Ready, Aim, Fire by Getty Images
"How can so many voters not see what's happening," a frustrated friend asked this week. "So much for naive thinking new, smart technology makes people better informed." "To the contrary," he sighed, ticking off online conspiracy theories (Obama now an outerspace alien?) plus idiocy that regulation COSTS jobs (no, it's a job stimulant) or that Palin's Tea Party has "truth and logic on its side" (her words) -- blasting big government while glorifying endless (government) wars.
The "medium" is coarsening the message, and greater visibility hasn't stopped "jokes" from Bachmannia that hurricanes pack God's messages, as if punchy emails to the wicked. Laugh it up, flood victims, for later she called it "metaphor." So is the fringe's slippery slope.
We appear under assault by those misfit high school wrecks -- remember those numbed, glazed eyes, barely present in class, napping in the back row? Thus, Tea Party underachievers love the latest Texas entry, sloughing off (or cheering) his solid C- status? "Hey, I graduated high school, Rick Perry might twitter, and that ag college, too, wit'out workin' eni harder." Do bad grades now burnish GOP resumes, making 'em no smarter than common folks? Like W.'s fake ranch accent. Look, ma, no Bs or As -- and from no fancypants, elitist college.
Okay, here's my good news: Perry has re-set the bottom bar -- you can't just quit office, you have to command syntax, and you can't brag about what you don't know or never read -- thus Sarah Palin is out, unelectable except as moose catcher. With 70% of Rethugs telling Palin not to run, the bottom of the bottom is re-set, a threshold below even know-nothings squirm.
Free to be Ignorant
Excuse my partiality, but those who don't finish books, classes, essays or sentences aren't just running the asylum: they're in the streets, pushing equally dim operatives into Congress. Take Illinois' refined Joe Walsh, who scoffed at attending the Joint Session because that only encourages the "idiotic" president. Irony implodes. The grade-challenged Perry dictates educational policy and values across our most populously backward state. Punishing minorities, this slick pied piper springboards to stardom by demolishing the American dream.
To my friend, I responded that fixated, fringe mindsets of an authoritarian bent aren't stupid per se but dead against whatever appears to threaten closed belief systems. For underachievers, believing is seeing, first filtering out disruptive evidence, then disruptive outside reality. Tea Partiers may well have learning disabilities, but the worst ignorance partners with toxic, ideological manias, a compound mashed from Biblical scraps, deluded divine messengers, and FOX-shock jock frauds.
Can America prosper when the largest voting block anoints itself masters of everything worth knowing, never in doubt, even about subjects never mastered, beyond C-? Why, they'd shudder, isn't doubt cousin to confusion, then disbelief, then heresy? Haven't Rapture-types pared down who's worth listening to, let alone caring about? Preying on prayer warriors are operatives driven not by belief but winning -- the spin-doctors, propagandists, liars (who know they're lying) and today increasingly bullshitters (who don't care what the truth is).
Perry, Mental Ponzi Scheme
Which brings up this odd paradox: why is the blunt-spoken, pretty boy Perry instantly anointed as "dumb"? For good looks, accent and bluster? On policy, he's close to Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, or Michele Bachmann, all of whose intelligence is assumed higher than average. Agreed, culling inane whoppers by Perry is easier than shooting fish in a barrel, like his fantasy that long-engrained programs are "unconstitutional." No, governor, the Supreme Court holds that prerogative, but you must know more than all the Supreme Court justices since the New Deal. Perry's his own walking, talking "Ponzi scheme" (as he described SSI) -- believe my nonsense today, and I'll find you a good job tomorrow. Not dumb like Palin doesn't really translate into smart.
A big problem is that smooth-talking Perry handles syntax better than Palin, or W., who thus rashly advertised blockheadedness. Couldn't they learn sound bites? Nor should we confuse Perry the strong campaigner with any stereotypical-Bob Newhart's skit: "this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl." Perry is slicker and more experienced at politics than W. at the comparable career stage. And Perry, unlike W., never had to work up his Texas ranch drawl, being born poor, a man of the people.
Frankly, I see pandering, rather than stupidity, when Perry inveighs against his state needing federal stimulus to "get America working again" considering this Texas Tribune report: "Through the second quarter of this year, Texas has used $17.4 billion in federal stimulus money -- including $8 billion of the one-time dollars to fund state expenses that recur over and over. In fact, Texas used the federal stimulus to balance its last two budgets."
Overall, Paul Krugman captures how serious is the "deepening anti-intellectualism of the political right . . . one of these years the world's greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges -- environmental, economic, and more -- that's a terrifying prospect."
Your Bible -- or Mine?
We're moving beyond scorn for scientific laws (like evolution, a fully tested hypothesis , not just "another theory") or well-tested economic theory (fallibility doesn't mean irrelevance), but denials of established, collective history, the common ground that defines any culture. Cheney's memoir proves authoritarians fashion history oblivious to facts or contradictions. What national entity survives without agreement about core narratives that unite us? Know-it-all tribal narcissism that excludes the possibility of outside knowledge -- or expertise on complex subjects -- jeopardizes America's greatest achievement: the commitment to publicly-funded, reality-based, mass national education.