Celebrating Ignorance

I will never understand political “leaders” who actively celebrate ignorance–or those who vote for them.

The lack of  basic civic literacy–which I’ve ranted about for years–is bad enough. The utter cluelessness of people who piously declaim their reverence for life while making it easier for the violent and mentally-ill to acquire and carry firearms is appalling. But nothing–nothing–in my adult lifetime has been as incredible and ignorant as the anti-COVID vaccine “movement.”

A recent essay in the Washington Post echoed my reaction. The essay wasn’t written by a hated “librul,” but by Michael Gerson, an Evangelical Christian refugee from the GOP who served in the administration of George W. Bush. As he said in his introduction

When the future judges our political present, it will stand in appalled, slack-jawed amazement at the willingness of GOP leaders to endanger the lives of their constituents — not just the interests of their constituents, but their lungs and beating hearts — in pursuit of personal power and ideological fantasies.

That observation–the recognition that the GOP officials preaching anti-vaccination nonsense are actually complicit in killing their own partisans–is what I find so incomprehensible. I can’t decide if these people are truly as ignorant as they sound, or if they are playing to what increasingly seems to be a death-wish of their rabid base.

Gerson divides them into three categories.

The first, practiced most vigorously by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, uses an ongoing pandemic as a stage for the display of ideological zeal. In this view, the covid-19 crisis — rather than being a story of remarkable but flawed scientists and public health experts deploying the best of science against a vicious microbe — has been an opportunity for the left to impose “authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions.” Never mind that U.S. public health officials are not part of the left, and are authentically confused about the equation of their advice with ideology.

As Gerson notes, populists like DeSantis are demonstrating that “their MAGA commitments outweigh all common sense, public responsibility and basic humanity.”

The second category is populated by conspiracy theorists (and major twits) like  Rand Paul. These jackasses are playing “crackpot roulette.” They

 depict the most visible representatives of the United States’ covid response as scheming, deceptive deep-state operatives. Any change in emphasis or strategy by scientists — an essential commitment of the scientific method — is viewed as rich opposition research.

Paul talks of jailing Anthony S. Fauci in the midst of our public health crisis on the basis of imaginary claims. But the fundraising appeals to MAGA loyalists that immediately follow such attacks by Paul and others are real. And for a subset of true believers, Paul’s acts of dehumanization provide cover and permission for threats of violence against scientists and their families.

Senator Ron Johnson exemplifies Gerson’s third category of Republican ignorance peddlers. Gerson dubs this category “the practice of strategic ignorance” and he notes that in the case of Johnson —” one of America’s most reliable source of unreliable information” — such ignorance might not be feigned.

He might well believe that gargling with mouthwash call kill the coronavirus, and that thousands of people are regularly dying from vaccine side effects, and that a pandemic that has taken more than 800,000 lives in the United States is “overhyped.”…

Johnson is not only making dangerous statements about the coronavirus. He is using his willingness to cite stupid things as the evidence of his independence from the rule of professionals and experts. He is defining democracy, in the words of Tom Nichols, author of “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters,” as “unearned respect for unfounded opinions.” Johnson is practicing strategic ignorance.

As Gerson points out, all of these behaviors encourage the development of alternative realities, and make the pursuit of a common good difficult if not impossible. But the damage goes well beyond that–to celebrate ignorance during a pandemic is an invitation to die.

If a significant group of Americans regard the musing of a politician such as Johnson as equal in value to Fauci’s lifelong accumulation of expertise, the basis for rational action is lost. And the result is needless death.

Gerson is an example of the sane Republicans who used to dominate the GOP, partisans whose policy positions were based upon drawing different conclusions from a reality shared with Democrats and Independents, not upon invented “facts,” conspiracies, or a spineless need to assure the party’s increasingly lunatic base that–as Isaac Asimov would have put it–their ignorance is just as good as the hard-won knowledge of those stuck-up elitists.

A country where a significant percentage of people revel in, pander to and/or actively celebrate ignorance is in big trouble–even without a pandemic.


  1. My prayer remains, Professor, that responsible adults, be they moderate Republicans, sane Democrats or people with Common Sense will lead us out of this shit show! The stakes are high!

  2. The problem is Fauci is a criminal but not for the reasons the right is protesting; using as propaganda for their flock.

    Fauci is a point man for Big Pharma and has been for decades. He’s a shill for hire. We have lots of them in this country. Once again, why do you think Thomas Piketty moved back to France to finish his research and write his book?

    He knew the American economists would sabotage his conclusions. Academia sure can’t point out the problem when they are sucking on the teats of government and industry. LOL

    As Einstein pointed out, those who are creating the problem rarely propose a cure. I’m paraphrasing of course. 😉

  3. Sheila this hits the mark.

    With the assault on American Police taking lives and causing criminal activity, it is hard to understand making more guns available and Legislators that make it legal to carry a concealable weapon without a permit.

    Covid Anti-vaxers are the flat-earthers of the 21st century. Division politics and ignorance are, in my opinion, byproducts of the old Southern Strategy spawned during the middle of the 20th century.

    Abortion foes are hypocrites. They target the most vulnerable, who are unable to pay or adequately care for a child, then after they have the child and can’t support either they complain about “welfare queens” who are a drag on the economy.

    Climate change is a business non-starter, except for their business interests the right loves to hate. WTF is wrong with renewables?

    They seem to be married and committed to their confirmation bias as it is their identity and their safe space, they are the ultimate in ignorant snowflakes.

  4. A time when, “sane Republicans who used to dominate the GOP”? Wow, when was that? I’m 70 years old, campaigned for LBJ while in 8th grade, and have stayed tuned to politics ever since. There may have been a few same ones along the way but, my gosh, the Republican insane asylum has been SRO for as long as I can remember.

  5. Todd, I don’t think you have any idea what Tony Fauci does, so I would appreciate it if you would stop defaming him.

  6. Well, Todd, you have finally stepped over the edge of your flat earth life view with your anti Dr. Fauci comments. Without the Covid-19 vaccines the death count in this country would be in the millions; isn’t nearing one million Pandemic deaths here enough for you.

    Kyle Rittenhouse has demanded his murder weapon be returned; purchased for him by a friend because he was underage, driven across state line to the protest by his Mommie Dearest and killing 2 people, seriously injuring another; there will be loopholes allowing him to have his assault weapon returned. We will be reading about him in the future as we did about George Zimmerman who slipped through other loopholes after murdering a teenage boy, armed with a canned drink and bag of Skittles, to later evade being imprisoned for committing later felonies.

    “A country where a significant percentage of people revel in, pander to and/or actively celebrate ignorance is in big trouble–even without a pandemic.”

  7. Governor DeSantis is not the only crackpot in Florida’s government. The Republican-dominated legislature is busy crafting laws to prevent businesses from firing people for refusing to be vaccinated and because an executive order might not prevent school districts from requiring everyone to wear masks, someone in in the legislature is developing a bill to make such a ban illegal.

    When their own numbers of dropping like flies due to the virus, what can we say about these guys?

  8. Don’t forget Rand Paul is up for reelection so he needs to stir up his ignorant base and raise money from those who will profit from his propaganda.

  9. The anti-vac movement is easy to understand once you realize the cold political calculation that has gone into amplifying it on the right. What ever happens on a Presidents watch, regardless whose fault it is, the President gets blamed for it. Case in point, the Pandemic and Trump. But the seeds of the current reaction were planted by Trump. With no way to salvage anything good out of a global pandemic, he started the politicization with the “let’s just ignore it” movement because whatever we do will hurt the economy and it will hurt his ratings.

    Transition to 2020 and now we have an effective vaccine, but also a new President. We have all breathed a sigh of relief that things might even get back to normal, but the “let’s just ignore” the pandemic movement has left hundreds of thousands of people dead, and in mostly blue states health care in crisis. The same guys that know bad things will tank a President’s rating took a new direction. The one thing that would make things settle down, is having everyone vaccinated and have the pandemic fade to the background. Knowing that a raging pandemic will whipsaw the economy, it will continue to kill thousands, continue to make headlines as health care system strain under the load, continue to shift spending habits raising inflation, and create worker shortages as demand shifts, the continued pandemic is the perfect tool to hurt the current administration.

    Even Trump is not completely on board with this new direction of this cold, ruthless, inhumane political calculation an increasing disconnected and fascist Republican party has taken, getting booed at rallies urging people to get vaccinated.

    The worst part about this whole thing is that the marketing of these anti-vax ideas is so smooth and well packaged, that millions of people have bought into the propaganda completely. The anti-vax message is not one idea but an array of politically motivated ideas so that millions of people can pick and choose which idea best fits their particular worldview, and if you attack one idea with logic to the point where somebody can see the fallacy, then it is easy to just shift to another slightly plausible reason, so there is no winning the debate.

    With vaccines, the raging pandemic has now shifted to red states, along with health care crisis, but the economy is still being whipsawed because with so many unvaccinated, every case still has to be treated with quarantine because an infected person is still like a loaded weapon and may kill some stupid unvaccinated individual. We are all being held hostage by the unvaccinated.

    The Republican party has become evil, and it is so well packaged, that either a lot of people don’t realize the damage they are doing, or if you are politician, you have sold your soul for political power.

  10. So, You know I always have to apply history or scripture, Here we go.

    The dark ages were brought on by The concerted assault by those in the ruling class on education and enlightenment. They were book burners and Liars.

    But, it worked! They were able to manipulate What they wanted people to know by keeping them illiterate and keeping them ignorant of truth. therefore, This began the rise of all sorts of bizarre dogmas and such in the religious realm that caused People to be burned at the stake or drawn and quartered for that matter.

    The Apostle Paul mentioned in Ephesians 4:18, 19 which reads, They are in darkness mentally and alienated from the life that belongs to God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the insensitivity of their hearts. Having gone past all moral sense, they gave themselves over to braze and conduct to practice every sort of uncleanness with greediness.

    The Apostle Paul was an expert on ignorance so to speak because he even condemned his former life when he was Saul of Tarsus and had been complicit in the murder of one of Christ’s disciples Stephen and promoted constant harassment of those followers of Christ. (1st Timothy 1:13)

    Everyone knows the story of Job, he brought this out concerning ignorance , “It takes away the understanding of leaders of people and makes them wander in trackless wastelands. They grope in darkness, where there is no light; he makes them wander about like drunken men.”

    Sounds familiar? Very applicable to today without a doubt.

    William Tyndale found how deeply entrenched ignorance was At the behest of those seeking power, And he was strangled and burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. And his assassins were none other than the church themselves. This was during a time when 50% of the clergy could not Recite the Ten Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer. Or even were aware of the origin of them.

    So, back then just as now, people would claim to be innocent if they were ignorant. And other words, if they didn’t know something it couldn’t hurt them. Unfortunately in this day and age, There is no reason to claim ignorance just as there wasn’t a reason back then. People just chose not to be enlightened, chose not to have knowledge, chose to embrace the stupidest sources for their knowledge.

    In the ’70s, Some intellectuals came up with an ‘Encyclopedia Of Ignorance’, It was quite profound pointing out The levels of ignorance in the upper echelons of society and education. A statement by one of the contributors Actually said, “compared to the pond of knowledge our ignorance remains the Atlantic.”

    See what I mean by history actually being cyclical? And it will continue to be cyclical until it can’t anymore. And that denotes a complete end to an infrastructure of ignorance. and, more than likely, society As we know it or for that matter, humanity.

  11. Hey Todd, just an FYI.

    Robert Oppenheimer The inventor of the atomic bomb set of Einstein, “he was one of the friendliest men he had known But he also in an important sense was alone.”

    “If historical accounts have taught us anything , it is that geniuses are never good at dealing with other people, and Einstein certainly was a genius.”

    John Stachel stated, “Too much of an idol was made of Einstein. He’s not an idol He’s a human, and that’s much more interesting.”

    According to his son Hans, Einstein was not a good father, nor was he good with people and relationships. He left a lot of personal grief and devastation in his wake. So, Just like most humans, he was an extremely flawed man and probably Not the most Ideal person to quote on being honest and genuine.

  12. As someone who just lost a 40-year old friend, wife, mother of two and beautiful woman who contributed in so many ways to the Indianapolis community, who died of long-haul Covid after contracting the disease in the summer of 2020 before vaccinations were available, I have no use for the ignorance and hatred of anti-Vax / anti-Fauci / anti-science jackasses.

  13. “Better to die for a noble cause than to live and die a slave.”

    Fascism demands blood sacrifice.

    To live and die for Trump is much the same.

    DeSantis and the others are just parroting Fascism the best they know how. It doesn’t take brains to do this. In fact intelligence gets in the way.

  14. I’d like to promote dropping the term “anti-vax” entirely and substituting the more descriptive and realistic term “pro-virus.”

  15. Dennis,

    It’s a pet peeve of mine when people assume that if Republicans are talking crazy, they are extremely conservative and the Republicans talking rationally are “moderates.” As a Republican, I’ve seen firsthand many in my party embrace Trumpism and the craziness. So often it is the moderates in my party that I have found to be the most MAGA, while some of the bedrock conservatives have resisted. I would say those pushing back the most against Trumpism are the conservative intellectuals, examples include Bill Kristol and George Will. No one would call Kristol and Will moderates.

    I think there is a reason for this. There were many in the Republican Party who weren’t driven by ideology. They simply didn’t care about issues. I used to see these people at local GOP meetings all the time. Being a Republican to them was being part of a tribe. We Republicans were good, the Democrats were bad. And that’s exactly how the substance-less GOP meetings went. Issues were rarely mentioned.

    That was shocking to me when I got involved in politics. I thought these local Republican meetings would be filled with ideological conservatives like me. Nope. Most of those Republicans didn’t care about issues. They only cared about beating the Democrats. Those people gravitated to Trump who really stood for nothing but beating the Democrats.

    Sorry, Sheila, felt the need to rant on this point.

  16. FYI,

    I am in isolation after having contracted a breakthrough case of Covid. On Sunday my 90 year old mother was coughing, so I did a rapid test on her and found her to be positive. I used the other test in the box to test myself and was shocked to find, even though I had no symptoms, I also tested positive. Five days later, I still have no Covid symptoms. Mom’s cough went away several days ago and she has no symptoms either. Thank God we were both vaccinated and boosted. I think when this is all over, we’re going to find a lot of people had Covid and never knew it b/c they were asymptomatic.

  17. The business plan that the GOP is working hard on is pretty simple and based on the belief that they can create a majority electorate to give them jobs by creating culture wars among our society. Throw out the right propaganda and the Foxhole will do the rest. What’s the right propaganda? That those other people are stealing your freedom, your entitlement, your way of life.

    It’s far from an original idea. What allows it to be successful is the simple confluence of a Trump trained and directed party devoid of any sort of respect for the country and Rupert Murdoch and his family searching for the most loyal of audiences to maximize media profits. It’s an alliance of those with a common cause, to maximise income.

    It is not a flaw in American society but and invasion of unfriendly forces leveraging each other.

  18. My God Paul ,

    I’m so sorry. This cold an issue is such a terrible thing, and we still have people out there who deny it and continue to spread it around. I believe You can get a second booster shot now. If that’s something you desire anyway. Anything I can do for you, Pass it to Sheila and she can forward it to me. You’re a good guy Paul, Take care of your mom.

  19. I moved from the middle-finger for the south (Indiana) to Tennessee–we are in the news this week for book banning. I have emailed my daughter’s high school librarian for a list of the banned books as I feel these are the exact books she should be reading.

    TN the state where there is a church and a gun store or range on every other corner where the little church signs have ‘Make America Great Again’–I live near the idiot who preaches at Global Vision Bible Church who hosted Roger Stone over the weekend. You would think I lived the hollers but Noooo…I live 33 miles east of Nashville.

    I state this because just this week alone I am aware of 3 people, 3 white males younger than 44 have died from Covid. All of them unvaccinated. I sit near a co-worker who is Southern Baptist and wears up a mask but whose minister minimalizes and is a skeptic on Covid.

    Sorry to be snarky but I am a healthcare worker and folks are dropping like Flies being fogged by a can of RAID.

  20. Elaine: Thanks from another Tennessee educator (retired). Such an embarrassment to have that situation happen here.
    ALG: Thanks for thanking your list. I agree.
    Anyone: Dr. Fauci is NOT the one who is a criminal; a pompous, self-serving commenter missed it badly.

  21. Fauci: an American hero–knowledgeable, good public servant and communicator of facts, even in the face of idiotic pushback from Rand/Johnson/DeSantis-type amoral opportunists, not afraid to admit he doesn’t know everything; a good scientist, maybe a great one.

  22. Someone commented that “we are held hostage by the unvaccinated” and that is so very sad because it is so very true. I live in TN and it feels like everyone has COVID! Everyday someone I know or know of is in need of medical care for COVID. One vaccinated person who had not yet had the booster was told by her physician supply was limited. 3 days later another fully vaccinated friend in Leukemia remission was told antibody treatments were no longer available. Thankfully these friends recovered from the short term symptoms and survived without antibody treatment. As for long haul symptoms it’s to early to tell. When antibody treatments where introduced to Tennesseans it was as an alternative to vaccination. Yes, Governor Lee actually promoted a limited supply of treatment rather than prevention to his constituents. How many lost their lives as a result of Governor Lee’s political deception is unknown but even one is one too many. I am vaccinated, had the booster and dealing with COVID long haul symptoms after contracting it in January 2020. I grieve for the loss of life across the globe. I am angry that the ignorance and political greed of the pro virus groups hold me hostage! I am at their mercy and they think it’s humorous. Until they get with the program enough to vaccinate, mask and distance themselves then the virus will continue to strengthen through variants. I live amongst them and on a daily basis they show their willingness kill or be killed in their efforts to own a lib.

  23. Paul – you are right – a March 2000 paper in Science analyzed the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan.
    They found that it was harder to contract the disease from from asymptomatic people, but due to the shear number of asymptomatic cases, they estimated that transmission from asymptomatic people accounted for 78% of the cases. A single study, but instructive. There are tons of asymptomatic cases out there.

  24. William Burton, I like the more explicit label, Pro-virus! Paul Ogden, Your story is instructive and explains the basis for the extremism I see today.

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