Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Anti-intellectualism: it's back!

Remember 2008, when conservatives mocked Obama for being an "arugula-eating pointy-headed professor type"? With all of the hooting and hollering about Obama's alleged "intellectual elite" status, I had thought that 2008 might have been a high-water mark for anti-intellectualism, which Richard Hofstadter defined as "a resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind and of those who are considered to represent it."
Of course, there was nothing unprecedented about this hostility--America has a long tradition of anti-intellectualism. Thomas Jefferson, one of the less boring founding fathers, was derided during the campaign of 1800 for his "shewy talents" and his dangerously French "theoretic learning." 

So perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that in 2011, with the Republican primaries in full swing, anti-intellectualism is back, baby!

Let's start with a look at Herman Cain's campaign. Despite being a raving anti-Muslim lunatic (at least by Canadian standards), Cain is actually doing very well in the Republican primaries at the moment. Kent Short, who appears in the following testimonial for Cain, is a hard-core Herman fan. And Kent may also have some anti-intellectual tendencies, as it turns out:

Kent is a butcher, who, as the video points out, "turns steers into steaks." He isn't the kind of guy who's going to believe in the bullshit that they churn out at Columbia and Harvard, where they're busy readin' newspapers (?) and term papers. Thankfully, Herman Cain isn't a term-paper-reading kind of dude. He knows how to run a business--in fact, as the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, he might well know how to turn pigs into pepperoni. In the anti-intellectual view of things, this is exactly the kind of knowledge that's required to run the business of government.

Exhibit B is Scott Brown's campaign against Elizabeth Warren in the senate race in Massachusetts. Brown is a real-estate lawyer who was a former winner of an America's Sexiest Man contest. Warren, by contrast, is a Harvard Professor. As you might have guessed, this combo means that it's time for an anti-intellectualism RED ALERT!

Elizabeth Warren has done three things in her life: taught school (strike one!), done research (oh dear!) and "thrown rocks at people I thought were in the wrong" (cue ominous drums and shaky camera). The phrase "Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren" are on screen for a solid ten seconds. Clearly, Sexy Scott is a real man of the people, whereas Elizabeth is a resentful, bitchy, brainy elitist who doesn't know anything about the real world, wants to take away your precious freedoms, and is even going to throw metaphorical rocks at you.

Will we see more anti-intellectualism as Campaign 2012 shapes up? Despite his tendency to take protean policy positions, if Mitt Romney is nominated, he is going to have a hard time explaining away his Harvard MBA. If Rick Perry or Herman Cain are nominated, though, I suspect that anti-intellectualism's best days may yet be ahead of it.

Do you have some interesting examples of anti-intellectualism from Campaign 2011/2012? Post them in the comments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is this a joke? Because no where did you define anti intellectualism outside of the inherent examples in an ad hominem suggestive manner.