On a Mission to Outlaw Thinking

 Posted by on 8 September 2008 at 2:00 am  Culture, Politics, Religion
Sep 082008

If Paul Krugman is right (and it would pretty much be ONLY about this), what we’ve been seeing in the Republican party since the days of Nixon is the politics of resentment.

One of the key insights in “Nixonland,” the new book by the historian Rick Perlstein, is that Nixon’s political strategy throughout his career was inspired by his college experience, in which he got himself elected student body president by exploiting his classmates’ resentment against the Franklins, the school’s elite social club. There’s a direct line from that student election to Spiro Agnew’s attacks on the “nattering nabobs of negativism” as “an effete corps of impudent snobs,” and from there to the peculiar cult of personality that not long ago surrounded George W. Bush — a cult that celebrated his anti-intellectualism and made much of the supposed fact that the “misunderestimated” C-average student had proved himself smarter than all the fancy-pants experts.

So there you have it: hatred of the good for being the good elevated to a political strategy. One that works, which is depressing.

If you want to know why I have focused more on the shortcomings of Republicans recently than those of Democrats, this observation by Krugman is part of the reason why. They have explicitly made a virtue of “anti-intellectualism.” Now, I’m not saying that Democrat-style intellectualism is the way to go — it’s not. Democrat-style intellectualism is basically just nihilism — there is no right and wrong, everything’s relative, and if you’re looking for value you ought to stop looking for it in the human race and look for it in polar bears and wilderness. But still, the Left at least pays lip service to the notion that the right course of action is discovered by using your mind, by thought.

The Right sees thought as a threat, and openly so. They don’t denounce the Left primarily for thinking the wrong things, but for thinking as such.

The Right is anti-intellectual and on a mission to outlaw thinking. Witness, the reason they embraced “W”; witness, the push for teaching “intelligent design” in schools; witness, the drive to formally elevate a clump of cells to the level of actual, thinking human beings. Witness, that to accomplish all of these things the Right is turning to the government — which means, to the power of a gun — to shove this crap down our throats.

The Right militantly embraces faith. They don’t embrace faith in the manner of Buddhists up on mountains contemplating their navels, or in the manner of Middle Age ascestics who stop flogging themselves only long enough to eat a piece of moldy bread and take a sip from a mud puddle. They openly embrace their faith just as Ayn Rand said faith ultimately must be embraced: with a steaming side helping of force.

(Cross-posted to ms. think.)

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