Tuesday May 26th… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Why Anti-Intellectualism Has Led To U.S. Deaths And Is Dooming The Climate
Dear Diary. Do many of you remember the Aretha Franklin song about RESPECT (in which she spelled out the letters for the word)? Now we need to take Aretha’s song to heart. What is pervasive in American society is a lack of respect for science, experts, and authority, which is to our detriment. The proverbial chickens have cone home to roost via COVID-19 since our body count will officially go above 100,000 souls as of 5/26/2020. We are starting to pay a high price via our unscientific stances on climate change as well.
America has long proclaimed itself to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Hearty individualists not liking central authority set out from eastern areas in the early 19th century, eventually settling the Plains and West. This streak of rugged individualism and sense of freedom, which led to great entrepreneurialism, served us well for the last 250 years but is now working against us in the 21st century. To start out the decade of the 2020s we see individualism combining with uneducated anti-intellectualism leading to further spread of COVID-19.
Countries with people in unison adhering to advice of experts and populations willing to obey authority have done much better in the face of this pandemic. In late May I am seeing videos of large groups of people congregating, spreading disease, not even giving one nod to unenforced rules and warnings posted on both public and private signs. This won’t end well moving forward.
A great percentage of uneducated mostly Caucasian people in the United States have grown to become adults who look down on people touting expertise, thinking that they know what’s best for themselves and their families. There have been enough of these people to elect our current President, which you can see at every Trump rally, with many waving flags sporting MAGA hats. Trump has politically tapping into “I know it all” anti-intellectualism.
Trump himself has made many mistakes being a man choosing to be an uneducated anti-intellectual himself, although he has had plenty of opportunity during his life to immerse himself with books. Apparently he is not well read at all, choosing to look at FOX for the majority of his free time while in the White House. Not surprisingly, this is one reason why he has “prescribed” hydroxychloroquine as a great medicine against COVID-19, the experts be damned.
Speaking of tapping into things, in my first five paragraphs of today’s post I have just scratched the surface of what really ails America and why potentially this real disease of anti-intellectualism and mistrust of authority may eventually destroy our climate. For much more on this subject please read this article from the Washington Post, which was written towards the beginning of this pandemic in the United States in mid March:
Many Americans deeply distrust experts. So will they ignore the warnings about coronavirus?
The problem isn’t just partisanship; it’s the anti-intellectualism in American life.
Shoppers lined up at a Costco store in Seattle on March 14. (David Ryder)By Eric Merkley March 19, 2020 at 7:00 a.m. EDT
Republican voters are still far more likely than Democrats to believe the coronavirus pandemic has been exaggerated, their skepticism egged on by Fox News and even Republican officeholders. That’s true even after President Trump took emergency measures. But partisanship isn’t the only barrier to getting Americans to listen to scientific consensus, such as public health experts’ recommendations about social distancing and hand washing. Anti-intellectualism has a long pedigree in the United States. Here’s the problem — and what can be done about it.
Anti-intellectualism in American life
A sizable number of Americans harbor a fundamental mistrust of intellectuals and experts, a trait known as anti-intellectualism.
As described by the historian Richard Hofstadter, anti-intellectualism is a view that:
intellectuals … are pretentious, conceited … and snobbish; and very likely immoral, dangerous, and subversive …. The plain sense of the common man is an altogether adequate substitute for, if not actually much superior to, formal knowledge and expertise.
Anti-intellectualism often goes along with conservative ideology, religious fundamentalism and populism. Conservatives and fundamentalists may feel threatened by the implications of scientific research on issues such as climate change and evolution, while populists may see experts as a class of “elites” seeking power over ordinary citizens. Anti-intellectualism is fueled by these factors, but it cannot simply be reduced to any one of them.
Anti-intellectualism, therefore, challenges those trying to communicate scientific information. Citizens harboring such sentiments are unlikely to be persuaded by expert consensus because they do not trust experts by definition.
Here’s how I studied this
In a recently published article, I explore the link between anti-intellectualism and opposition to scientific consensus. The study draws on the General Social Survey (GSS) and an original survey of 3,614 people from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. I created an anti-intellectualism scale from survey responses that measured the trust people have in different communities of experts, such as doctors, economists and financial experts.
In the GSS and the Mechanical Turk groups, my measure of anti-intellectualism was closely associated with opposition to the scientific consensus on the safety of nuclear power, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and water fluoridation, as well as on climate change. Ideology and partisanship were not as consistently related to these positions.
I divided those who took my MTurk survey into two groups. One group was informed of the relevant expert consensus on climate change, nuclear power, GMOs and water fluoridation, while the other group was not. Afterward, everyone was asked their level of support for each consensus position on a scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree.
Among those with low levels of anti-intellectual sentiment, reading about the scientific consensus increased support for these positions; on average, these respondents had levels of support six points higher on the scale than those who did not read the information.
However, the higher participants scored on anti-intellectual sentiment, the less convinced they were by expert consensus. In fact, strong anti-intellectuals doubled down in their opposition to these positions. Anti-intellectuals who read information about expert consensus were, on average, nine points less supportive of consensus positions than those who did not on the same scale.
I also divided my MTurk participants into two groups. The first group read an article that included populist rhetoric; the other read a nonpolitical news story. So, some participants received both the rhetoric and the consensus information, some got neither, and others got a mix of the two. The article with populist rhetoric was a lightly edited version of a real news report of one of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign rallies. Included in the report was this quote, variously attributed to different people, as I’ll describe below: For decades, Washington insiders have fixed the system at the expense of hard-working Americans … The Washington establishment and their friends on Wall Street believe they are entitled to get whatever they want, whenever they want.
Some people in the group receiving populist rhetoric got a version of the story where that quote was attributed to Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), while others got a version in which it was attributed to someone of their party. Republicans read that Trump said it; Democrats and independents were told Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said it.
My anti-intellectualism measure was twice as strong a factor in predicting who would or who would not be convinced by expert consensus information when respondents were exposed to populist rhetoric. Anti-intellectualism mattered less for those who read the piece of nonpolitical news instead.
With populist rhetoric coming from both the political left and right, anti-intellectualism may shape public opinion more now than in the past. That could complicate messaging about the coronavirus.
What this means for slowing the coronavirus pandemic
Recent research has shown that many Americans may be convinced by scientific consensus. It can even weaken partisan divisions that exist on issues like climate change.
But my analyses suggest that may not work with everyone, and not just because of partisanship or ideology. Most Americans trust experts. But a sizable bloc — 20 percent to 25 percent — does not. In fact, those Americans may even be repelled by experts’ signals. For the pandemic, the challenge will be to find communication strategies that persuade these individuals to take the necessary steps to keep themselves and their communities healthy.
Citizens will listen to those they trust. But, of course, who counts as trustworthy will vary from one person to another. To convey and reinforce public health messages, leaders may wish to ask that those messages be reemphasized by a wide variety of sources, including religious and community leaders, politicians, celebrities, athletes and others.
Eric Merkley (@EricMerkley) is a postdoctoral fellow in the Policy, Elections, and Representation Lab (PEARL) at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.
Moving forward two months since Eric Merkley wrote the above article we see that even wearing a mask has become politicized with Trump fanning flames by not wearing one. Well, this is all leading to much more death…just sayin’.
Well Paul, I will be working to see that your forecast is not correct, but we are headed in thus general direction:
Here is more climate and weather news from Tuesday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
Here are some of today’s “ET’s” from the West:
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
(As usual, the most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.)
Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”