Is America becoming a breeding ground for anti-intellectualism?When we look at the popularity of right-wing 'shock-jocks' and TV-people such as Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell, Glenn Beck, Bill...

Is America becoming a breeding ground for anti-intellectualism?

When we look at the popularity of right-wing 'shock-jocks' and TV-people such as Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly etc etc, do you worry that America is becoming dangerously anti-intellectual?

People such as Beck and Limbaugh talk infantile nonsense, but they are very popular. And the more outrageous things they say, the more popular they become. It doesn't have to be remotely 'true' or even sane, it just has to be melodramatic, angry, scary and very, very right-wing. Now, I'm not saying that well-argued right-wing views are nonsense, but the output from Fox News and other right-wing media is not well-argued or even factual. It is massively over-simplified, paranoid stupidity. And they encourage people to be dismissive of reasoning or dialogue in favour of childish, emotional rage.

For example... the claims that Obama's health-care plans were synonymous with Nazi policies. Or the 'birth certificate' debacle. Or the anti-global warming rhetoric. Or claims about the imminent Islamification of Europe. Or 'The War on Christmas' etc.

And yet this seemingly obvious trash is swallowed whole by millions (cf. The Tea Party?). What is this growing tendency to loudly and publicly reject facts in favour of feelings? What are the root causes of such anti-intellectualism? How can it be challenged?

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sad to say, I don't think there is any society in which the majority of people are intellectual, and I am not sure that is an achievable goal.  I have no idea how we can change people's belief that Obama was not born in the USA, for example.  Most people do not think critically, and this is a skill that I do not think can be taught all that successfully in school.  It is a mindset, I believe, that one must be raised with, modeled by parents who allow their children to question and who model the process of inquiry.  Simply adding little "critical thinking" sidebars in textbooks, a trend I have been noticing in recent years, does not solve the problem.  However, I do not think that any society is any more anti-intellectual today than in the past.  We simply have a greater awareness of it today, and it can be propagated more easily.  Consider, though, whether a society could function or move forward if the majority of people were intellectual.  Who would make cars, process paperwork, or regulate traffic?  A society needs different kinds of skills and qualities, and I am not so sure, even considering myself to be an intellectual, that I would want to live in a society in which all us were.  I get annoyed and sometimes even angry with what seems like willful ignorance, but then I try to remind myself that the person who is this way is someone who might have some other kind of contribution to make.

megan-bright eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I definitely agree with the original poster. Instead of news stations reporting matters in an unbiased manner, they seem to have underlying agendas. For instance, FOX News is known to be anti-Obama or democratic. This is a powerful station that airs constantly. They thus have so many opportunities to express their agenda, and spread a lot of propaganda and theories that usually have no true solid basis. People take these statements and don't take the time to educate themselves on the issues at hand. Most people didn't care to educate and think for themselves regarding issues such as Obamacare, socialism, the job market, and so on. If people were to take the time t be knowledgeable about topics and used some type of rationalization, it wouldn't be so easy for these movements to build up steam.


wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with post 3.  I think our instant acess, social media, fast paced society allows for these types of groups to get a lot more attention than they might have previously.  Extreme groups, like the Tea Party, might have existed in small pockets before.  But now, they are able to communicate and group together quickly.  I also think, in America particuarlly, it has a lot to do with anger and dissatisfaction.  People are looking for an idea to cling to no matter how radical or irrational that idea might be.  Clearly, what we are doing in this country isn't working.  It's difficult to see a straight path out of the mess many people find themselves stuck in.  I think this type of fear and anger allows "the crazies" to get their foot in a door that might once have been closed.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No society can possibly be a haven of intellectualism for all.  The vast majority of people are simply not going to have the time or inclination to become intellectuals.

The problem in the US today is that politicians have an interest in being anti-intellectual.  You mention problems with the right, but you also have people like the Occupy Wall Street types who are not exactly showing sterling thinking skills themselves.  Our politicians and our society encourage us to hate the other side first and think later.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it has less to do with America and more to do with the current 24/7 world we live in.  There is so much information and it is so easily accessible all of the time.  These personalities can find audiences for their rants when they couldn’t before.  I think the crazies were always out there, but the internet age allows them to find each other.