Anti-intellectualism isn't a random cultural event in the United States. It became an essential part of a political strategy that maligned cultural elites in favor of a more populist platform. Scott's book is "Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth" (http://goo.gl/fx7Mz7).
Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ao-scott-on-anti-intellectualism-in-politics-and-art
Follow Big Think here:
Transcript - I feel like if you want to see anti-intellectualism on full display you can watch some presidential debates. I mean you can certainly look at our political discourse, some of it anyway, and see well thought and intellect is not held in the highest value. And I think that that concerns me a lot. There is a tradition, Richard Hofstadter wrote a book of probably 50 years ago now or more called Anti-Intellectualism in American Life where he identified this strain in politics and civic life of mistrust of expertise, of suspicion, of knowledge or of thought or of irony or of nuance. And I think in culture in the arts there's a lot of that too. There's a lot of spoon feeding, there's a lot that's just sort of easy and I think that it's important to recognize and to reward and encourage opposition to that, which can come in different places. I think there are champions of intellect and intelligence out there in the world. A lot of them are comedians. I mean we do live at a time where people like John Stewart or Larry Wilmore or Chris Rock or a Louis C.K. or Aziz Ansari, I mean a lot of people are out there, or Amy Schumer or Lena Dunham, are out there kind of saying look let's be smart. Let's think. Let's like not take things for granted. Let's not just accept what's given to us. And I think that that's very much a critical spirit and I think it lives in culture in the arts, but I think it's always embattled. I think it always needs to be defended, it needs to push back against the incentives to laziness and complacency and received opinion and received thinking and just sort of parroting whatever it is that comes at us.
I think there's a lot of anti-intellectualism in some of the opposition to Obama. I mean Obama is very interesting to me and has always been really interesting to me, ideology aside, is that he is an intellectual. He's a writer, he's a thinker and he has tried to be an effective political leader at the same time that he is someone who is aware of ironies and complexities. And to watch him and to hear him in some of his speeches try to reconcile those two things, to try to be kind of forceful and emphatic and clear and also recognize the complications and the shadings and the nuances in politics and in social life has been fascinating. And I think that there's been a strong reaction against that. I think one of the things that the Republicans have used against him and one of the things that Trump is certainly manifesting is precisely anti-intellectualism. It's a very powerful force because it saying you think you're so smart. You're making everything complicated. Everything is really simple. America is great.