In Trump’s America, how do we return to valuing knowledge?: A rant.

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I’m honestly asking this question because I’m afraid for the future of the US. In Donald Trump’s America, we’re surrounded by those who hold disdain for intelligent people. We’re surrounded by those who celebrate ignorance. We’re surrounded by those who denigrate the knowledgeable and ignore facts. How do we turn this around?

One simple view of a Trump rally or a scan of a pro-Trump Facebook group confirms the state of affairs we find ourselves facing. If they don’t like a news story, they call it fake, and it becomes so. If they don’t like the position of a political opponent, they give them a schoolyard nickname and dismiss them as unAmerican or treasonous. If they don’t like an investigation, they call it a witch hunt and it becomes irrelevant to them.

About one half of the voting populace in the US no longer values facts, but instead, has replaced the truth with headlines and memes that make them feel like they’re on the right side of issues, regardless of their accuracy. And those citizens celebrate each other and their leader with no regard for reality. They’ve created their own version. Willful ignorance has spawned their personal truths, and they are unwavering.

So how do we get back to a world where facts matter and education is valued? I honestly don’t know. It takes much less effort to share a meme or dishonest headline than to search for the truth. This behavior so closely mirrors that of the extremely religious, and in many cases, the folks involved are the same. Rather than search for the truth, they cling to easier things that make them feel good instead. Just like Christian texts have warned that those who offer alternate explanations for the universe are puppets of Satan, Trump has convinced his followers that anyone who disagrees with him is peddling fake news or is a traitor. And when the hell did presidents start having “followers” anyway? When did it become acceptable for presidents to hold rallies aside from a political campaign? Who does that? Narcissistic dictators do that. Not United States Presidents.

We live in serious times, but we don’t have a serious leader. And for some reason, our elected representatives don’t want to do anything about it because they might lose their jobs. But if your job is defending a narcissist pathological liar, then what’s so great about your job? I sure as hell wouldn’t want a job that would force me to take down every mirror in my house for fear I might get a glance of myself and feel ill.

End rant. Happy holidays. F#ck!!

Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is the head writer and editor for SecularVoices, co-founder of Young Skeptics, and author of Understanding an Atheist. He is known for local and national secular activism and has spoken at conferences and events such as Reason Rally 2016 and the Ark Encounter Protest and Rally.

View all posts by Kevin Davis →

10 thoughts on “In Trump’s America, how do we return to valuing knowledge?: A rant.

  1. > When did it become acceptable for presidents to hold rallies aside from a political campaign? Who does that?

    Nicolae Ceausescu – The “Genius of the Carpathians” did. Until a firing squad shot him.

    1. Indeed. Some say it goes back to compulsory school education. But it’s hard to avoid concluding that far too many schools rely on rote learning to pass exams without ever teaching critical thinking.

      GOP Opposes Critical Thinking

      Party platform paints original ideas as a liberal conspiracy

      BY RICHARD WHITTAKER, 1:17PM, WED. JUN. 27, 2012

      1. Yes, also some people have spoken out about the anti intellectualism on display in schools in the eighties and nineties that defined cultural stereotypes.
        Intellectually inclined individuals were seen as weirdoes on the outside..
        Remember the Jocks s and the Nerds?

    2. It absolutely is a thing. I’m about to turn 73, and while that doesn’t make you smart it does give you a perspective of decades. I have seen the dumbing down begin and continue, and I found it dismaying back in my twenties.
      And although I know I have a bug about this character up my septuageneric butt, I still think the huge Erich von Daniken phenomenon back in the ‘sixties (and ‘seventies, and into the ‘eighties) was a major symptom. CHARIOTS OF THE GODS? and all its sequels were even more riddled with gross errors, misstatements, and flat out goddamned lies than Velikovsky’s books. There isn’t a subject or field von Daniken ever touched but that he demonstrated stunning, cosmic ignorance combined with bombastic certainty that he knew it all and knew it all better than the experts. (Of whom he wrote, pretty much, but I’m working from memory and this is not quite verbatim, “If they will not consider what I am saying, one must doubt their integrity.”)
      He was President Trump in the field of gee-whiz pop archaeology.
      And something one of his critics wrote stuck in my mind all this time. Again, not verbatim, but the essence was that the enthusiastic reception given von Daniken by people who seemed delighted to see the scholarly establishment tripped into the mud, made this person uneasy. The lack of strict standards — ANY standards — of fact or evidence. Erich von Daniken may have been more a symptom than a cause, but he sure did far more than one man’s share to lower the bar on quality of thinking. The critic said presciently, “It is for this reason that playing fast and loose with the truth is a serious matter. What if the next charlatan to come along is selling a war, or a social scapegoat?”
      We’d already seen McCarthy and HUAC, and we were seeing the Vietnam war, and since then we’ve seen the George W. Bush administration and Iraq. Now we’re seeing the Trump administration.
      The natural result when ignorance comes into its own and a dope’s opinion is reckoned as good as an expert’s.

  2. I don’t want to sound overly optimistic, but the devaluing of education isn’t totally universal. The reason why student loan debt is a huge issue politically is that many young Americans valued education (perhaps above it’s market value in terms of job prospects.)

    Though I do think that creationism was a sort of ‘Trojan horse’ for the devaluing of facts. If people can decide to reject science on that level due to ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ where does it end? The Supreme Court ruled that an opinion that birth control is an abortifacient was enough to get a ‘religious exemption’ even when it’s factually false. Dubious ‘research’ paid for by the oil industry and anti-regulation think tanks was allowed to be taken as meaningful challenge to the consensus on climate change, and anti-vaxxers include some young people.

  3. I don’t think it’s been ever different, in your country or in mine(France). It just appears to be especially visible those days. Shouldn’t we thank Mr Trump for making this obvious problem more visible?

    (I’m not even sure whether I’m serious or not)

  4. Its always been Trump’s America, Sweat Hog America was here for decades before the Donald, the Scopes trial was a grand show of the American pride of ignorance and the Know-Nothing Party of the 1800’s said it all.

    Face it – a huge percentage of the population loves stupidity as a virtue.

  5. Why We Will Need Walt Whitman in 2020
    By Ed Simon

    (from a recent NY Times Opinion article)

    When Walt Whitman arrived in Washington at the end of 1862 to take up residence in the city and serve as a hospital volunteer, the construction of the Capitol dome was not yet complete. In a dispatch published in the Oct. 4, 1863, edition of The New-York Times, Whitman described this “vast eggshell, built of iron and glass, this dome — a beauteous bubble” that “emerges calm and aloft from the hill, out of a dense mass of trees.” The poet recounted how a “few days ago, poking about there, eastern side” he found the yet to be hoisted Statue of Freedom that now crowns the Capitol dome “all dismembered, scattered on the ground, by the basement front.” In retrospect it’s a rather on-the-nose metaphor, this personified representation of liberty “standing in the mud” while the nation immolated itself in civil war, yet still visible to our greatest poet and prophet of democracy, perhaps signifying the incomplete task of the American project.

    When the war began, Whitman was despondent, but the violence of those years seemed to strengthen and clarify his faith in democracy, a faith that would take on a transcendent dimension. For the poet, democracy wasn’t simply the least bad form of government, it wasn’t reducible to dreary policy and endless debate, but it was rather a vital, transformative and regenerative ethos. Even as the survival of what President Abraham Lincoln called the “last, best hope of earth” was in doubt, Whitman’s belief in the philosophical and political foundation of the nation flourished.

    If the war against illiberalism takes place on many fronts, including the economic and the cultural, then one domain where the revanchists are clearly gaining power is in the realm of the transcendent. In the delusions of “blood and soil” there is for many the attraction of a deeper meaning. Authoritarians claim that they offer their nations (or at least a segment of the population) unity and purpose. The 20th-century German philosopher (and victim of the Nazis42) Walter Benjamin warned how fascism engages an “aestheticization of politics,” where spectacle and transcendence provide a type of ecstasy for its adherents. Watch clips of fevered crowds, from today or the past, chanting against “enemies of the people”; they are malignant scenes, but ones that in no small part mimic religious revivals.

    Critics of democracy often claim that it offers no similar sense of transcendence. The 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche castigated democracy as a system of “quarantine mechanisms” for human desires, and as “such they are … very boring.” If the individual unit of democracy is the citizen, authoritarian societies thrill to the Übermensch, the superman promising that “I alone can fix it.” Yet I would argue that all of the hallmarks of authoritarianism — the rallies and crowds, the marching and military parades, the shouting demagogue promising his followers that they are superior — are wind and hot air. What fascism offers isn’t elevation but cheap transcendence, a counterfeit of meaning rather than the real thing.

    Whitman understood that democracy wasn’t “very boring” but rather a political system that could deliver on the promises that authoritarianism only pretended it would. For the poet, democracy wasn’t just a way of passing laws or a manner of organizing a government; democracy was a method of transcendence in its own right.

    Human beings are meaning-making creatures. A politics that is unable to translate its positions into some sort of transcendent language, pointing to something greater than the individual, is a politics that will ultimately fail. Whitman understood this. Though political theorists of democracy routinely speak of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence or Hamilton and Madison’s Federalist Papers, Whitman’s poetry of a half-century later explicates the metaphysical underpinnings of transcendent democracy. Where Nietzsche would offer the illusions of the Übermensch, Whitman would sing a song of the “divine average.”

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