As everyone knows, leftists hate the US military. Recently, a left-wing media personality attacked General Mark Milley, who chairs the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying that “besides being a pig, he is stupid”.
Oh no. He wasn’t a leftist, he was Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. What sparked Carlson’s explosion was Milley’s testimony to Congress in which he said he thought it was important that “people in uniform have an open armband and read enough.”
The problem is obvious. Close-mindedness and ignorance have become core values for conservatives, and those who reject these values are the enemy no matter what they may have done in the service of the country.
Milley’s audience was part of an orchestrated fury at the “critical race theory” that has dominated right-wing media in recent months, receiving nearly 2,000 mentions on Fox News this year alone. It is often said that those who attack critical race theory have no idea what it is, but I disagree; they understand that there is some relationship between theory and claims that the United States has a history of racism and public policies that explicitly or implicitly widen racial disparities.
And these statements are undeniably true. The Tulsa Race Massacre took place, and it was just one incident among many. The Federal Housing Administration’s finance manual, in its 1938 edition, actually stated that “racially incompatible groups should not be allowed to live in the same communities.”
We can argue about the relevance of this context to current politics, but who would object to acknowledging simple facts?
The modern right. The modern right would argue. The current obsession with critical race theory is a cynical attempt to change the subject, distract from the very popular political initiatives of the Biden administration, and stoke the white anger that Republicans deny exists. But this is just one of the many issues where willful ignorance has become a test for anyone hoping to find political success in the Republican Party.
So, to be a respected Republican in the party, you have to deny the reality that human activities have caused climate change, or at the very least oppose any action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. We must reject, or at least express our skepticism with regard to the theory of evolution. And I’m not even going to start talking about things like the effectiveness of tax cuts.
What underlies this multidisciplinary commitment to ignorance? In each theme, the refusal to recognize reality seems to serve a particular interest. Those who deny climate change serve the interests of the fossil fuel industry; those who deny evolution deal with religious fundamentalists; the mysticism of tax cuts is a service to billionaires who donate campaign funds.
But there’s also, I would say, a side effect: accepting evidence and logic is kind of a universal value, and you can’t take it out of an area of research without degrading it across the spectrum. That is, one cannot declare honesty about America’s racial history unacceptable and expect intellectual standards on other matters to be maintained. In the modern world of right-wing ideas, everything is political and there are no certain problems.
This politicization of everything inevitably creates immense tensions between the conservatives and the institutions which try to respect reality.
There are numerous studies that document the strong Democratic tendencies of American college professors, which is often taken as clear evidence of hiring bias. In Florida, a new law requires each state university to conduct an annual survey “which examines the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented”; the law doesn’t specifically require more Republicans to be hired, but it’s clearly a move in that direction.
An obvious counter-argument to bias attributions in hiring is self-selection: How many conservatives choose to pursue a career, for example, in sociology? Is prejudice about hiring the reason police seem to have backed Donald Trump with a disproportionate majority in the 2016 election, or is it just a reflection of the type of people who choose to pursue careers in the industry?
But beyond that, the modern Republican Party does not house people who believe in objectivity. A notable feature of academic partisanship research is the strong preference for Democrats in the hard sciences such as biology and chemistry; but is it really that hard to understand when Republicans reject science on so many fronts?
A recent study is surprised that even university finance departments are strongly pro-democratic. Indeed, one would expect finance professors, some of whom have lucrative jobs as consultants on Wall Street, to be quite conservative. But even they let themselves be repelled by a party that has embarked on the zombie economy.
Which brings me back to General Milley. The US military traditionally prefers the Republican Party, but the modern military officer corps is highly educated, open-minded, and dare I say it, displays a certain intellectual bent, as these are attributes that help win wars. .
Unfortunately, these are also attributes that the modern Republican Party finds intolerable.
So something like Milley’s attack was inevitable. The right has staked everything on ignorance, and so it is inevitable that it will come into conflict with all the institutions – including the US military – that are trying to cultivate knowledge.
Originally translated from English by Paulo Migliacci
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