Charles Simic really lets it fly with his scathing polemic, “Age of Ignorance” on The New York Review of Books’ blog. Over a lifetime of teaching college level American literature courses and watching aghast as each subsequent crop of students washed ashore dumber than the crew the year before, Simic has seen firsthand what the reichwing’s war on education has wrought and it ain’t pretty.
It’s becoming harder and harder to ignore The Great IQ Stratification—for what else could you call it?—that’s taken place in America over the past 40 years. Idiocy is the American way of life. Stupidity r “us” or more pointedly “U.S”?
No doubt, the Internet and cable television have allowed various political and corporate interests to spread disinformation on a scale that was not possible before, but to have it believed requires a badly educated population unaccustomed to verifying things they are being told. Where else on earth would a president who rescued big banks from bankruptcy with taxpayers’ money and allowed the rest of us to lose $12 trillion in investment, retirement, and home values be called a socialist?
In the past, if someone knew nothing and talked nonsense, no one paid any attention to him. No more. Now such people are courted and flattered by conservative politicians and ideologues as “Real Americans” defending their country against big government and educated liberal elites. The press interviews them and reports their opinions seriously without pointing out the imbecility of what they believe. The hucksters, who manipulate them for the powerful financial interests, know that they can be made to believe anything, because, to the ignorant and the bigoted, lies always sound better than truth:
Christians are persecuted in this country.
The government is coming to get your guns.
Obama is a Muslim.
Global Warming is a hoax.
The president is forcing open homosexuality on the military.
Schools push a left-wing agenda.
Social Security is an entitlement, no different from welfare.
Obama hates white people.
The life on earth is 10,000 years old and so is the universe.
The safety net contributes to poverty.
The government is taking money from you and giving it to sex-crazed college women to pay for their birth control.
One could easily list many more such commonplace delusions believed by Americans. They are kept in circulation by hundreds of right-wing political and religious media outlets whose function is to fabricate an alternate reality for their viewers and their listeners. “Stupidity is sometimes the greatest of historical forces,” Sidney Hook said once. No doubt. What we have in this country is the rebellion of dull minds against the intellect. That’s why they love politicians who rail against teachers indoctrinating children against their parents’ values and resent the ones who show ability to think seriously and independently. Despite their bravado, these fools can always be counted on to vote against their self-interest. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is why millions are being spent to keep my fellow citizens ignorant.
You’ll note that Simic’s list contains only idiotic rightwing beliefs which are commonly held only in red states where people tend to be the most religious. Coincidence? I think not…
And it will only continue to get worse. Who reading this thinks it will get better in our lifetime?
Read: Age of Ignorance (The New York Review of Books)