OPINION: Anti-Intellectualism in the Trumpian Era

OPINION: Anti-Intellectualism in the Trumpian Era

by Amaya Oswald

Isaac Asimov was a Russian born writer who immigrated to the United States in 1923.

Isaac Asimov was a Russian born writer who immigrated to the United States in 1923 as a child.

“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.’” — Isaac Asimov

A Cult Of Ignorance

In this country, we have free speech and the common belief that we are all entitled to our own opinions — a phrase I am sure you have heard many times. We use free speech as a defensive rebuttal when someone poses the question, “Why do you think America is the best country in the world?” and we voice our uneducated opinions because we have the right to. Free speech and embracing opinions is undoubtedly what makes America great, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something about how we are conditioned to believe all opinions are valid that has also made room for “a cult of ignorance.”

Fake News

"Fake News" "Enemy of the people" are go to phrases for Trump

“Fake News” “Enemy of the people” are “go to” phrases for Trump.

Anti-intellectualism is most prominently bred into present day American politics through Fake News. Donald Trump coined the term to reference factual news reporting that he doesn’t agree with, and as the term became more popular, the concept has been normalized. It is more commonplace than ever to disengage with opinion pieces or news stories that you don’t like, claim all kinds of facts, statistics, and journalism as incorrect, and disregard factual information when forming opinions. In this way, Donald Trump has popularized anti-intellectualism.

Arrogant Beliefs vs. Democratic Behavior

The idea that my opinion is always valid, even when I have few facts to back it up is what spurs America’s embrace of anti-intellectualism, and it’s embarrassing. According to Issac Asimov, we’ve falsely notarized democracy to mean my ignorant vote is just as good as your fact-based vote, and he’s right: that is simply arrogant, not democratic. In America, we protect anti-intellectuals and people who spread real falsehoods through opinions by saying, it’s just what he believes. Some Trump Lovers have even committed hate crimes (such as, The Pittsburg Synagogue Massacre) bred from anti-intellectualism. Trump supporters hold the arrogant position of what I think is the absolute answer and no one else’s opinion is worth considering. The President displays the same behavior — even though you made a smart point, you are wrong because I am right, and what I believe is always right.

Selective Anti-Intellectualism

By being selective, Trump pushes his own agenda

By being selective, Trump pushes his own agenda.

Of course, wanting to win an argument is not the same as anti-intellectualism, ignorance, or arrogance. It is important to be confident and persuasive; but to never actively consider someone else’s viewpoint is a problem. For example, Trump constantly rejects statistical evidence that doesn’t fit into his ideas. One statistic he quotes often is the economy’s improvement since he took office, which is true — at least it was before the shut down. However, if someone mentions his approval rating, he will attempt to degrade its legitimacy, despite the rating being factually true in the closest way that statistics provides. This is a key example of how our president has selective anti-intellectualism, which could be even worse than typical anti-intellectualism. By being selective, Trump pushes his own agenda more forcefully, rejecting the truths of the opposing party and comforting those who follow him.

Normalizing Extreme Beliefs

Jamali Maddix "Hate Thy Neighbor" docuseries asks questions about hate

Jamali Maddix “Hate Thy Neighbor” docuseries asks questions about hate

For two decades, we as a country were moving to cautious speech when in public. We had become increasingly politically correct in our language. Over the last two years that trend has taken a reverse course. People with more extreme beliefs have been increasingly vocal about their beliefs as anti-intellectualism strengthens its roots in this country. Alt-right extremists have felt protected by the President’s beliefs. In Jamali Maddix’s docuseries Hate Thy Neighbor, a “national socialist” in the film remarked that he felt Trump had made him feel as though he could be more open about his anti-Semitic views.

Democracy is About Considering Other Viewpoints

Stuck in their own beliefs and belief systems, these white neo-nazis sport swastikas, burn Jewish books, and report that “there should be another genocide.” (“America’s Far White,” Hate Thy Neighbor. Viceland. January 23, 2017. Television.) If the national socialists showed in Jamali Maddix’s docuseries had considered a different viewpoint or wanted to openly learn about other perspectives, their beliefs would certainly have changed at least a little. When Maddix asks a father of two white children if he would have loved his children if he had had them with his previous half-Indian wife, a woman he had loved before he became invested in “white nationalism,” this is clear. “I’m not speechless over that… I’m just trying to digest it,” he said. “I’d like to think no matter what color, what origin of a child, I’d have their back.” (“America’s Far White,” Hate Thy Neighbor. Viceland. January 23, 2017. Television.)

Stop For A Moment

Adolf Hitles is white supremacist's hero

Hitler is white supremacist’s hero

A racist, xenophobic white nationalist who salutes Hitler every day had actually considered for a moment what Maddix was asking, subsequently changing his thought process slightly. By talking to another person with a different viewpoint, he let himself think openly enough to perceive something in a different way than he had before — through a lens of love, rather than hatred.

Political Intellectualism

So, what is intellectualism? Being open to learn and think in a different way; being more empathetic to other people’s situations and lives; considering ideas outside your realms.

Regression Is A Part of Progression

Over the past few years, it may have seemed as though America is regressing more than we are progressing. However, I don’t think I believe this. Instead, I believe in what President Obama said in a speech a few years ago: sometimes things progress a lot and then go back a little just before progressing a lot more. The regression we see today is necessary for growth, and while it is clear that we have had a spike in anti-intellectualism these past few years, there has always been a strain of anti-intellectualism throughout America’s history. Fake news and the rejection of both facts and opinions against our own viewpoints have always been here. It is only 2016 that brought it to the surface.

Twitter And Me

I Love Twitter, I Hate Twitter, I Love Twitter

I love Twitter. I hate Twitter. I love Twitter. I hate Twi….I know.  I sound a bit confused in my base emotions surrounding this global social sparring arena, and I am. My relationship with the Twitter platform,  reminds me of a couple bad relationships I’ve had in my life. I hate you, I love you, I apparently, “love to hate you”. There is something to be said about high adrenaline, at times, however it is usually like placing a pile of papers on a table and turning on a fan.  I forgot who said that, but I think it is applicable.

To all of the clear thinking, intelligent, brilliant folks that hope for a more tolerant and inclusive world, I love tossing tweets back and forth, and I love you all. So many caring and committed individuals wanting to do everything they can do, to advance the Progressive agenda.

The ‘I hate’ side of me, comes out when somebody in the audience decides to suddenly join in, by launching a vile attack.  Why would someone chose to do that?  Hmmm. Good question.  Not all vicious attacks come from  paid Russian trolls, I have decided. Is it because the offender didn’t get any nookie last night, or did Mom yell at him,  did he get a bad grade, was he passed over for a promotion, did he have a fender bender?

Who, the Hell knows?  The angry emotions propelling those rapid little finger hits on the phone keys  subvert the medium itself, “I can’t see you. You can’t see me.  So, I will say something disgusting and revolting because there are no consequences for my actions”.  That excuse makes no sense if you are a person with a moral compass.  Each of us are the words we speak, our words are our legacy.

It’s easier to be thoughtless and insulting, when an individual doesn’t have to look an opponent in the eye. I can tell by the tone of the tweets that many of the folks in the cyber world are red faced, white knuckled, jaw grinding angry.

So, all I’m saying is that,  if someone is mad, they should be able to find enough self control, to re-channel that anger, turn it to energy and go run a couple miles, go for a swim, clean out the garage, wax the floors, do the laundry, walk the dog, VOLUNTEER. Get that unhealthy anger out, through exercise and accomplishment, rather than attacking someone 5,000 miles away that you will never see.

Whether School Yard Bully or Cyber Bully It Should Concern Us All

Being a bully, whether at work, on the playground, or on the web, is just ugly.  It’s inexcusable. It is disgusting and it needs to stop.

If you are angry and you want to increase the value of your argument, be intelligent, and thoughtful in your comments.  People will listen.  People are ready for fresh and inspirational ideas and solutions.

Anyone can put a string of four letter words together, even me. But, I’m asking that we aim to be better than that.  We are all, in the end, just human beings trying to do the best we can in an uncertain world.

As such, we don’t always attain the level of goodness that we aspire to, but if there is no aspiration then there is no gain.  There  is no improvement or advancement.  If we are going to resort to base instincts, then I suggest we are still cavemen, but now we have technology as our club.

I listen to conservatives, all the time.   I don’t need to agree with them, but I try to listen until they begin attacking, or trying to spin their arguments BACK TWO DECADES to the actions of Bill Clinton’s scandal plagued presidency.

I find it truly offensive that someone who doesn’t even know me, resorts to calling me such vile names as, bi—, sl–, cu–, wh—, as—–.  I feel, that only people who really know me and have evidence to support those epithets, should be allowed to use them.  You know, what I mean.  Save those really nasty words for someone you know that can live up to them.

Twitter should be respected as a great social platform, where people can safely exchange ideas in a civilized manner. A good fight is one thing, but using an outhouse of vile, foul language to shut down the exchange of ideas is really inappropriate. I understand passion.  Passion comes from understanding your goals and developing a sensible plan to reach those goals.  As such, it is not achieved through angry vile rants to someone that has volunteered an opinion on a topic you oppose.

Civilized Communication Works Better Than Screaming

Some people are blaming the impulsive, out of control behavior displayed by the Trump White House, as the cause.  The theory is that “if Trump can do it, so can I” has taken over social media thinking, and on-street hostile behaviors.  I’m not sure I’m ready to jump on the back of that hypothesis.

I am however, ready to ask folks on social media to respect a couple of the basic original Twitter platform objectives of idea sharing and participation in live events, in a safe, albeit, abbreviated manner.  In my mind, it is almost like the old telegraph communications translated to cyber space.

I think sometimes 140 characters is too limiting, and maybe that fact leads to misunderstandings. I don’t know,  I just know that today I felt, I needed more than those 140 characters to express my feelings on this issue.

So, follow me on Twitter, and talk nice.

Calamity Politics prides itself in addressing relevant topics and hopefully opening a dialog for political discussion. The commentary usually consists of a daily, mildly caustic post.  The viewpoint is definitely progressive in nature.  Calamity Politics focuses primarily on the United States political scene.

Remember, if you are against the Republican agenda, or just against the Trump regime; step up and take action.  The action does not need to be earthshaking, but it needs to be done consistently. Write a letter, join a protest march, put a “resist” bumper sticker on your car, call the White House, run for office. Take some action.  It is the collection of many actions that brings success to a movement.


Join the Resistance


A pundit on a Sunday morning news show used the term,  “viral deception,” or VD for short.

I loved it, associating the ‘fake news’ assertions to a sexually transmitted disease.  So, appropriate. Hope it catches on. Glad to hear the Fox News Network has been losing viewers since Trump’s inauguration.

Remember to join me a couple times a week at Calamity Politics for the political outrage that is the Trump Administration. Calamity Politics is a Progressive political blog published on the beautiful Oregon coast where I usually offer a daily dose of political gossip, analysis with a little bit of silliness thrown in for good measure.


Join The Resistance