Column: Anti-intellectualism & the deceit of the modern politician

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. (Wade Payne/AP)

Our country has seen an environment of increasing anti-intellectualism, in which ignorance influences society. This anti-intellectualism weakens the country when the tendency to dismiss rational thinking is exploited by politicians, specifically the political right, in order to manipulate people.

The last time the media brought up the anti-intellectualism movement in America came in 2014, and the time before that was 2012. These were both major election years. This is no coincidence, seeing as our politicians are, at least ostensibly, woefully misinformed in a variety of areas and often proudly supporting their opinions, despite the objection of intellectuals and experts.

We have Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee. He chose a snowball as his weapon of choice to refute global warming, according to the National Journal. Our snowball senator may need to brush up on his archaic environmental definitions as we no longer call it “global warming” because of the ignorance pervading through the population that the temperature only increases.

If a politician publicly gives what seems to be a simplified explanation of a circumstance, it’s always best to assume they tailored out the largely necessary details. However, Inhofe did have few moments of accuracy concerning climate change when he stated, “It’s just from outside here, so it’s very, very cold out, … very unseasonable.” Yes, Senator, it is very unseasonable weather, more of which we can expect if there aren’t measures taken to curb the pollution of the environment.

One of our prominent GOP presidential candidates, Donald Trump, used the first Republican debate to describe autism as an epidemic and to immediately link it to the use of vaccines according to the Slate. Scientists have been attempting to find a cause of autism and in the past few decades have come to realize that autism is a spectrum that presents in numerous ways.

Vaccines have yet to be proven to be the cause of autism. Trump’s statement of autism becoming an epidemic in recent years can easily be countered. Our understanding of the disability has grown and with it our ability to identify it. This is true of other diseases and disabilities as you can see an increase of diagnosis in the past few years for those as well, unless we are currently experiencing an epidemic of every known disease and disability.

Given the current state of social affairs in the country, specifically racism, anti-intellectualism cannot be allowed to persist from this either. Racism at its very core is an ignorance and inability to understand and accept other people. Although educated people can be racists, it isn’t the education itself that prevents ignorance – it’s a question of the ability to think critically.

Critical thinking allows individuals to recognize racism as wrong, making them able to accept their own flaws in that aspect. They have the ability to try and reconcile their beliefs and separate themselves from these systemic influences of racism that already exist. However, those motivated by fear, which comes from a lack of understanding, are prone to simplistic explanations and prone to violent solutions. This explains the cheers that Trump was met with at a rally in Iowa with after proclaiming that he would “Bomb the s--- out of ISIS”, according to Business Insider.

The rejection of critical thinking and consequently the glorification of the emotional and irrational feelings and motives lie at the heart of the intolerant American mindset where the hyper-patriotism arises. The where-to-be-born index, created by The Economist in 2013, shows the United States nowhere near the top. Nevertheless, no. 16 is the new “exceptional” by proxy of the true American patriots. However, we did lead the world in our incarceration rate in 2013, according to the Population Reference Bureau.

Anti-intellectualism is not necessarily about intelligence. It is the mental and emotional maturity that allows for rational thinking. Terrorist attacks are played on the news in a twisted way to promote this culture of paranoia that facilitates the public to willfully allow irrational hatred of an entire demographic based on the actions of individuals.

This movement goes against everything the counterculture gained in the 1960s. The movement progressed in human sexuality, women’s rights and traditional modes of authority. It grew from a society of people, ideas, events and issues that allows for intellectual and social catalysts. Our current projection as a society moves to reverse all that progress previously made.


Jesseba Fernando is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at jesseba.fernando@uconn.edu.