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Signs of Anti-Intellectualism: From One Extreme to the Other

April 26, 2012

Signs of Anti-Intellectualism: From One Extreme to the Other

First published September 19th 2007 05:20

Anti-intellectualism was Pol Pot’s tactic. He aimed to kill as many educated people as possible.


So we look at the world from the most recent problem and find that the cause comes from a particular camp; that camp belongs to a particular group; that group comes from either the Left or Right of Politics and there you have it. The answer is simply based upon which side of the coin you happen to be on. The problem is the coin gets flipped every so often and the mistakes of the world are then lumped on the other side. There may be a few minor concessions to give the devil a little credit but the overall thesis is that one ideological stand can fix it all.

Ideologies flood the world with competing versions of how to live and what to do about serious decisions. They are all encompassing and self promoting, offering the formula to apply. All ideologies started from a desire for justice and ended up as a view of how to run the entire world. They are like avalanches of concepts that seem to lump all things into a group and fall over the cliff of certainty at the same time. This lumping and grouping can become a two way process where the individual policy becomes inseparable from the ideology. The association is only made in the minds of people who want it to be so. However issues that are often separate are adopted by the authors of the ideology. In this way a stand on any issue is deemed by some people as an indication of accepting a complete ideological platform and agenda. This is pure inductive reasoning without any solid evidence to back it up but makes identifying potential enemies easier. Yet ‘guilt by association’ sits well in some minds as it solves having to treat the validity of any issue on its own.

The option to resort to ‘guilt by association’ rather than look at the issue is without doubt anti-intellectual. It does not seek to understand the issue because the issue now belongs to a demonized group. (One in, all in.) This why we end up with terms like the ‘Religious Right’ and the ‘Atheist Left’ being thrown around as if they are the only two alternatives. It gives a single enemy to focus upon without any need to engage and understand any of the details of the issue. Does an anti Iraq War stance have to mean that the person is an extreme left wing ideologue? Does an anti Abortion stance have to mean that the person is an extreme right wing ideologue? The issue is never mentally tackled in an intelligent way because to do so would mean that the concept of ‘guilt by association’ had no foundation.

In a way it is like a ‘comfort zone’ of knowledge where the opinions you have formed are formulaic, simple and have no moral conflicts. It can become anti-intellectual when no other possible answer could ever be considered. No evidence is required because the ideology provides the answer before you ask and so there will always be the tendency for people to: quote the source that best suits their ideology; select only the evidence that supports their claims and reject all other evidence. This is not a search for the truth but simply a power struggle and should be seen as such.

Resorting to mottos and taglines to make a point is shallow, so too is regurgitating the party line pamphlet in your own words. Don’t you have any thoughts of your own? You may agree with the policy because it is in the manifesto but if you really believe it is correct why can’t you express it yourself? Is it possible that the extent of your knowledge about a subject comes from a few pages of a ‘puff piece’?

Is ignorance Bliss? Or are there warning signs before this happens?


The transparency of ‘Puff Pieces’ is instantly recognisable because they are by definition full of ‘Huff and Puff’ but contain little or no evidence. Often you may see them with presumptuous titles and oversimplified dot points to make mental digestion easier. They are not evil in themselves but they are not the whole answer either and to assume so is naive. Quotable mottos and idioms is pretty hollow without any understanding of why you are quoting them and worse still offers little defence against a rival motto or idiom. Faith in such things reduces everything down to Orwellian ‘Duckspeak’ and eventually becomes mindless. Taken to the furthest end: 2 plus 2 will equal 5 because the ‘idiom’ tells you it is so.

Anti-Intellectualism is not about who is smarter than whom, nor about who has read the biggest books or not. Rather it is about a mindset that resists the legitimate use of knowledge and critical analysis. Suppression and repression of knowledge is a hallmark of anti-Intellectualism. It does not accept that all people should have access to the knowledge because the ignorant have little resistance to its deceptions. Anti-Intellectualism is as the word describes it: a way of keeping the subject dumbed down and never held up to objective scrutiny with valid evidence.

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