Among the things that make me crazy: one is the GOP’s obvious belief that education and academic research are dangers to be avoided at all costs.
Does evidence show that having guns in your home is dangerous? How many people commit suicide using a firearm? Are guns more lethal than other weapons? Whoa! If government allowed research into those questions, it might divest you of your God-given right to carry your AR-14 in the canned goods aisle of your local Kroger.
As Politico reported back in 2018,
House Republican appropriators Wednesday rejected a proposal to designate millions of dollars for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for gun violence research, voting 32-20 to keep the language out of a fiscal 2019 spending bill.
The party-line vote marked Democrats’ latest failed bid to spur studies into preventing firearm-related injuries and deaths — and comes despite a bipartisan agreement earlier this year that the CDC is permitted to conduct such research.
Republican opposition to any and all gun research has been a problem for years, but guns are only one area of research that the party wants to shut down. Yesterday, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported on a vote from the World’s Worst Legislature stripping funding from the Kinsey Institute.(paywall)
That vote was apparently based upon “disputed allegations” by one of Indiana’s many rightwing GOP wacko’s. This one insisted that Kinsey’s research had been child exploitation and that the institute’s research into human sexuality contributed to “liberalized sexual morals, including more acceptance of homosexuality and pornography.”
Alfred Kinsey, who died in 1956, produced groundbreaking sex-behavior studies in 1948 and 1953 and was portrayed by Liam Neeson in the 2004 film “Kinsey.”
Republican Rep. Lorissa Sweet claimed that some of Kinsey’s research was child exploitation as she argued for an amendment to the state budget bill against funding for the institute.
“By limiting the funding to Kinsey Institute through Indiana University’s tax dollars, we can be assured that we are not funding ongoing research committed by crimes.” Sweet said.
Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce, whose Bloomington district includes the university campus, responded that Sweet’s claims were “based on old unproven allegations of conspiracies that did not exist,” calling them “warmed-over internet memes that keep coming back.”
Pierce said the university maintained a department that ensured all research involving humans met federal laws and that the Kinsey Institute aimed to better understand human sexuality, including how to treat and prevent sexual predators and pedophiles.
All House Democrats voted against the measure; they were joined by seven (presumably more rational) Republicans. The bill specifically prohibits any use of state money for expenses– including the institute’s on-campus facilities, research work, utilities, office supplies and maintenance of research photographs or films.
Pierce said the institute’s funding was being exploited as a “culture war” issue and that it would simply create bookkeeping problems for the university to use sources such as outside grant funding or student tuition to support it.
It is painful for those of us who belonged to the GOP when it was an actual political party to recognize its transformation into a cult whose members routinely chant “don’t confuse me with facts.” There’s a reason today’s GOP is increasingly compared to the Know-Nothing Party. This vote in Indiana’s House confirms the aptness of that comparison.
Research and scholarship aren’t just integral to succeeding in school or in many professions. In a rational world, research informs action. Researchers gather evidence in order to test the theories and factual assumptions upon which both governments and individuals act.
Americans on the far right of the political spectrum–especially White Christian males– are frantically opposed to a number of social changes: the unwillingness of today’s women to be properly subservient, the belief that people of color and LGBTQ+ citizens are entitled to equal treatment by both the law and the institutions of civil society. They see accurate education and the conduct of research as breeding grounds for those changes.
In every era, there are people who respond to social change by yelling “stop the world, I want to get off.” They are a minority, and would be far less threatening in the absence of several outdated structural elements of American politics–especially gerrymandering and the Electoral College–that have entrenched governance by that distinct minority.
An essay in Psychology Today quoted “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College,” for the saying“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”
But is it? Let’s look at what results from ignorance: avoidance of facts and information, a skewed view of the world where you don’t want to learn more about something, a desire to label and judge something you might not fully understand, and a general lack of knowledge about the world around you.
In other words, today’s GOP.