Friday, August 27, 2010

The Institution of Ignorance

I've referred to the evolution of ignorance, and the ecology of ignorance. It has now become the institution of ignorance---ignorance as the official ideology of a major political party, and the media which controls it.

Timothy Egan's column lays out the basics and the consequences:

"It would be nice to dismiss the stupid things that Americans believe as harmless, the price of having such a large, messy democracy. Plenty of hate-filled partisans swore that Abraham Lincoln was a Catholic and Franklin Roosevelt was a Jew. So what if one-in-five believe the sun revolves around the earth, or aren’t sure from which country the United States gained its independence?

But false belief in weapons of mass-destruction led the United States to a trillion-dollar war. And trust in rising home value as a truism as reliable as a sunrise was a major contributor to the catastrophic collapse of the economy. At its worst extreme, a culture of misinformation can produce something like Iran, which is run by a Holocaust denier.

It’s one thing to forget the past, with predictable consequences, as the favorite aphorism goes. But what about those who refuse to comprehend the present? "
"Climate-change denial is a special category all its own," Egan writes. "Once on the fringe, dismissal of scientific consensus is now an article of faith among leading Republicans, again taking their cue from Limbaugh and Fox."

But it isn't just them. It's the American media in general. Kristina Hill, chair of the University of Virginia Landscape Architecture program who is looking ahead at designing for the Climate Crisis near future, said this:

Here, in the U.S., we live in what I call the American Media Bubble – where the media aren’t using climate change to sell papers, unlike their Canadian and European counterparts. Since they don’t see the headlines the rest of the world is reading, the average American doesn’t know what’s at stake. And as a result, their elected officials are discouraged from taking action. But the rest of the world is starting to prepare. Our economic future, and the health, safety and welfare of many of our citizens, depends on learning from the best practices that are out there."

The institution of ignorance is now the greatest threat to the immediate and long-term future. Even over the next few years, it will be difficult to dislodge misinformation and lies, and get this society moving to deal its real and present dangers, instead of its absurd and loathesome fantasies. But even that could be made immeasurably more difficult if Republicans use this perfect storm of economic discontent to actually put these willed ideological idiots in office. E.J. Dionne has written again on the necessity of Democrats generating a backlash against this extremism in the defense of ignorance. We'll see, but so far the signs aren't good.

Update: Well, maybe this is a beginning--a Democratic National Committee YouTube video. But viral videos won't be enough. Words from the top eventually will be necessary, I believe.

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