Hostility to and distrust of intellectuals, academic universities, and elite rational thought more broadly.
Anti-intellectualism is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that has manifested in various forms throughout history. In the United States, it has been particularly prominent within far-right movements, although it is not exclusive to them. The term "anti-intellectualism" refers to a general distrust or disdain for intellectual pursuits, experts, and the institutions that house them, such as universities. This attitude often manifests in the rejection of established facts, theories, or methods of inquiry in favor of populist or ideologically driven narratives.
### Historical Roots
The roots of anti-intellectualism in the U.S. can be traced back to the country's founding, where a democratic ethos emphasized the wisdom of the "common man" over elites. However, the far-right's brand of anti-intellectualism gained significant traction in the 20th century. The Red Scare of the 1950s, for instance, saw intellectuals and academics often labeled as "communist sympathizers," leading to a mistrust of intellectual authority.
### The Rise of the Religious Right
In the latter half of the 20th century, the rise of the Religious Right added a new dimension to anti-intellectualism. Leaders like [[Jerry Falwell Sr.]] and [[Pat Robertson]] intellectualism as antithetical to religious faith. Universities were often portrayed as places where young people lost their religious values, and scientific theories like evolution were rejected in favor of biblical literalism.
### The Tea Party and Beyond
The [[Tea Party]] movement, which emerged in 2009, was another milestone. While it focused primarily on fiscal conservatism, it also exhibited strong anti-intellectual tendencies. [Climate change denial](https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/climate-change-denial/), for example, became a hallmark issue, and experts in the field were often dismissed as part of a global conspiracy.
### The Trump Era
The Trump era (2016-2020) saw anti-intellectualism reach new heights. The former President's frequent attacks on the "fake news media" and his dismissal of experts, particularly in the realms of science and national security, exemplified this trend. The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the divide, as [conspiracy theories](https://doctorparadox.net/why-do-people-believe-conspiracy-theories/) and misinformation often took precedence over scientific expertise in public discourse.
### Digital Age Amplification
The digital age has amplified anti-intellectual sentiments, with social media platforms enabling the rapid spread of misinformation. The far-right has been particularly adept at using these platforms to disseminate anti-intellectual narratives, often wrapped in populist rhetoric.
The consequences of anti-intellectualism are far-reaching. It undermines democratic processes by eroding trust in institutions and experts who provide evidence-based information crucial for informed decision-making. Moreover, it can have real-world implications, such as public health crises when people refuse vaccines or ignore climate change.