Thursday, July 31, 2014

Right-Wing Backlash Against 'Smartypants' Like Neil deGrasse Tyson

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/right-wing-backlash-against-smartypants-neil-degrasse-tyson

Conservative elites delight in tearing down smart, educated people.

By Amanda Marcotte July 30, 2014

If there’s one belief that binds the disparate factions of the American right together, it’s the belief in American exceptionalism, both for the nation and for individuals. The mythology that conservatism is about promoting excellence and encouraging strivers is found throughout conservative media and literature, from the story of John Galt in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to Reagan’s description of America as a “shining city on a hill.” While it often manifests as contempt for the poor and the vulnerable, in the abstract this conservative enthusiasm for doing better could, in theory, be channeled productively toward actually pushing people to achieve.

So why are so many conservatives abandoning this enthusiasm for the exceptional in favor of what can only be described as jealous sniping aimed at people who are actually trying to expand the world creatively and scientifically? There’s a lot of high-falutin’ talk on the right about supporting the strivers, but in practice, the conservative response to someone who tries to stick his head above the crowd is to beat it down with a hammer. Conservatives may think of themselves as lovers of excellence, but in reality, “Who do you think you are?” is swiftly becoming an unofficial right-wing motto.

It’s easy to see why, despite their supposed enthusiasm for excellence, conservative pundits would offer up liberal scientists, journalists, and artists as hate objects for their base. This is a time of economic instability and ordinary people are seeing their fortunes declining. It’s easy to turn that anxiety into rage at people conservative audiences think have easy, charmed lives as coastal elites.

But in doing so, conservative pundits are exploiting their audiences, turning their class-based anger away from the people who are actually causing their economic problems, such as the Wall Street elite, and toward people who may be successful but who are not doing any harm to other Americans and are often trying to help them.  If you can get your audiences to hate journalists and scientists, they won't hate the wealthy bankers who actually screwed them over.  

This was epitomized by the recent National Review story by Charles C. W. Cooke titled “Smarter Than Thou” in which he fussed and whined about “the extraordinarily puffed-up ‘nerd’ culture that has of late started to bloom across the United States.” An illustration of the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson graced the cover, drawn to look self-satisfied, even though deGrasse Tyson hardly gives off that vibe in real life.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/right-wing-backlash-against-smartypants-neil-degrasse-tyson

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