Anti-Intellectualism Will Get Us Killed

A friend sent me a Ted Talk given by Bill Gates in 2015.

If you haven’t already seen it–evidently, several million people have–you need to watch it before proceeding to the blog rant it triggered, below. It’s only slightly over seven minutes, and it’s worth it.

Are you back? Good.

As we are now learning, the Trump administration didn’t just ignore warnings from people like Bill Gates, who knows whereof he speaks because his foundation is deeply involved in issues of global health. The Trump Administration ignored alerts from medical experts, dismissed Intelligence briefings warning of the imminence of the threat, and failed to listen to warnings from Obama officials during transition briefings.

It was behavior entirely consistent with Trump’s war on intellect, science and expertise-the only war this disastrous “President” is winning, as he disassembles federal agencies retaining even a hint of expertise or effectiveness.

Talking Points Memo began a recent report with a sentence that should chill us:

The 20-year Capitol Hill veteran is gone. The 20-somethings remain.

The report detailed the abrupt resignation of Dale Cabaniss, the most recent director of  the Office of Personnel Management. (As with most agencies under Trump, senior officials change with the seasons…)

According to “several reports”garnered from the most leaky White House in most of our lifetimes, there were two reasons for the departure: first, Trump’s persistent efforts to eliminate OPM entirely, and second, the parade of seasoned officials who have been replaced with “a pack of mostly 20-somethings employed by the White House to, more or less, police political officials for loyalty to the President.”

Now, I have long maintained that it is time for generational change; I supported Mayor Pete before he dropped out of the Presidential race. But the “twenty-somethings” installed by Trump in the highest reaches of the administration are far–far–from the educated and talented members of the younger generation represented by Mayor Pete.

The “twenty-something” placed in charge of Presidential Personnel was John McEntee — a 29-year-old who used to be Trump’s body-man. (“Body man” is apparently polite-speak for “goon acting as bodyguard”) and who was only recently given his new title, more than a year after departing his previous job by Trump’s side.” The “skill” McEntee brought to his new gig? Making viral videos showing his football skills.

Axios reported in February that Trump had empowered McEntee to purge “bad people” and the “Deep State” — meaning, those who don’t sufficiently support Trump.

Since his hiring, McEntee has brought on an even less experienced coterie: First, 23-year-old George Washington University senior James Bacon.

Another temporary hire at the Presidential Personnel Office, per Politico, is John Troup Hemenway, who’s expected to graduate from the University of Virginia in December. Hemenway will reportedly help with paperwork for Defense Department political appointees.

And then there’s Anthony Labruna, an Iowa State student who was recently named a deputy White House liaison for the Department of Commerce.

And that’s where we’re left: In the midst of a global pandemic, a crisis that’s thrown the government into chaos, the experienced pro at the top of the government’s H.R. department is gone. But the shallow state that helped push her out remains.

Time to re-read Hofstadter’s classic Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, in which he investigated the roots of the deep and persistent animus toward knowledge and expertise displayed by  people like Trump–and for that matter, most of today’s GOP.

These people– who disdain as “elitists” the individuals most qualified by education and experience to address the issues we face, and who prefer to listen instead to talking heads who substitute loud certitude for knowledge–may end up being responsible for more deaths than history’s bloodiest tyrants.


  1. Off topic, other than that “…Will Get Us Killed” part; it is past time for Trump to turn loose of the medical personal protective equipment and ventilators he outbid state governors for and has stockpiled. That stockpile is where he is getting those numbers of needed medical items he proudly announces he has supplied to his chosen few during his daily coronavirus update/presidential campaign rallies. As self-designated War President he reuses to act on the Defense Production Act he enacted; adding to that “…Will Get Us Killed” issue. The U.S. number of diagnosed Covid-19 cases has risen by 10,000 since yesterday.

    It doesn’t take an Intellectual to see the future we face; will “today be the first day of the rest of our lives” as we hunker down in places we can only hope is safe.

  2. When I was a kid growing up in England 50-55 we lived on a large estate in the countrySide by my career military father had leased while he was closing WWII military bases and returning the land to its previous natural states. The estate we lived on also had several people that live on the estate and maintained it. In about 1952 an pandemic of what was called Maximatosis ? that was thought to have came from WWII German labs escaped from and swept thru all of Europe and England.
    The pandemic attacked the Rabbit population and would cause their heads to swell up and eyes to pop out. Mr Godfrey our Gardner and I had to make snare out of the medal eyes of old military boots and wire with a stake, we then took out snare out and placed them along all the rabbit runs in the hedge rows on the property, Every morning we would go out and check the snare , if the rabbits were sick Mr Gogfrey would dispatch them with his walking stick, if they were ok he would mark them with shoe polish and let them go. The dead infected rabbits were places in a bag and everyday day a truck would come by and collect them. I believe this went on for several months , and finally went away. This was when I came to know what a pandemic was about, all of my life I have remembered that experience and how it wiped out a rabbit population, in the military we were thought about chemical and biological warfare and that to fit right in to my childhood experience.
    I have believed over my life time that a pandemic is the number one threat to humanity, as we continue to see overpopulation, pollution of our water and air, and the impact humans are having not only on other species but the very earth, I believe there will be a very high price to pay, we have been bad stewards of the earth we live on. Mother Nature will extract a terrible toll from mankind if we don’t stop respect, prepare and repair what we have been given by our earth.

  3. Unfortunately, the Anti-Intellectualism Virus has been coursing through this country’s political establishment for a long, long time. Hofstadter’s classic was written in 1966.

  4. I used to think that Hofstadter’s book was a bit dated. But that was premature, wasn’t it?

  5. Ray,

    There is an orange rabbit that is clearly diseased and needs whacking with a very large stick. Its trail runs the length of Pennsylvania Ave., in Washington, D.C.

  6. crichardalen,

    “Unfortunately, the Anti-Intellectualism Virus has been coursing through this country’s political establishment for a long, long time. Hofstadter’s classic was written in 1966.”

    It’s a VIRUS OF HATRED that has been hijacked by the likes of Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Steve Bannon. See The Political Epidemiology Institute, established in 2004, at We are dealing with two deadly viruses: the Coronavirus as well as the Virus of Hatred.

    They both have to be dealt with SIMULTANEOUSLY in order to SAVE OUR FUTURE and prevent UNAVOIDABLE FUTURCIDE.

  7. I doubt that FUTURCIDE can be avoided. Unfortunately, we have learned very little from the German experiences in the ’30s and ’40s that led to their DESTRUCTION. And observing the U.S., at the present moment, there seems to be little inclination to change the direction of things, other than just the same old talk.

  8. Let me just quote H.L. Mencken: “On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” I’ll note that Mencken stopped writing in 1948, after he had a stroke, so our disdain of intellectuals goes farther back than many thought.

  9. Well played, Vernon!

    I believe Trump’s approval rating is 55%, which says much about the anti-intellectualism in our country. It should be closer to 20%.

    Meanwhile, the DNC has buyers remorse as their chosen candidate show signs of mental deterioration. I guess the puppet masters were able to hide Reagan’s dementia from the American people, so they plan to attempt the same with Biden. It won’t work!

    By the way, #PresidentCuomo is trending on Twitter.

    It’s rather common knowledge in business circles that weak leaders always surround themselves with “yes, men and women.” They never surround themselves with more competent leaders that will make them look bad. Dr. Fauci has been demonstrating daily why this is so.

    I’m surprised Trump hasn’t fired him as well.

    Trump’s birth was just the beginning of the Peter Principle in action; what skills does he have that makes him successful?

    He’s a con-man, and the GOP faithful is his marks just like the Evangelical pastors and their targets. As his high approval rating spells out, those who cannot recognize they are being conned, are the marks, and a large percentage of voters/citizens are getting duped.

    Speaking of being duped, after some political theater in Washington, Congress has agreed on a “stimulus bill.” Can’t wait to read the final bill on who got what. I suspect the Donor class got the most significant prize.

  10. damn im underr the gun now… anti intelligent…mmmm, ill pass.. as far as im reading,and to be up to date,, the Lt,gov of texas along with some socalled journalists,sees dieing for wall street as a first step to get the numbers back up on wall,street,along with dr trump perscribed snake oil,get back to work. i guess wall streets cheering section, we hopefully,will see them in masse pass on their money to loved family members or orgs, to march further into economic battle to conquor the poor peoples needs,and the rest who pay taxes,again and again..after stealing said taxes via, act of congress,again and again. new bill says,if the small buisnesses as i read,payout the wages,they dont have being shut down,they may get a reprieve,and may not,have to pay it back,by taking a small buisness loan..scam here,they dont have to pay the taxes to social security..and im sure after the flack, the republicans will,enact the tax again to make sure social security is firmly secure for all Americans..( i have bridge for sale in new york city too) is getting the word out,im still reading the fine print on the new,just passed help..trumps dump doesnt seem to garner much,as im sure his buddies will make sure hes well padded in other word for today,capialistic this person named beck wants to die for the economy,,well,im sure they will tweet it..happy passin bud…washdapaws, and make a stand…write the reps that be,and tell them,november is coming,,and the signatures are dried..

  11. Todd,

    “Can’t wait to read the final bill on who got what. I suspect the Donor class got the most significant prize.”

    So you can just print money and think there won’t be repercussions? But, who worries about all of that?

  12. DT wasn’t our first moron.

    The US Public Health Service Hospital and Outpatient clinic program was historically established to manage non-indigenous infectious diseases that were brought to US by sailors and immigrants. The program was determined in the 80s to be no longer necessary.

    In 1981-1982, USPHS hospitals in New Orleans, Staten Island, Boston, Baltimore, San Fran, and Seattle were closed. They also had a network of about 20-25 outpatient clinics which were regional satellites of the hospitals.

    That was one of Ronald Reagan and David Stockman’s first actions after inauguration in Jan ’81.

  13. Todd,
    thanks., i recieved a notice today from the OOIDA, my represnting org in trucking,who works,the washington mod in the name of trucking,., they do,little to go beyong thier lobby,but we are mostly drivers and small buisness operators,as in self employed,owner operators,small trucking companies..the letter from OOIDA, today boasted about how small buisness can exercise a loan to pay the wages,and maybe a write off,if you carry it through..except,no mention to make them pay the above in my daily, heres a org,with great intentions,and A headline for people who seldom know whats in the context. 41 years out here driving damn near everyday,confirms that..this newsletter i recieved has all the pinnings of were winning,while overlooking the real menace..knowlege,.ive written several letters to the above org,,,the reply,were not getting involved.. heres a org,majority,those who only read a headline,pushes rightwing idalog,and sees god,as the answer,and lobbies the right side of the isle.. while leading said org,to believe,its the goverments fault..

  14. Ray … though long, your anecdotal personal account in the aftermath of WWII in urban rural England well worth the read. My ancestors came from Lincolnshire as indentured servants to settle in Ontario in 1910. Thank you.

  15. I am be wrong and if so please correct me. With one exception that comes to mind Religion is at the heart of anti-intellectualism and willful ignorance.

    Since Galileo smashed the earth centered universe and validated Copernicus organized religion has waged a steady war on science. Darwin was the next person organized religion turned their crosses on. The Scopes-Monkey Trial was the legal attempt to keep Darwin in the bottle.

    At it’s core the anti-intellectualism in religion is about power, who has it and who is permitted to wield it, with power comes control. The evangelical bible thumper’s can not concede control. If they do concede control, they lose their power.

    So, I am not surprised >>
    Jerry Falwell Jr defies calls for coronavirus closures and reopens Liberty University

    Students invited back to Christian school as Falwell incorrectly said young people ‘don’t have conditions that put them at risk’

    The one exception to religion being a source of anti-intellectualism and willful ignorance is Hitler’s belief that the Germans were superior to Jews and Slavs among others.

    The Trumpet’s anti-intellectualism and willful ignorance is not rooted in religion. It is rooted in his firm belief as a self-centered narcissist that no one must be allowed to demonstrate that he is not an expert in everything. Dr. Fauci is a threat.

  16. Marv,

    Just like Venezuela or better yet, World War II Germany, will be carrying $10 million bills around in our wallet to buy a loaf of bread! You are absolutely right, you can’t just print money without repercussions, but once again, mankind continuously repeats the same stupidity and expects a different outcome some how.

    It seems that this entire fiasco is being run like one of those bad episodes from the apprentice! I will admit, I’ve never watched or had watched that show, I need all the brain cells I can get without wasting any battery life on that garbage, LOL!

    It’s just another example of the brown shirt mentality, very malleable and extremely hollow cranial cavities, easily filled by the manure spreader and chief.

    To Todd’s point, not only is socialism alive and well and promoted by the GOP, they’ve literally demolished/doubled the debt in the past 3 years on social programs for the wealthy including their tax welfare program Corporations, and, the lions share of this new bailout Is going to go towards corporations! It should’ve actually gone to bolster social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Because by time this is over with, there is going to be carnage to account for and to clean up!

    Look at how this particular virus is morphing, before, children didn’t show any serious side effects for the most part, now they are starting to die in larger numbers and seeking medical attention. I think a prime example of this was Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you had every stripe of individual intermingling in the midst of a pandemic. Not only healthy folks, but those with compromised is like Lupus or HIV!?! This virus with its bacterial element is absorbing traits from other diseases and becoming stronger the longer it has no enemy. But hey, let’s open the churches by Easter, LOL, how stupid can anyone get?

    This is not going to turn out well, and if there is any hope it would lie with the military, I just don’t think the gumption is there to forcefully remove an American Elected leader, Even though that would definitely bring some immediate respite for the insanity. Because of the moronacle They are all looking at the world through, the band will be playing hail to the chief as the Stern submerges and all are drowned. It’s a fact that cholera, the black plague, yellow fever, whooping cough, mumps, and measles are making a comeback, and then we have SARS, CoVID 19, MERS, Ebola, and Zika To name some, we won’t even get into global warming and drought, it’s no time to be purging any knowledge especially on the medical side. But our fearless Nero keeps fiddling while the ship is in flames and sinking.

    You can’t put the genie back in the bottle, not something of this magnitude, it’s like a swarm of locusts descending on your house, you can pick one out and smash it, but there are innumerable others causing havoc and disease.

    “And the kings of the earth and the top-ranking ones and the military commanders and the rich and the strong ones and every slave and every free person hid themselves in the caves and in the rock-masses of the mountains. And they keep saying to the mountains and to the rock-masses: ‘Fall over us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’”​(Revelation 6:15-17.)

    And lastly, wait for it, In Biblical symbolism mountains can represent kingdoms or ruling governments. (Daniel 2:35, 44, 45; compare Isaiah 41:15; Revelation 17:9-11, 18.) Babylon, by her military conquests, brought other lands to ruin and is, therefore, called a “ruinous mountain.” (Jeremiah 51:24, 25)

    So in other words, there will be no hiding place, and if it’s not particular viral pandemic, eventually there will be one that will not be brought under control, man is just too stupid to prevent it, he keeps making the same mistakes over and over and over again.

  17. Could the “anti-intellectualism” be a reflection of disdain for the elites/professional class who are perceived to be hanging out in their “shared workspaces” coding, drinking lattes and playing pool at work while racking in 100K + a year?

  18. Vernon Turner, you win the Internets today! Set the giant rabbit trap somebody, please!

  19. ML,

    No, you are NOT wrong. The fairy tale industry, aka churches, must eliminate critical thinking and the scientific method to keep the willfully ignorant masses putting coins in the plate. They have, collectively (gotta love that word), created their own economy. Churches traffic in guilt and fear to drive people away from truth and facts. As a scientist, I can say first-hand that testing a theory or hypothesis is the basis for human existence. If we hadn’t developed this method hundreds of thousands of years ago, we wouldn’t have survived as a species. To deny that method and the results stemming from it is to deny, ironically, our very existence.

    It never ceases to amaze me how easily people turn away from the truth to pursue an un-testable fantasy package and claim it to be real. Maybe Trump is just one of the last nails in our coffin before we actually do make ourselves extinct.

  20. Just so you know how comfortably Steroid Capitalism and Crony Capitalism can take advantage of even Corona, with some help from The Trumpet:

    ‘This Is a Massive Scandal’: Trump FDA Grants Drug Company Exclusive Claim on Promising Coronavirus Drug

    “It is insane and unacceptable,” said Bernie Sanders. “We will not tolerate profiteering. Any treatment or vaccine must be made free for all.”

    As The Intercept reported Monday, the Food and Drug Administration granted Gilead Sciences “orphan” drug status for remdesivir, one of several drugs being tested as potential treatments for the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.

    aving secured orphan drug status, Gilead Sciences can now profit exclusively off the drug for seven years and could block manufacturers from developing generic versions of the drug which might be more accessible to many patients. The company can set price controls on the drug as well as benefiting from grants and tax credits.

    As The Intercept reported, the designation was given to a company where Joe Grogan, a member of President Donald Trump’s “coronavirus task force,” worked as a lobbyist from 2011 to 2017, often working on issues regarding drug pricing.

    “This is a massive scandal,” tweeted Ryan Grim, Washington, D.C. bureau chief for The Intercept.

    Fox News ever eager to challenge Science when it clashes with The Trumpet has been promoting:

    In recent days, President Donald Trump has described the use of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential “game changer” in treating the novel coronavirus. Fauci, however, has attempted to temper expectations of the drug’s effectiveness, noting that its promise as a treatment for the disease is purely “anecdotal.”

    Fox News host, Laura Ingraham, has been a loud proponent of the drug’s use and has repeatedly hyped it as a possible cure that can quickly stem the tide of the growing pandemic.

    On Monday night, for instance, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs—currently in self-quarantine after a Fox staffer tested positive for COVID-19—insisted that the “president was right and frankly Fauci was wrong” on the anti-malarial drug.

    So there you have it, the Fox News Team has tested and clinically proved hydroxychloroquine is a cure.

  21. Did you invent the term “shallow state”? I love it. It is the perfect description.

  22. We in academia must share some of the blame. As we ignored community and professional involvement in favor of elitist journals, we made ourselves targets. Until teaching and service regain primacy, we can expect to have little effect on our nation’s policies.

  23. Anti-intellectualism is the deliberate policy of the free marketeers in charge to privatize all functions of the government. Making the administrative state weak will prepare citizens to accept that their tax dollars will be turned over to corporations who for decades have propagated the myth that private business is more efficient than government. It’s the wet dream of capitalists and it’s working. The weak response by the incompetent Trump Administration to the Corona virus might be the brake that will halt this anarchy.

  24. When you think of anti-intellectualism and especially the viral spread of it in these times, think Rush Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch who made tons of money selling it.

  25. Remember, Rush Limbaugh got the Medal of Freedom from Donald Trump. That has to be the most compelling evidence of the scope of monetizing ignorance.

  26. ORALGENESIS: noun,
    1. a mental disorder characterized by the belief that everything begins and ends with the mouth.
    2. an ego disorder characterized by the belief that if I am not at centerstage speaking, I do not exist.

    I coined that word as a teenager in 1955 after noticing there were a lot of people who talked a good game–sports, science, art, government, leadership, responsibility, etc.–but who could not play the game in any competitive or competent way. Looking back, I think then I had serious doubts about the value of intelligentsia; I know that in 1955 I had no ambition for college. But a year later, I suddenly wanted to go to college and did.

    In college, several professors, who displayed symptoms of oralgenesis, almost convinced me of the uselessness of intelligentsia. But eventually, I had a few professors who not only talked a good game but played quite well, too; and I hopped growth stages and began to recognize the relationship between intelligence and performance at super-high levels.

    I’m fairly certain that my life experiences/observances by 1955 confirmed my attitude against intelligentsia, but by 1957 new life experiences/observances overturned my previous conclusions.

    I think most anti-intelligence people are simply stuck in development. And the more they too are afflicted with oralgenesis the more solidly they remain stuck, because they too are convinced that when “Intelligence is of no value” comes out of their mouths, that is the alpha and the omega of the question.

  27. Falwell has joined Trump in marginalizing the epidemic raging among us with his call for some 5,000 students to return to campus at (the grossly misnamed) Liberty University. His call is going to kill students, faculty, staff, vendors, contractors and visitors alike, but that is not the topic I wish to pursue today.

    Rather I here note that in some cases the administration’s personnel officers (including bodyguards) choose fresh graduates from Liberty University for important jobs in the administration based on their pro-life views, as though the Defense Department’s procurement of billions of dollars of equipment from big defense contractors is remotely related to carrying a fetus to term, and this is just one example of the criteria employed by know-nothing personnel. Similar criteria calls for employment of lobbyists to head up agencies in the administration they were formerly lobbying against in a transparent move to frustrate or even end the primary mission of the agency involved.

    Query as to whether this is the result of a lack of intelligence or a knowing policy intended to further Bannon’s admitted Leninist view of “deconstruction of the administrative state.” It occurs to me that it is not a lack of intelligence but rather the result of a plan from Bannon’s Hitlerish mind to bring about both national and international chaos with a view toward establishment of some authoritarian world body which will result from the chaos. Far out? I hope so.

  28. Wow Larry!!!!!
    Seriously, I’m not joking at all, very profound! and, you really need to coin that before someone else does, LOL!

  29. But you must give Trump credit for resurrecting two beautiful terms used mostly by intellectuals. The “Dunning-Kruger effect” and “kakistocracy” might have disappeared from the dictionary were it not for our current Ignoramus-in-Chief.

  30. Just to remind everyone, to avoid the CORVID-19 Stupidity, always wash your hands, and don’t touch your face…book! ☺

  31. I know almost nobody watched the reality TV show “The Apprentice”. It was pretty bad, but at the same time, it was worth watching because Trump would pull in young talented MBA students to work on things like Fashion Week runway shows and Charity Fundraisers. It was fun to watch talented young people step on each other’s faces as Trump whipped up distrust discord.

    As read today’s blog, I realized that Sheila was describing episodes of “The Apprentice” but with life and death situations. It is a re-run of the same show!!

  32. I can’t remember the exact quote, but somewhere Mark Twain had Huck Finn’s father saying something like “I ain’t had not book learnin’ and my son don’t need no book learnin’ either”, or something along those lines. There is a long history of anti-intellecualism in this country.

    Larry – I concur – a great word.

    ML – One of the many reasons I have always been a fan of Jonas Salk is that he thought it would be immoral to patent his vaccine. I will add one little known fact. You see many therapeutic agents with mab as the last three letters of their name. These are monoclonal antibodies. This technology was never patented, which may be part of the reason that it is so widely used. I had thought that this was because Kohler and Milstein, who won a Nobel prize for their creation of these antibodies in 1984, were of the same mind as Salk, but I have since read that it was a communications mess up with their institutuions that led to them not filing on time. Nonetheless, I wish science returned to the desire for glory and not gazillions of dollars.

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