Anti-Intellectualism and Right Wing Populism


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



If Congressman Akin were just an “asshole,” there would be no problem.   The problem

is that he is an elected representative and a populist.   He is a specific instance of widespread

statistical trends that will be reflected in the elections several weeks from now.  He is

the voice of democracy, which is synonymous with the voice of mass ignorance.



Anti-Intellectualism and Right-Wing Populism

By Wilson J. Moses  

20 August 2012


Todd Akin on Rape and Abortion, The Jaco Report, 8/19/2012

Brian Walsh, the communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, declined to address what impact Mr. Akin’s comments might have on the Senate race. But . . . He said the election would be a referendum on Ms. McCaskill’s voting record and support for the president’s agenda.   If this state is truly aligning itself with more conservative values, some believe that Mr. Akin’s comments might actually help him politically.—Senate Candidate Provokes Ire With ‘Legitimate Rape’ Comment


The majority must rule.   That is,  after all, the meaning of democracy.  If a majority is sufficiently filled with hatred of the Obamas they will vote—quite literally—for any candidate who is not a Democrat regardless of what that candidate represents.   The Tea Party impetus is classic patriotism.   At bottom, it is the voice of traditional American populism, with its inextricable tie to American anti-intellectualism.  

There is no other North Atlantic country in which people actually pride themselves in being anti-intellectual.  Certainly not France, nor England nor Germany, nor Holland, nor any of the Scandinavian countries.   Germany went through a period when anti-intellectualism was considered a virtue 1933-1945.   And the German intellectuals were so decadent and self-hating that they succumbed to anti-intellectual culture with gusto.  

If Congressman Akin were just an “asshole,” there would be no problem.   The problem is that he is an elected representative and a populist.   He is a specific instance of widespread statistical trends that will be reflected in the elections several weeks from now.  He is the voice of democracy, which is synonymous with the voice of mass ignorance.  

He propagates anti-scientific theories about impregnation that predominated in medieval Europe and the Islamic world.   But this is consistent with a view that denies global warming, and insists that dinosaurs and humans inhabited the world synchronically.   It is consistent with the anti-intellectualism that cuts funding for arts, sciences, communications, and the humanities.  It is consistent with placing college sports above the intellectual goals of a university then falsifies record books and paints individuals out of murals in order to make history suitable for children.   

It is consistent with a mentality that refuses to acknowledge that a predatory homosexual was the brilliant and successful defensive coach at “Linebacker U.”  For even though most pedophiles are heterosexual, the Sandusky cover-up was as much about denying his homosexuality, as it was about denying his pedophilia.  Sandusky was the symbol incarnate of American manhood.  Thus the denial was as much about denying that football harbors homosexuals as it was about the denial of Sandusky’s crimes.

Would you rather send your son to football camp or to ballet camp?  

Despite the viciousness of her positions, Ayn Rand had more intellectual integrity than most of her critics or her followers.   She stated her definitions, and was forthright about her premises.  Her process of consistent reasoning led her to oppose the war in Vietnam, to condemn Reaganite religion, and to support the right to abortion.  Such was her brand of intellectualism.  The Tea Party and Mr. Walsh and Mr. Akin lack even Ayn Rand‘s fundamentals of intellectual integrity.  American intellectuals who fear to identify themselves as intellectuals, or who deny their intellectual responsibilities, are doing much to enable the people like Paul Ryan and Todd Akin.  

But that’s traditional Americanism.  Consider the source.

20 August 2012

Todd Akin, GOP Senate candidate: ‘Legitimate rape’ rarely causes pregnancy

I Misspoke—What I Meant To Say Is ‘I Am Dumb As Dog Shit And I Am A Terrible Human Being’—By Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO)—20 August 2012—As a politician, I often find myself in situations where, unfortunately, I express a certain thought or idea poorly, or find my words taken out of context. Indeed, that is what happened this weekend. Upon reviewing the impromptu remarks I made Sunday afternoon, I can now see that I used the wrong words in the wrong way. I would now like to set the record straight with the American people and clear up some confusion about what it was I intended to convey.—theonion

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I do consider The Onion piece counter-productive.   It will be better for progressives if Akin stays on the ticket so that he can soil the Republican brand.  Republican leadership knows this, so I presume that Akin will be forced by his own party to withdraw. 

I suppose I am too much the amateur anthropologist to indulge in this sort of thing.   I am fascinated by Akin as a cultural expression.   He is an exquisitely beautiful specimen!   Todd Akin represents the typical mindset for the overwhelming majority of mankind for the past 5,000 years.  Why do we assume that the USA is “exceptional.”

Maybe I am too much the cold analytical “would-be social scientist.”   Or maybe I am too much the marginalized explorer, the voyager into strange lands.  I feel like the explorer who travels among the cannibals and must try to find a way of not becoming a cannibal while satisfying his morbid curiosity.   

It matters not who runs on the Republican ticket.   The most intelligent choice would be Sarah Steelman, who is just as bad as Akin, although maybe a little more “politic.”  The hatred of the Obamas is so intense that even a cannibal has a good chance of winning

Assuming, of course that the cannibal is white.—Wilson

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Background to “Legitimate Rape”: “Forcible Rape” and Personhood


GOP Blinks on ‘Forcible Rape’ But Bill Still Cuts Deeply at Abortion Rights—Tommy Christopher—3 February 2011—But a spokesman for the bill’s author, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), says the modifier “forcible” will be dropped so that the exemption covers all forms of rape, as well as cases of incest and the endangerment of the life of the mother.

“The word forcible will be replaced with the original language from the Hyde Amendment,” [Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.)] spokesman Jeff Sagnip told POLITICO, referring to the long-standing ban on direct use of taxpayer dollars for abortion services.

The fight over the definition of rape threatened to sabotage Republican efforts to highlight their push to end taxpayer subsidies for abortion, and the distinction between types of rape mystified some GOP aides. “Such a removal would be a good idea, since last I checked, rape by definition is non-consensual,” said one aide.—Politico

It’s only “mystifying” if you’re unfamiliar with the contemptuous attitude that many abortion opponents, Republican or Democrat, display toward women who seek to preserve that right to choose. This bill was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and co-sponsored by 163 Republicans and 10 Democrats who seem to believe that, absent this “forcible rape” language, women will just go around “crying rape,” a popular myth in American rape culture.

The phrase may be gone, but the contempt is still there, as evidenced by this section:

Sec. 303. Prohibition on Tax Benefits Relation to Abortion.

For taxable years beginning after the date of the enactment of this section

(1) no credit shall be allowed under the internal revenue laws with respect to amounts paid or incurred for an abortion or with respect to amounts paid or incurred for a health benefits plan (including premium assistance) that includes coverage of abortion,CommentsClose CommentsPermalink

(2) for purposes of determining any deduction for expenses paid for medical care of the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse or dependents, amounts paid or incurred for an abortion or for a health benefits plan that includes coverage of abortion shall not be taken into account, and

(3) in the case of any tax-preferred trust or account the purpose of which is to pay medical expenses of the account beneficiary, any amount paid or distributed from such an account for an abortion shall be included in the gross income of such beneficiary.

That means anyone who has an insurance plan that covers abortions, even a single man who will never have an abortion, will be denied any health care related tax benefits. . . .This provision will render any private insurance plan that covers abortion poisonous to its customers, particularly group plans. It is possible that health insurance companies could design parallel products that do cover abortion, but the provision is so broad that it’s unclear if that would even pass muster. It’s much more likely that private insurers would drop abortion coverage completely. . . ..—mediaite

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Under Banner of Fiscal Restraint, Republicans Plan New Abortion Bills—Jennifer Steinhauer—8 February 2011—One bill, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” would eliminate tax breaks for private employers who provide health coverage if their plans offer abortion services, and would forbid women who use a flexible spending plan to use pre-tax dollars for abortions. Those restrictions would go well beyond current law prohibiting the use of federal money for abortion services.

The bill, sponsored by Representative Christopher H. Smith, Republican of New Jersey, has drawn fire over language that undercuts a longstanding exemption on the ban on using federal money for abortions in the case of rape or incest; the measure narrows the definition of rape to “forcible rape,” a term that his office has never defined. Democratic lawmakers and others repeatedly hammered on the term, saying it suggested that victims of statutory rape and other crimes could not get abortions paid for with federal money.

While Mr. Smith’s staff said last week that the term “forcible rape” would be removed from the bill, the staff of Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, said that language remained intact as of Tuesday.

Another bill, sponsored by Mr. Pitts, addresses the health care overhaul head-on by prohibiting Americans who receive insurance through state exchanges from purchasing abortion coverage, even with their own money. The bill is essentially a resurrection of a provision in the House version of the health care law but was not in the Senate version.

The bill would also permit hospitals to refuse abortions to women, even in emergency situations, if such care would offend the conscience of the health care providers. “Both bills are designed to drive coverage for abortion out of health insurance plans, period,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rightsnytimes

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H.R. 212—Sanctity of Human Life Act—Declares that: (1) the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human and is the person’s paramount and most fundamental right; (2) each human life begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, at which time every human has all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood; and (3) Congress, each state, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories have the authority to protect all human lives.—thomas.loc

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Paul Ryan supports Personhood—John Jalsevac—15 August 2012—While Republican candidate Mitt Romney was the only leading mainstream candidate to miss all three presidential debates hosted by Personhood USA earlier this year, his decision to keep the personhood movement at arm’s length is not shared by his running mate.

Romney’s choice for VP, Paul Ryan, is currently one of the 64 co-sponsors of the pro-personhood H.R. 212, known as the Sanctity of Human Life Act. He also co-sponsored the 2009 Sanctity of Human Life Act, H.R. 227.

The Sanctity of Human Life Act states that under “Congress’ power under section 5 of the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United State . . . the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being, and is the paramount and most fundamental right of a person” and that “the life of each human being begins with fertilization.”

“In supporting Personhood, Congressman Ryan has taken a consistent pro-life position, one that is called for by the Republican Party’s own platform” remarked Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D., Legal Analyst for Personhood USA.

The Republican Party’s platform states that “we support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”—lifesitenews

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The New New Deal

The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era

By Michael Grunwald

Time senior correspondent Michael Grunwald tells the secret history of the stimulus bill, the purest distillation of Change We Can Believe In, a microcosm of Obama’s policy successes and political failures. Though it is reviled by the right and rejected by the left, it really is a new New Deal, larger than FDR’s and just as transformative. It prevented an imminent depression, while jump-starting Obama’s long-term agenda. The stimulus is pouring $90 billion into clean energy, reinventing the way America is powered and fueled; it includes unprecedented investments in renewables, efficiency, electric cars, a smarter grid, cleaner coal, and more. It’s carrying health care into the digital era. Its Race to the Top initiative may be the boldest education reform in U.S. history. It produced the biggest middle-class tax cuts in a generation, a broadband initiative reminiscent of rural electrification, and an overhaul of the New Deal’s unemployment insurance system. It’s revamping the way government addresses homelessness, fixes infrastructure, and spends money.

Grunwald reveals how Republicans have obscured these achievements through obstruction and distortion. The stimulus launched a genuine national comeback. It also saved millions of jobs, while creating legacies that could rival the Hoover Dam: the world’s largest wind farm, a new U.S. battery industry, a new high-speed rail network, the world’s highest-speed Internet network.  Its main legacy, like the New Deal’s, will be change.

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The River of No Return

The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC

By Cleveland Sellers with Robert Terrell

Among histories of the civil rights movement of the 1960s there are few personal narratives better than this one. Besides being an insider’s account of the rise and fall of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, it is an eyewitness report of the strategies and the conflicts in the crucial battle zones as the fight for racial justice raged across the South.  This memoir by Cleveland Sellers, a SNCC volunteer, traces his zealous commitment to activism from the time of the sit-ins, demonstrations, and freedom rides in the early ’60s. In a narrative encompassing the Mississippi Freedom Summer (1964), the historic march in Selma, the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, and the murders of civil rights activists in Mississippi, he recounts the turbulent history of SNCC and tells the powerful story of his own no-return dedication to the cause of civil rights and social change.

The River of No Return is acclaimed as a book that is destined to become a standard text for those wishing to perceive the civil rights struggle from within the ranks of one of its key organizations and to note the divisive history of the movement as groups striving for common goals were embroiled in conflict and controversy.

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Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls

By Dorothy Sterling

Dorothy Sterling’s biography of Robert Smalls is Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1958). In most history books, the contributions of Negroes during the Civil War and Reconstructions are ignored. Robert Smalls was one of the heroes who is rarely mentioned. He was a Negro slave who stole a ship from the Confederates, served on it with the Union Army with distinction, and finally served several terms in Congress.

All this was accomplished against the handicaps first of slavery, then of the prejudice of the Union Army, and finally of the Jim Crow laws, which eventually conquered him. Besides its value in contradicting the history book insinuation that the Negro was incapable of political enterprise and that the South was right in imposing Jim Crow laws, Captain of the Planter is an exciting adventure story. Captain Smalls’ escape from slavery and his battle exploits make interesting reading, and the style is fast moving.—Barbara Dodds

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Hands on the Freedom Plow

Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC

By Faith S. Holsaert, Martha Prescod Norman Noonan

Judy Richardson, Betty Garman Robinson, et al.

The book opens a window onto the organizing tradition of the Southern civil rights movement. That tradition, rooted in the courage and persistence of ordinary people, has been obscured by the characterization of the civil rights struggle as consisting primarily of protest marches. In rural Dawson, Ga., Carolyn Daniels housed SNCC workers organizing for voter registration, and whites retaliated by bombing her home. But at the end of a vivid depiction of this and other anti-black terrorist acts, she writes, in an apt summary of the grass-roots organizing that is the real explanation for civil rights victories, “We just kept going and going.”

Organizing involved the kind of commitment and willingness to face risk that Penny Patch conveys in only a few short sentences describing covert nighttime meetings in plantation sharecropper shacks. Patch is white. But that did not lessen the fear or reduce the danger of remaining seated while poll watching in a country store as whites came in and out, giving her and her black co-worker menacing stares.

Full journalistic disclosure requires me to say that many of these women are friends and former comrades. But knowing the movement that we were all a part of also demands that I share my observation: While these pages look back, looking forward from them reveals that there are many useful lessons for today in the strength of these women.—Charles E. Cobb Jr.

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The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry

By Rita Dove

Selecting poets and poems to represent a century of poetry, especially the riotous twentieth century in America, is a massive undertaking fraught with peril and complication. Poet Rita Dove-a Pulitzer Prize- winning former U.S. poet laureate, professor, and presidential scholar- embarked on what became a consuming four-year odyssey. She reports on obstacles and discoveries in an exacting and forthright introduction, featuring striking quotes, vivid profiles, and a panoramic view of the evolution of poetic visions and styles that helped bring about social as well as artistic change […] Dove’s incisive perception of the role of poetry in cultural and social awakenings infuses this zestful and rigorous gathering of poems both necessary and unexpected by 180 American poets. This landmark anthology will instantly enhance and invigorate every poetry shelf or section.—Booklist

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The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story

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By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer

American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest.

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The White Masters of the World

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By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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posted 21 August 2012




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