http://sdw.st/in
V:650-450-UNIX (8649) V:866.SDW.UNIX V:703.371.9362 F:703.995.0407
AIM:sdw Skype:StephenDWilliams Yahoo:sdwlignet Resume: http://sdw.st/gres
Personal: http://sdw.st facebook.com/sdwlig twitter.com/scienteer





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