I don’t mean in a physical sense, but in a cultural sense. One could even call this a “culture war.” Who am I referring to? The Kim Davises of the country and her like? Oh, hell no. I mean the intellectuals.
There is a rise in anti-intellectualism in the United States. Anti-intellectualism was obvious to me as I was growing up. My peers frowned upon my love of reading and my general “nerdiness.”
Looking back, I know that my classmates did not come up with those ideas about books and learning on their own. Someone taught them to think that way. I write this not to insult anyone, but rather to help others see the light of reason, so that we can recognize this problem and engage in positive and productive change.
Cultural revolutions happen, and we are in desperate need of one.
There are multiple types of anti-intellectuals. There are those who only care about the latest iPhone and “Desperate Housewives of Orange County” episodes. I call these the “distracted.” Those people only care about distractions from real-world problems because those problems do not concern them. They do though, actually.
The distracted do not realize that it is intellectuals who make those distractions possible, but also that people in power benefit from these distracted people. They do not make it a point to have a voice, rather they accept what voice they are TOLD to have by mainstream media, or what their equally distracted peers tell them to have.
If it is not trending on Twitter, and/or the issue does not directly involve the distracted then they do not care. These people are manipulated by the mainstream politicians and media.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who think they are a “real intellectual.” These people I will call the “pseudo-intellectuals.” These types mock the distracted for following mainstream media and consuming pop culture. The pseudo-intellectuals are smarter than to fall for the mainstream media. Instead they gather their views from the “fringe media.”
Anti-vaxxers, anti-GMO, and global warming hoaxers tend to belong to this crowd. They post articles from “mommy blogs,” or from an obscure doctor who can “totally prove that vaccines cause autism, but no peers will agree out of fear of retaliation from ‘Big Pharma’.” They would lose everything, maybe even their life if they told the truth.
These “pseudo-intellectuals” sneer at the distracted and those who believe in intellectualism as “sheeple” who need to wake up. Many of these people admittedly have good intentions. Pseudo-intellectuals honestly believe that the American people are fooled by conspiracies and cover-ups. The more evidence the opposing side has then the more evidence that there is, in fact, a conspiracy. These people see themselves as the new elite. They believe they know the truth. After all, they did their own research.
While anti-intellectuals of this type are quick to claim everyone has an agenda, and we need to critically think, they fail to recognize this very idea of skepticism.
Many people who run the blogs which pseudo-intellectuals cling to benefit directly from these people’s skepticism. For instance, they often will sell “natural remedies” for people who simply do not trust “Big Pharma” or vaccines. The more people who believe in this, the more money they make. To put it bluntly these people are snake-oil salesmen.
Also, this type of anti-intellectualism promotes an idea that “everybody’s an expert.” I have heard over and over again that “just because you read it on the Internet does not mean that it’s true.” Googling a couple of key terms in a search bar is not adequate research. Information must have a credible source. While the mainstream media does not always tell the truth, it certainly does not mean that there is some hidden agenda for them to hide the truth all the time.
It is perfectly acceptable to be skeptical, but there are some realities that are simply the truth. There is no hidden agenda. Be skeptical, but be rational.
This new elitism is also present in people who usually would frown upon any semblance of being intellectual. These are the ones who also believe “everyone is an expert.” (Unless that expert has a PhD.) This category includes those who mock scientists who support climate change by declaring that since it snowed last winter then global warming is not real.
They mock education as useless. They may not use the same “fringe” media as a pseudo-intellectual, but they still believe that they too, are an expert in a given field. These types think that fancy degrees mean nothing. In fact, they, like the pseudo-intellectuals, are also skeptical of an agenda, usually a liberal one, e.g., global warming is a way to get everyone to be a Communist hippie and turn against big business.
This line of thought is transforming into something of a new elitism of the “pseudo-intellectual.” Some along this line of anti-thinking claim there are scientists who disagree with climate change. They are being stifled, yet the evidence is still overwhelming that climate change is here.
Again, be skeptical, but be rational. Think about who benefits from climate change denial. Big companies benefit from these anti-intellectuals because while we bicker about the existence of climate change, no real discussion about the environment is happening. No solutions are discussed. Talk about a conspiracy!
Moreover, all these anti-intellectuals serve several common goals. For one, they are a cash cow in and of themselves. The distracted clamor for MORE distractions from real issues and plenty of people are willing to provide them, especially within the entertainment industry.
Think also of all the books, documentaries, and speaking engagements the “experts” of the pseudo-intellectual movement are making. Throw in holistic medicine, and baby, you are in business. The last category is also beneficial for the “experts.” Besides, benefitting big businesses, this “thinking” falls in line with prosperity gospel-type preachers, who take in money, promising financial reward because what do those fancy businessmen know about investing your money? You’ve got God! By the way, they will often continue, here is who God wants you to vote for.
Religion should be no excuse for why someone should or should not think critically. I know plenty of rational, religious people. Thinking critically is not a liberal agenda. It is just a rational way to look at the world—for ALL political stripes.
Another actually terrifying thing about all of these classes of anti-intellectuals is that they each are willingly complicit in their ignorance. Not just complicit, but quite proud. The pseudo-intellectuals believe everyone can be an expert through their own “research,” yet, when asked for examples, their response is usually to “trust them, they did it.”
In the case of the “distracted,” they are proud that they are trendy and see themselves as “up to date,” when in reality they most certainly are not. The more conservative anti-intellectuals pride themselves on tradition and knowing the real truth—that is, well, if it isn’t in the Bible then it isn’t true.
Ignorance and lack of education used to be shameful, yet now people wear it as a badge of honor because no one can criticize them. If anyone criticizes an anti-intellectual, then it is the critic who is ignorant, not the anti-intellectual, according to this worldview. It is a worldview that believes that it can never be proven wrong, despite mountains of evidence; however, it is not a sustainable or realistic worldview.
Experts cannot cower away from anti-intellectuals in fear of being called intolerant of others’ views. They must confront anti-intellectualism head on. This is the only way that people will wake up to their own ignorance.
We must stop giving the anti-intellectuals the same pedestal as the experts. Only then can society become more enlightened.
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