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ON CULTS OF IGNORANCE

WE ARE BEING besieged by cults of ignorance. Alas, in their dying breath, Covid-19 sufferers are calling the disease a hoax. What appeared to be a late summer diminishing of coronavirus in the United States has evolved into a second wave worst than the first. Even the rapid development of vaccines has prompted anti-vaxxers into action. In his last few days as chief executive, Trump continues to insist that he won the 2020 Presidential Election, and his followers desecrate the U.S. Capitol in adulation.

At the root of all of these is a lack of understanding, a cult of ignorance.

Single-Issue Thinking. Sometimes, a cult of ignorance is caused by single-issue thinking: “I’m against abortion,” some say, “Trump says he’s against it, therefore I am for Trump.” No matter that Trump may well contradict their other views on matters such as business ethics, immigration, racism, or truth.

Image by Erin Schaff/The New York Times.

The Big Lie. Other times, a cult of ignorance may depend upon the Big Lie. As cited in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, “… in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.”

Hitler’s enemy were the Jews. Trump’s are immigrants, the media, the coronavirus, the 2020 election results, Democratic inner cities, and other subjects of his ranting. Just as Hitler’s repetition of his Big Lie encouraged the German people, Trump’s characteristic doubling-down on his Big Lies has amassed an apparently devoted following. 

Here are thoughtful counterexamples to cults of ignorance. The first specifically addresses Covid-19; the others, our general malaise. 

From the AAAS Member Community. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has a very active online Member Community. 

One of its contributors suggested that “we are inculcated with the idea that freedom of our actions is paramount to our psychological well-being. Anything that infringes upon that basic ‘right’ is anathema to many people. The trouble with that sort of thought is that Nature doesn’t deal in ideology. It deals in natural occurrences. Nature is nature and it doesn’t care about your ‘rights.’ ” 

He continues, “If you don’t take into account things that you can’t stop, such as infections of a deadly disease, then you do so at your own peril…. You can’t stop infections with a piece of parchment written 200+ years ago. You stop them with intelligence and what measures we SCIENTIFICALLY prove are effective. People’s personal liberties don’t mean a thing to Ma Nature.” 

Isaac Asimov on a Cult of Ignorance. Isaac Asimov, 1920–1992, was an American writer of Sci-Fi and science and a professor of biochemistry. He appeared here at SimanaitisSays with a Sherlockian paraphase: “As far as I’m concerned, if, when everything impossible has been eliminated and what remains is supernatural, then someone is lying.”

Asimov also observed, “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Daniel Patrick Monyihan on Alternative Facts. As described here at SimanaitisSays, Daniel Patrick Monyihan, 1927–2003, was an American politician, sociologist, diplomat; succinctly, a statesman. He said, “You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” 

The Ranting Guy at the Street Corner. Mom taught me never to establish eye contact with that ranting guy at the street corner. Alas, today’s Internet is not only an Information Super Highway, it has sewers at every Street Corner. What we need is a mom who teaches us never to click on the sewers. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021

2 comments on “ON CULTS OF IGNORANCE

  1. Andrew G.
    January 18, 2021

    This just in: Bandini Mountain has been relocated to Mar-a-Loco. Film at eleven.

  2. rulesoflogic
    January 22, 2021

    I have written Asimov’s line about the American “cult of ignorance” many times in my blog. Although I think both parties have lost the plot, I abhor the “conspiracy theory” obsession with some on the far right.

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