I remember laughing about an article in The Medium about a TV Sitcom that triggered the downfall of Western Civilization. In case you were wondering, it’s Friends with its “tragic hero” Ross Geller. The author lamented the awful mistreatment of the most cerebral character on the show that signified the harsh embrace of anti-intellectualism in America in the early 2000s. For instance, most of Ross’s academic stories were cut off by his bored friends and audience laughter. Why? Maybe some people would like to know more about sediment flow rate?!
In the age of an amazing accessibility of knowledge, America was conned by a man who disregards the value of science and whose surrogates do not see the difference between facts and feelings. Richard Hofstadter warned about the tendency for anti-intellectualism in the US back in the 60-s, but things seem to have gotten much worse. These days, there is a whole field and a term for deliberate politics of ignorance – agnotology. It was already obvious on presidential campaign trail: Hillary Clinton was made fun of because she was preparing for debates instead of “winging” them. Academics and professional journalists were scolded (says who?) and college students were derided as snowflakes out of touch with real America. Gagging of scientists and professionals has followed: yes, lock them up in their ivory towers. Agnotology has even born its long-awaited fruit — the by now infamous “alternative facts” euphemism (or is it “euphenism”?). As one of American bookstores has put it:
It is enough to take a look at the Senate confirmation hearings to witness the agnotology in full bloom (and to start tearing your hair out in despair). Betsy DeVos, a nominee for a Secretary of Education [facepalm], is unable to tell the difference between growth and proficiency, not to mention to solve a basic math problem. Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, deliberately sponsored public misinformation on climate change. Rick Perry, Trump’s pick for Energy Secretary, did not even know that Department of Energy was in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal. Back in the day, his “oops moment” cost him the nomination. I miss those days.
There is one aspect of American agnotology, however, that hasn’t changed since the Cold War – it’s bad Russian language. Dear Americans, if you want to put a phrase in Russian in your Hollywood movie or on your baseball hat, please find somebody who would proof-read it for you! I cannot tell you how many movies/books I had to cringe over because of ridiculous ‘Russian’ in it (Bourne Identity, Octopussy, Fantastic Four, you name it). One of the latest victims of Google Translate is Alec Baldwin. Women’s marches, by comparison, did a much better job – even transcribing Russian words properly. So please, don’t give in to the culture of ignorance. Talk proper Russian to me.