Sadly, an apropos meme I've used before.

Topics: African Americans, History, Diaspora, Diversity in Science, Women in Science

It's strange I admit, including this social commentary in a Black History Month blog entry. As I said on the 1st of February, I feel compelled to address the era we're in right now of "alternative facts" (lies) that permeate our zeitgeist, quite literally by force of a certain spastic will with the power of Armageddon, bigotry and a twitter handle.

A related and prescient entry from a blog I follow "Very Smart Brothas":

That the Obama family is America’s official first family will never not be absurd. Not because they’re Black but because they’re so damn perfect. They’re each impossibly smart and tall, and the kids are ridiculously cute and talented and well mannered, and they all appear to adore one another. Oh, and they’re Black. Beautifully and unambiguously Black. So Black that they actually have a “Big Momma” (Michelle’s mother) living with them. And the names of their daughters could very easily also be the names of days in Kwanzaa. It is literally not possible to have a more perfect first family. We will never do better than them.

And we? Well... We are a country full of idiots, sociopaths, gun nuts, homophobes, hoteps, chicken hawks, chicken thieves, racists, Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood cast members and Cowboys fans. A year from now, we might actually elect the monkey squirrel who hosts The Celebrity Apprentice as our actual president. Our national pastimes are Netflix and chill and eating bacon.

Who knew his words would be so prophetic?

The last election pivoted on two things: racism and anti-intellectualism.

For the "Bernie or Bust" crowd, you have to understand the oppo research was already prepped for the anointed-by-tweety-bird-grandpa to get the full treatment, because anyone following the 44th president was going to be inexorably tied to him. Any party member or independent-tangential member, male or female; insider or socialist was by extension: him... the black guy they hated. I would have voted for Senator Sanders if he had been the nominee, as I would have Governor Martin O'Malley or Senator Jim Webb (remember them?). The taint of the Kenyan usurper were upon them all, every candidate painted with the broad, racist brush, and any candidate - presumably even Lucifer himself - with the Bill Maher magic (R) was going to get evangelical justification, publicly laid hands and scripture. The spate of racist incidents since WINNING the election has only escalated and shown the world that America hasn't progressed much since the 1960s, despite our self-deluded, oft-broadcast mythology.

First the racism was creative - witch doctor signs with bones through the nose, memes with chimpanzees, gorillas and the inevitable Godwin's Law comparisons to Hitler. Since the n-word was never used, that's what the regular right (?) calls "clever and subtle."

On alt-right/racist/storm front websites, it was full-on blatant racism. Even though a lot of racists have low IQs, a lot of them don't (like Nobel laureates in physics), so we can't use that to fully explain it, unfortunately. Racism is like mashed potatoes: comfort food that's bad for your waistline, but you eat it anyway with plenty of butter and brown gravy (dark pun intended), or an old set of shoes that you know you should get rid of except for the fact they're "broken in." For the pleasure of the Linus blanket of whiteness, our sovereignty as a nation is apparently a small price...for comfort.

The kissing cousin to racism is anti-intellectualism, the strain of which science fiction writer Isaac Asimov opined upon (oft-repeated meme above). The average US citizen probably knows more about the Kardashians than they do Civics or Science. Simon Sinek dropped the science on this: 45 is a reflection (of at least some) of us. It's quite suitable that the subtitle to Postman's book highlights the words show business. When Nielsen Ratings originated, there were three channels to measure. Now literally thousands of channels compete for our attention, some with only music; now online streaming shows are getting Emmy's. It's a wonder a poor network CEO wouldn't go for the semi-form, fast-twitching guy with a 4th grade vocabulary and a Propecia ferret on his head as long as eyeball traffic veered in their directions. Theirs is a pitiful plight indeed. But now, the fourth grader isn't pulling Susie's hair: he has the nuclear biscuit.

Amazon sold out of "1984" on the public apotheosis of "alternative facts."

Might I suggest Aldous Huxley and Neil Postman?

“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions". In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.” *


Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Bus...,
Neil Postman

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Richard Hofstrader

Related Links:

Bill Moyers: The GOP and the Rise of Anti-Knowledge, Mike Lofgren
Ohio Central History: The Know-Nothing Party

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Comment by Bill McCormick on February 23, 2017 at 12:10pm

There is a book called A Canticle for Leibowitz which, beyond being brilliant satire, shows how an entire religion can be borne anew with some simple lies, some power grabs, and the writings found in the toolbox of a Jewish plumber. I see a lot of this now.

Comment by William Hudson on February 23, 2017 at 10:11am

Absolutely great post.  Thanks!








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