Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Little Advice For My Republican Friends

Turn off AM talk radio. Really. It is hurting you.

I have noticed a phenomenon growing over recent years and it is this: In many Republican spheres it has now become a bad thing to be educated. To be intellectual could cause other Republicans to look at you suspiciously. To be scholarly in any fashion can put you out of the bounds of acceptability.

Many Republicans resent being viewed as uniformed, ignorant, backwater, and hick. They feel liberals try to paint them as such. However, I see this as a result of anti-intellectualism being encouraged by conservatism's loudest voices - AM radio.

Honestly, the only way someone can listen to hour after hour of the same points being repeated over and over is to encourage a dulling of the mind. The only way they can cycle through the same arguments endlessly (and thereby do very little show preparation) is to train the listeners to conditioned Pavlov responses. Soon talk radio listeners are simply mentally salivating in a pre-conditioned response to key words and phrases. There is no news or depth, just bell ringing.

Lest any listeners be pulled from their stupor, these hosts, and the politicians they keep in power, make intelligence sound like a bad idea. Just today I read of Republican resistance to an Obama court appointment:

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Liu "the very vanguard of what I would call an intellectual judicial activist."

The problem, proclaimed by this high-ranking republican, is not just being a judicial activist - it is being an intellectual judicial activist.

When Texas was recently selecting textbooks, one thing that was made clear by conservative board members was that they wanted to reduce the influence of "experts" and those in "academia".

Translation? Let's have UN-qualified individuals guiding our choices. We don't want the opinions of those who are knowledgeable of the subject matter.

Recently, I had an online political dialog with a conservative friend who accused me of intellectualism (negatively) because my reasoning was "lengthy" and used "large words". Again, in popular conservatism, that which historically would have been trumpeted is now regarded with suspicion and disdain.

David Brooks offered this commentary in the New York Post:

"What had been a disdain (among conservatives) for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole."


"Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking. Now those attributes bow down before the common touch."

Now lest anyone think I take joy in this development, let me say NAY! I want conservatism and the Republican party to be a robust, intellectual body (and I believe segments of it are, but they are not the driving force right now). I believe this would be good for America. I want Republicans to aggressively resist the "dumbing-down" trend. To do so, I believe they need to take control of the language used within their own party. Liberals may be speaking to you as if you are uneducated, but they are only reflecting the image that you are creating. The solution is not to demand that liberal commentators respect your intelligence; it is to get your own commentators and politicians to stop referring to intelligence as if it is a bad thing.


OneSmallStep said...

I often wonder if there's a correlation to this with the marriage of the Religious Right to the Republican party. Especially because of the Bible verses about how God mocks the world's wisdom, and chooses the foolish, instead.

Andrew said...

OSS - I think there is, and the correlation probably increases as the fundamentalism increases. I know many Christian parents who fear for their children going to elementary school, let alone college. After a while the distrust and paranoia turns to a disdain... then, as you say, they find a few scriptures to buttress that opinion... and there it is!

Don said...

Andrew- My wife is one of those conservative, talk-show listening folks. She and many, many other conservatives allow the talk-show hosts to determine how they think, and sometimes, what they think. My wife and I think very differently about politics and religion.....very differently. She is a professional business woman and as I see it, has little time to think for herself about these two subjects. when I bring up religion, it give her a headache, which promptly causes her to ask for a cessation of the conversation. When she brings up politics (a la Sean or Rush), I can hardly contain myself. To our credit, we rarely broach the two subjects while in the same room. My wife is extremely intelligent (much more so than I). For some reason she chooses to allow others (talk-show hosts) to determine her political position, and staunchly retains her lifetime of conservative religious training in spite of the fact of not having darkened the door of a church in almost three years (thanks to me not "being the spiritual leader in the home"). I am in a difficult situation, but must admit to enjoying the challenges presented by the present situation in my rather dull life!

Andrew said...

Hang in there Don! :)

Andrew said...

This was a good conversation that occurred over on the Facebook side on this article:

Dcn. Ray I didn't know you had any Republican friends.
Sat at 19:57 ·

Andrew Hackman I live in THE most Republican state in the Union. Can't swing a dead cat in Utah without hitting a Republican. :) They say our Democrats are simply Republicans who came from back East.
Sat at 20:01 ·

Dcn. Ray - And you love it. Just like a salmon loves to swim upstream.
Sat at 20:04 ·

Andrew Hackman That is a good analogy! In fact, Steve has stated something similar. He postulates that he slid a bit to the Right as a result of living in Boulder (liberal mecca) whereas I slid to the left as a result of living living amongst the reddest of the red.
Sat at 20:11 ·

Sherry- brilliant, remind me to comment on this... swimming upstream... what a concept.
Sat at 21:39 ·

Steve- I don't listen to talk radio.
Sat at 22:59 ·

Tim - ok. I'll bite. I think much of the skepticism toward academia comes from a growing judgment of it's results. More and more it seems like the ultimate goal of academia (particularly at the university level) is to produce mindless Keynesians who abhor business experience as greed. If they're lucky enough to become bureaucrats, they can become so hubristic that they sneer at anyone who even has the gall to ask a question, much less challenge them with an opposing viewpoint.

I think Socrates would be most displeased.

If I need something done, and have a choice between the aforementioned bureaucrat vs. somebody with real world experience, there could be a case to disregard a certificate from academia.
Yesterday at 18:40 ·

Andrew Hackman See, but I don't think its skepticism... its borrowed skepticism. Most of the folks who are displaying knee jerk reactions are not those who had one-on-one contact with the situation you describe... they heard a really good anecdote on talk radio and then had that vocabulary reinforced through their politicians and commentators.

I think to there is a balance to be sought in business... because one questions corporations and business does not make them anti corporation and business.
Yesterday at 18:58 ·

Nathan - I'm a little lost in the double-talk here. Though I resist being tagged as a conservative, I'll admit that my sentiments lie to the right more often than not. You seem to say that because I'm not on board with the left-wing powerplay that has swept into Washington, that I must be getting my views from talk radio, and if I would simply use my brain I would think more like you. But you also wish the right would get more intellectual. You leave me no place to stand.
I'll concede that the on-air voices can sound repetitive (at best) and downright intolerant for the most part, but I think it is a gross generalization to group all who agree with their stance as uninformed.
The beautiful thing about a 2-party system is that whether you're a genius or an imbecile, you have to pick one side or the other. In other words, you find both leaders and followers on either side.
Yesterday at 20:02 ·

Steve- Are liberals so smart? It's not like you guys are peppering your conversations with references to 19th century German Idealist philosophy or Classical Greek and Roman literature. The fact is, most Liberals are stupid. And most Conservatives are stupid as well. Most of the human race is stupid. We are a bunch of blooming idiots. We are sheep!!!!! Take the plank out of your own eye first. BAA--AAA!!!!!!
Yesterday at 20:17 ·

Andrew said...

Andrew Hackman Nathan - Notice I make a lot of qualifications, I am not making blanket statements... I am noting a trend. It was sparked based on the verbage of the Republican Senator I quoted... and I don't think his use of words there is uncommon. I think it is becoming a regular format in use of terms within the Republican party. Watch and listen for how often words like "intellectual" are used in a negative way by republican pundits. Whatever, one feels about the Left, they don't use those words that way. Whatever one feels about the Right, there is a growing use of these words in a negative way. Tim gave his conjecture of why that is... I gave mine... I think there is probably some of each... but I still submit that it is a bad pattern to be setting.

Steve: I haven't reached that level of cynicism yet.
Yesterday at 20:30 ·

Andrew Hackman And to clarify a little further. "Are Liberals so smart?" It isn't about "smart" or "stupid". It is about how the words are being used and perceived and the attitudes that are developing as a result.
Yesterday at 21:15 ·

Tim - I agree that there is a healthy population of uninformed people out there. However, I find it convenient whenever somebody only sees them on the opposite side of the aisle from where they're sitting.

Do you genuinely not see uninformed Democrats?
Yesterday at 23:03 ·

Tim - Also, if you discount talk radio, what is the appropriate channel to get news? Msnbc? Bill mahr? You kinda need both extremes to really get a good picture.
Yesterday at 23:13 ·

Andrew Hackman - Tim - my point in this is not between informed and uninformed. My point is the use of language and words. I give two examples of where conservative politicians and decision makers reference words like: intelligence, expert, academic, educated... in derogatory ways. Then I give an example of how I think that usage has filtered down to the general populace. I am not so anti anything or anyone that I cannot observe that phenomenon from the sidelines and determine that it is probably not a good direction to be heading in. Somehow from that, people are interpreting my words as : liberal/smart - conservative/dumb; but I am not on that page.

To your second point - I think to put talk radio in with "News" is akin to putting pro-wrestling in with professional competitive sports. I don't think people need extremes to get a good picture, overall I think that makes a bad picture. In honesty, people don't tend to listen to both extremes... they listen to one... and salivate.

I haven't had cable news available in years, and I don't miss it. 24 hour coverage has just made for sensationalism. I really think that less is more and the most politically opinionated would benefit from unplugging.
14 hours ago ·

Steve - Please. Liberals have their own distortions and abuse of language, and plenty. Tax cuts for the rich? The rich are the only people who pay taxes in this country. Give me a break. If you want to talk about distortions of language, you need to read a little book called the Abolition of Man, Andy.
13 hours ago ·

Andrew said...

Logan - To follow up on Tim's point: Having attended both a conservative Christian college for my undergraduate degree and an Ivy League university for my masters I've found that in both cases "education" can quickly become synonymous with "reinforcing preordained ideological conclusions". The ideological bias in academia toward the Left is something I find very frustrating (and I find its reactive counterpart in Christian education equally so). Real critical thinking doesn't start with ideology and then work backwards (hence why, IMHO at least, reality doesn't correspond perfectly with anyone's worldview)-something that both 'sides' are guilty of.

Just my own two cents at least.
9 hours ago ·

Tim - If you claim to be against all sensationalism, how can you praise Bill Maher, but criticize Glen Beck as a hatemonger?

That does seem slanted.

These things go in cycles, but with technology changing our society at such a breakneck pace, I personally see a real market shift towards (all other things held equal) favoring experience over education.

You're entitled to your views, but I think your video of Bill Maher invoking Tiger Woods was far more likely to make people tune out the discourse than starting to hold academia in contempt.
8 hours ago ·

Tim - Also, where do you suggest going to get an "unbiased" take on the news?
8 hours ago ·

Steve - The past two hundred years or so of western history is a long story of the 'educated' classes poisoning civilization with it's misbegotten beliefs. Screw 'education'. Also, Bill Maher is a jerk.
7 hours ago ·

Andrew Hackman Well, like I said... it was advice. I think the way that senator referenced intellectualism, or Hannity referring this week to being "overeducated" as a problem, is going to scare off a lot of moderates & dig a hole for the republican party. But I seemed to have misjudged whether some folks would see that as bad. But as I indicated, it should then come as no surprise when the label "anti-intellectual" gets applied.
7 hours ago via Email reply ·

Andrew Hackman I listen to a mix of KSL news radio, Bob Lonsberry, NPR, and Hannity on my drive to and from work. I also read both of my local papers, the Deseret News and the SL Tribune... that and a couple dozen blogs.
5 hours ago via Email reply ·

Andrew said...

Tim - So it does sound like you get your news from a variety of sources including the extremes... You listen to Hannity and Bill Maher, and I owe you thanks for the excellent service of keeping me informed on what Beck is saying. My hat goes off to that approach!

I would now like to match your distinction between holding skepticism toward corporations and being anti-corporation.

I take issue with equating anti-academia with being anti-intellectual. People can and do learn from academia. However, I would submit that one can read books, seek out wisdom from others, become a practitioner, and otherwise be intellectual without sitting in a classroom long enough to get a rubber stamp.

And then there's this... The executives of Goldman Sachs, AIG, and Lehman Brothers... When they led their companies off the cliff, they were just doing business pretty much exactly how it's taught in business schools.

Andrew Hackman I have no issue arguing that this or that is taught well or poorly. I think one can challenge good instruction and bad instruction; perceptions and approach (as Logan indicated). I also agree that the building of intelligence is by no means limited to a classroom (I credit no small portion of mine to quizzing). I think though I feel like Lewis when he described how the word "gentleman" lost its original meaning. It annoys me when words are ill-chosen. And make no mistake, I would be making the exact same argument if "liberals" were talking that way. I think it is politically calculated, and a maneuver I think will backfire, but in any case.... I want someone being an expert, educated, intelligent, and studious ALWAYS to be a good thing.

Steve - Intellect is not wisdom. 'Intellectuals' are those who have a high degree of education, but their intellect is divorced from wisdom and reality.
about an hour ago ·

Tim - I can see your desire to avoid the farenheight 411 scenario. I had not considered that possibility. I just get irked and can see the derision of academia as the result of the hubristic moral vaccuum it persists, particularly when it causes an AIG scenario. I also feel like education is being used to push what Biden once called a "naked power grab" on the American people.

You do raise an interesting point in that there is indeed a ditch on both sides of the road.

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