Post science; post truth

Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…”

Hosea 4:6

America is dying from lack of knowledge.

In his article, “American Death Cult” (New York Magazine, July 20, 2020) Johnathan Chait notes, that we have become the “sick man of the world.” He also explains how we got here.

Chait writes that the trouble started when, in the 1960s, truth became inconvenient.

“New issues arose that tended to pit scientists against conservatives. Goldwater’s insouciant attitude toward the prospect of nuclear war with the Soviets provoked scientists to explain the impossibility of surviving atomic fallout and the formation of Scientists and Engineers for Johnson-Humphery [president and vice-president]. New research by Rachel Carson about pollution and by Ralph Nader on the dangers of cars and other consumer products made science the linchpin of a vast new regulatory state.”

In other words, capitalism encountered the possibility that we might not be as smart as we think we are. Science found that when their goal is to make quick buck, business didn’t care much about life.

Like their Gilded Age counterparts, business, and their conservative allies learned that the best way to make an inconvenient fact go away, is to make it go away.

So “the conservative think-tank scene exploded with reports questioning whether pollution, smoking, driving, and other profitable aspects of American capitalism were really as dangerous as the scientists said [emphasis mine].”

Profit became paramount; while life became a minor inconvenience.

The Reagan Administration legitimized disinformation, giving it a power and voice it had never enjoyed before [my analysis, not Chait’s].

Within a single decade, these anti-government/anti-science voices had taken over not only the Republican Party, but the ideological Right, as well.

This portion is worth quoting in length.

The [Republican] party’s rightward tilt accelerated in the 1990s. ‘With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cold Warriors looked for another great threat,’ wrote science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. ‘They found it in environmentalism,’ viewing climate change as a pretext to impose government control over the whole economy. Since the 1990s was also the decade in which scientific consensus solidified that greenhouse-gas emissions were permanently increasing temperatures, the political stakes of environmentalism soared.

The number of books criticizing environmentalism increased fivefold over the previous decade, and more than 90 percent cited evidence produced by right-wing foundations. Many of these tracts coursed with the same lurid paranoia as their McCarthy-era counterparts. This was when the conspiracy theory that is currently conventional wisdom on the right — that scientists across the globe conspired to exaggerate or falsify global warming data in order to increase their power — first took root.

As a child of the 1990’s Right Wing disinformation campaign — who’s personal interest were strong in ecology, meteorology and geology — there was no area of science more demonized by the radical right than environmentalism. One that I have come to reject as the selfish notion that life doesn’t matter (“Environmentalism and the value of life,” July 6, 2020), but also as a form of national projection and mental abuse by those in power.

The cult of the Religious Right took hold during this period as well, utilizing their spiritual control over thousands of minds that the pursuit of science and truth was not only “Communism,” but anti-God. Like big business, their voice was also legitimized by the Reagan, and later George W. Bush Administration.

What Chait makes clear is another inconvenient fact. One even anti-Trump movements on the Right are all too willing to ignore.

From Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater, to Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley, Jr., the radical right has continuously run away from the truth. Choosing instead a world of entitlement, bigotry and racism.

They ignore science, because they ignore truth.

We are dying because we have been conditioned to ignore truth.



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Tiffany Elliott

Writer with 15 + years experience; journalist, editor, freelancer, and play write. Advocate for the arts and rights of expendables.