Sarah Palin & Anti-Intellectualism

Ilan Goldberg has an important post on Sarah Palin’s lack of understanding of a basic foreign policy term, “precondition.”  In short, Goldberg makes a convincing case that Palin doesn’t know what the word “precondition” means, as evidenced by her interview with Brian Williams this week.

Josh Schrei takes the Things Palin Doesn’t Know game a step further and writes a post about the perspective he’s gaining by being in Florence, Italy now  while watching the election. Schrei starts his post with a note*:

authors note: for the purposes of this blog post, I have marked with an asterisk any fact or reference that I believe — out of pure conjecture — that Sarah Palin does not know or would not get.

He then begins:

Im sitting in Florence, Italy as I write this. I came over to Zurich to visit my Mom for her 60th birthday, and as Ive never been to Italy and with everything being so close here in Europe, I decided to take a couple of days to visit this beautiful country that Ive wanted to see for so many years.

Florence is an amazing place. According to UNESCO*, this one city contains roughly a third of the important art in the entire world* including Michelangelos David*, Botticellis Venus*, and countless other masterpieces.  Florence, for many years was the center of Western civilization*. The birthplace of the Renaissance,* it is where — literally and figuratively, human beings gained… perspective*.

Literally because this is where Brunelleschi* — in addition to constructing what must be the most beautiful building in the world* — with the help of his mathmetician pals* built on the work of his predecessors and completed the transormation of human figures from flat two dimensional objects whose only purpose in art — and life — was to serve God in submission into living, breathing, three dimensional beings. Figuratively because after centuries of living in fear and darkness and illiteracy, this is where we entered an era in which thoughts, intellect, individuality, artistic expression, and the human being as a whole became paramount.

Its interesting to be here in the cradle of human enlightenment in the midst of our current debacle of a Presidential race, because, to be frank,  it really puts things in… perspective.

As for my perspective, this is an effective way of bringing out the underlying anti-intellectualism in Sarah Palin’s life. We’ve repeatedly seen a lack of intellectual curiousity and outright dismissiveness of those who do show interest in the wide world from Palin. From Iraq, to foreign policy, to reading the news, Palin just won’t be bothered to know what’s going on in the world around her. Schrei’s speculation about how deep Palin’s ignorance goes provides real insight into what her world might be like.

Andrew Sullivan says Palin is “burying [conservatism] as an intellectual tradition.” He notes:

Here’s one way to look at the question [of How Anti-Intellectual Is Palin?]: how has Palin brought up her own kids? Her eldest son is a high-school drop-out. Her eldest daughter has had, so far as one can tell from press reports, very uneven attendance in high school, and no plans for college. Her other daughters seem to spend a lot of time traveling the country with their mom at tax-payers’ expense. I’ve seen them at several rallies with the Palins this fall. Are they not in school?

The least one can say is that none of her children seems to have been brought up thinking that college is something to aspire to. And her new son-in-law just dropped out of high school as well.

Am I piling on in this post? Sure, because Palin’s brand of willful ignorance as is dangerous a force as any other that exists in the United States today. Willful ignorance, anti-intellectualism, and the tribalization of these forces against those who seek betterment through education are the shortest paths to the decline of the US as a great nation. If we want a strong economy, we need education. If we want to be a respect player in the global community, we need to understand foreign cultures. If we want to be safe from terrorist threats, we need to understand the root causes that drive people to hate us and discover new ways to stop them from being successful.

America is a diverse country and people here believe many different things, some of which are demonstrably wrong. I don’t have a problem with that. But there’s a big difference between teach people to open their eyes and learn about the world, whether they like what they see or not, and teaching ignorance and anti-intellectualism.  Sarah Palin represents a dangerous trend in American life. I’m glad to see the voting public is on the verge of rejecting it in an unprecedented scale.

*One thing to note, as Josh is writing on an Italian keyboard, punctuation isn’t perfect. I think it’s a technical hurdle, not an intimation of Palin’s typing accumen.

3 thoughts on “Sarah Palin & Anti-Intellectualism

  1. thanks for pointing the italian keyboard thing Matt. Italians may have invented modern culture, but they apparently dont have apostrophes 🙂


  2. I couldn’t agree more– having been calling out Bush for last 8 years for continual lowering of standards of thoughtfulness, consideration, respect and clear communication for both public figures and the people who see them as role models.

    Thanks for this eloquent post that Palin is far worse and even more insidious to the health of our country– so pile-on, repeat as necessary.


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