Words written in 1963 still perfectly apply in our modern era. The prescient author could have written them yesterday.
In 1963, Knopf published Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, by Richard Hofstadter, a distinguished professor of American History at Columbia University. In 1964, the book won the Pulitzer Prize in Non-Fiction.
Hofstadter, who also is famous for another classic, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, published in 1964, portrayed in Anti-Intellectualism in American Life an American culture largely inimical to intellectuals, and the process of rationality and speculative thought. In this thoughtful and illuminating book, The parallels to our modern know-nothing society are striking. Consider this passage:
“There has always been in our national experience a type of mind which elevates hatred to a kind of creed; for this mind, group hatreds take a place in politics similar to the class struggle in some other modern societies. Filled with obscure and ill-directed grievances and frustrations, with elaborate hallucinations about secrets and conspiracies, groups of malcontents have found scapegoats at various times in Masons or abolitionists, Catholics, Mormons, or Jews, Negroes or immigrants, the liquor interests of the international bankers. In the succession of scapegoats chosen by the followers of this tradition of Know-Nothingism, the intelligentsia have at last in our time found a place.”
Does this venerable description, tracing back 47 years in time, not sound exactly like one well-known right-wing radio talker today? You know, with the initials G.B.? That’s right: Glenn Beck, come on down. (It’s ironic that the vile tactics that the Mormon Beck uses to constantly smear and hound people and groups he doesn’t like once were used to smear and hound Mormons.) – Mickey Murphy © 2011 MMMurphy
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