On Not Believing the Obvious and the Proven

© By Bob Litton. All Rights Reserved.

Isn’t it fun to chat and even pontificate about matters of which we are blissfully ignorant? And then, when responding to questions about details regarding the subject, to demur by pretending to modesty and declaring that we are not experts in that area? I suppose this mode of communication has been around longer even than I have…well, at least since Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels’ remark: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

But that and similar feints have become so common now that they have captured the media’s attention: They denote this evasive self-deprecation as a “meme”. That word–meme–is also new to me. (I swear, this world is changing too fast!) Here is a definition from Dictionary.com: “a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way.”

The Republicans love to indulge in memes; they find, as did Goebbels, that people’s attention spans are so short, their patience so tentative, and their intellects so shallow that they will be more readily swayed by brief “clips” and “slogans” than by sound reasoning. They have used the “I am not a scientist…” meme ad nauseam when discussing evolution and climate change during the 2014 mid-term election campaigns.

Practically all the media have pointed to this Republican habit. Last September 17, MSNBC reported: “Sen. Mark Rubio (R-Florida), for example, was asked how old he thinks the planet is. ‘I’m not a scientist, man,’ he replied. Gov. Rick Scott (R) was asked what he intended to do about the climate crisis threatening Florida. ‘I’m not a scientist,’ he responded. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was asked about the climate (change) deniers in his conference. ‘I’m not qualified to debate the science,’ he replied.” No, they do not want to debate evolution and climate change; they just want to retain that ol’ time ignorance that was so comfortable back in the Middle Ages. And they want to tear up the Earth for oil, coal and (in the Amazon) gold, at the behest of their billionaire supporters.

The depressing truth about the meme approach used by these political hucksters is that…it worked. The people…the American populace…my fellow citizens, or the majority of those who voted anyway, swallowed it. And now, not just they but the rest of us, here in the USA and around the world, must pay the price. For, you see, the International Panel on Climate Change released three reports between last March and October on the current condition of our planet and its prospects for the future if nothing is done to ameliorate the consequences of inaction. In spite of the detailed proofs of the already existing effects of global warming, as prepared by hundreds of scientists and reviewers, there are still a helluva lot of determined ostriches across our land and the rest of the world who are dooming us to an unbearable future. Here is one paragraph from the INCC’s third report press release:

“A total of 309 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors, representing 70 countries, were selected to produce the Working Group II report. They enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors; and a total of 1,729 expert and government reviewers provided comments on drafts of the report. For the Fifth Assessment Report as a whole, a total of 837 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors participated.”

There are several reasons Democrats have lost elections, especially for the presidency, which really is just a popularity contest dependent more upon the candidates’ barbers and haberdashers than their ideas. However, the only reason I think is pertinent here is that most of the Democratic presidential contenders were too intelligent for the average American. I am nearing my 75th year, so I can only trace this perception back to Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Al Gore and John Kerry. I believe the candidacies of these nominees were negatively affected by their being perceived as too intellectual. Particularly during John Kerry’s minutes at the debates, I thought too many of his responses–even though I understood them and agreed with them–were above many voters’ heads and were not concise enough. While it is true that Goebbels-style “memes” are toxic to democracy, it is also true that argument threads that extend too long are toxic for a political campaign. Nonetheless, those men stuck to their intellectual idealism, and I will continue to do the same.

When I initiated this blog, I resolved to avoid political commentary, and I hope I won’t break that resolution again. This is a time, however, that tries my soul.



One response to this post.

  1. Yes, trying times. When discussion of climate change comes up, I also say, “I’m not a scientist,” but I follow that with “Nearly all scientists agree, however, that…” Republicans should follow their “I’m not a scientist” statements with “so I will go with what the vast majority of scientists say and change my stance on global warming.”

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