Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why Does the Right Embrace Ignorance as a Virtue?

From AlterNet:

The thing is, shameless lying and ignorance works surprisingly well as a debate tactic. It’s hard to argue with someone who not only has signaled that he doesn’t care what the truth is but is downright proud of how little he actually knows. Such a person is not amenable to being educated. Once the pretense of really caring one way or another about what is right and what is wrong has been abandoned, all avenue of discourse is shut down.

More here.

One of my favorite writers, Chris Hedges, is all over this in his book Empire of Illusion: American culture has moved, he asserts, from a print based culture into an image based culture.  That is, since the rise of mass media, nobody reads anymore.  Instead, they watch television.  And this spells doom for democracy because reading is necessarily a reflective and thought oriented exercise, while watching images affects primarily the emotions.  Consequently, as a people, we are now confusing knowledge with belief.

We see this throughout our entire culture, but nowhere is it more frustrating than in the realm of politics.  I mean, just ask the thousands of disillusioned liberals who really did believe what amounted to a sophisticated advertising campaign about "hope" and "change" pushed by Obama's people--of course, if all these liberals had simply gone to his website where they could read what he actually said he was going to do, they wouldn't be so disillusioned.

The conservatives, however, have taken this dynamic to a high art form.  I mean, of course, there's creationism, global warming, "pray-away-the-gay," and all that.  But it goes even deeper.  Remember how Obama was trounced by Romney in the first presidential debate?  The President was pressing his opponent on some of the kooky shit he had to say to get past the nut-dominated GOP primaries, and Romney's response was essentially "I didn't say any of that."  Obama was just astonished.  You could see it on his face.  He wasn't expecting Romney to just straight up LIE on national television.  But lie he did, and the President was apparently too freaked out to call him on it.

Actually, it appears that some very savvy Republican consultants have figured out how easy it is to simply abandon reality with your rhetoric.  You just lie.  And then it's treated not as a lie, but as a conflict of opinion.  And people's sincere BELIEFS shouldn't be questioned, regardless of whether those BELIEFS are demonstrably wrong.

Thus, creationism has validity because it's a BELIEF.  Global warming denial is credible because it's a BELIEF.  And so on.  As Hedges has observed, abandoning reality in this way, on such a massive scale, can only result in the collapse of American civilization.  And the conservatives are leading the way.

But really, the only way to respond to this is to do what Obama DIDN'T do: call the liars what they are, "liars."  To their faces.  I mean, when people say bullshit and expect you to believe it, they're being total assholes.  One really must respond in kind.