For a very long time the U.S.’s culture and political live have included a strong anti-intellectual tendency. Half a century ago I bought Richard Hofstadter’s 1963 book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. When Adlai Stevenson ran for president in 1952 and 1956 he was criticized and scoffed at because he was a very smart person. Educated “egg-heads” are often criticized for being smart. The list goes on and on.
This anti-intellectualism seems to have gotten much worse. The right-wing and Trump and the anti-science crowd and the anti-evolution crowd and the climate deniers are part of this.
The editorial on page 2 of the February 1, 2018, issue of The Washington Spectator (www.washingtonspectator.org) laid out the problem well.
It mentioned a 1980 Newsweek essay by Isaac Asimov, the science fiction writer who had great insights into social realities. His 1980 essay included this quotation (to which I added the boldfacing):
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has 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.'”
Many of Trump’s loyal supporters know what they believe and disregard facts on the other side.
By lambasting factual information as “fake news,” Trump and his supporters — and increasing number of dictators and authoritarian leaders in other nations — are deliberately confusing people and deliberately causing people to distrust reality and distrust honest facts. When everything is up for grabs, the authoritarians can simply declare what is real and many people will believe that.
The Washington Spectator‘s editorial includes this passage from an article in New York magazine:
“Here, arguably, was the central issue of the Trump presidency, informing every aspect of Trumpian policy and leadership: He didn’t process information in any conventional sense. He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-literate. he trusted his own expertise — no matter how paltry or irrelevant — more than anyone else’s. He was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however confused, was in fact some clear and forceful way telling him what to do. It was, said [Deputy Chief of State Katie] Walsh, ‘like trying to figure out what a child wants.'”