In the last decade it has become fashionable for politicians to disclaim any academic knowledge or broader understanding of the world beyond to assure voters that they are just like them.  It came to the forefront in 2000 when two silver spoon ivy league graduates with mediocre college grades faced off for the presidency.  The difference was that one almost reveled in his ignorance and the other over the years had developed a wonkish reputation on the environment and technology matters.  The pattern was repeated in 2004 when another silver spoon ivy leaguer challenged George W. Bush for the presidency and where his grasp of foreign languages was deemed a liability, Karl Rove infamously telling the media that John Kerry looked French.

In 2008 Barack Obama’s double ivy league education was used to classify him has an out of touch elitist.  All of this conveniently ignored the fact that unlike Messers Gore, Bush and Kerry (and for that matter even John McCain whose lineage of admirals likely eased his path into the naval academy over mediocre grades) Obama (like Bill Clinton before him) was a self made man (and for those crying affirmative action he did not disclose his race on his law school application).  And then came the Sarah Palin phenomenon where the Republican candidate for Vice President almost gloried in her ignorance of world affairs beyond the canned talking points.  (See previous blog post here).

Anti-intellectualism is not unknown in American history.  Adlai Stevenson was infamously dismissed as an egghead.  And book knowledge is also not a guarantee of good governance.  But taken too far it can have disturbing results where politicians cannot grasp the difference between faith and science (case in point the ridiculous attempts to term creationism as science).  It is also disturbing in a country that desperately needs to maintain its technological edge but has had to import its scientists for many decades.

This matter came to mind when I watched the Jon Stewart clip below yesterday.  It is bad enough that Fox seems to insist that its women anchors wear skirts with high hemlines, possibly to distract the audience from the factual liberties that happen there by “accident” from time to time.  But having a host (in Stewart’s words) “dumb herself down to connect with an audience who sees intellect as an elitist flaw” (or perhaps to connect with the dim-bulbs who are her co-hosts) seems a bit much.

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