This week White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer uttered what may be the most offensive garbage yet, claiming that Bashar al-Assad is worse than Hitler, because even Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons, at least not on his own people and not in their cities and villages. He’s right only if you agree with Hitler that the German Jews weren’t proper Germans, and yes, Hitler did the gassing in concentration camps, where it wouldn’t inconvenience any “real” Germans. Yeah, so much more orderly.
Of course his utterances were terrible, embarrassing, offensive and simply mind-blowingly ignorant. But now everyone is out for his blood and wants him fired. Really? That’s who you’re going to spend your energy on? Sean Spicer wasn’t denying the Holocaust. Sean Spicer simply has no understanding of what the Holocaust was. To demand his termination would be like dragging an eighteen-year-old in front of the firing squad because nobody ever taught him to read.
What on earth do you expect with America’s most famous ignoramus in the White House? An ignoramus is per definition not going to surround himself with knowledgeable people, because that would make his ignorance all the more obvious. And how did His Chicken-eyed Cluelessness get to the White House, anyway? By being famous. And who made him famous? Everyone who ever watched him on TV and everyone who ever read his books and never questioned him. All the talk show hosts who were too lazy to push back when he was spouting nonsense or lies, who just let him talk because he was good for ratings whatever he said.
If we’re going to be offended when someone doesn’t know what happened in Europe during World War Two, if we’re going to laugh at a Pennsylvania Senator for claiming that global warming is unavoidable as the earth spins ever closer to the sun, if we’re sick and tired of having to fight Christian fundamentalists who want to teach Creationism in the science classroom, we have to have a serious shift in our attitude toward ignorance.
We’ll have to accept, and accept out loud, that not all opinions are equal. We have to have the balls to tell people to their face when they’re wrong. We have to push back when someone lies to the public and we have to educate those who are uninformed. The young Sean Spicers of America need history lessons that actually teach the meat of what happened in WWII, not just dates of battles and the names of generals. The young Scott Perrys of America need to be taught basic astronomy, and someone needs to tell Creationists about the half-life of carbon.
Democracy doesn’t work when the voters have no clue, and never was this more evident than during the last presidential election. Nothing about electing Trump made any sense, other than his appeal to the lowest human need: the need to feel superior to The Other, the need for permission to be aggressive toward The Other. Nothing he said was based in fact. And now we’re acting all surprised when he isn’t keeping his promises and he’s putting conspiracy theorists and other knuckleheads in charge of government departments? Get real.
I mean it. We need to get real.
(Oh my god, I can’t even keep up with the nonsense! While writing this post I find out that the New York Times–the Times!–is hiring climate denier Bret Stephens for their opinion page!)
This kind of political correctness (for lack of a better term), this desire to cater to ignorance, this fear of seeming arrogant is bringing the country down fast. Now the New York Times is gone. Only the Washington Post is left standing, unless they also have a climate denier or a Creationist writing science columns that I’m not aware of. (I only read the headlines and the ten free articles I get on Flipboard every month.) The New York Times’ argument that there are a lot of folks out there who believe in Creationism or who are climate deniers, and their voices should be represented in the country’s most respected newspaper is ridiculous.
This article already knocks the NYT about with several parallel arguments: would you also hire Holocaust deniers, KKK wizards, etc? Democracy means that people have equal rights under the law–it doesn’t mean that all opinions are equal. Some opinions are simply bat-shit crazy, regardless of how many people hold them. We aren’t living in a post-factual world because there is so much nonsense being spewed–we’re living in a post-factual world because all the nonsense is taken seriously.
The rest of the world is living in the twenty-first century and looking forward, while America, always decades behind in most things to begin with, is now willfully going backwards. Never mind the twenty-first century or even the twentieth century. Hell, half the country isn’t even on board with the 1860’s yet (Darwin’s Origins of Species was published in 1859).
Opinions about subjective matters–like the importance of Hemingway to American literature or whether or not Brussels sprouts are edible–are debatable, and sure, religious topics like Creationism are debatable within a religious context, but facts are facts, and if you have no understanding of the actual planet, its actual age and its actual changes, your opinion is irrelevant to the conversation around actual climate policy or science in the classroom. If this country is to move forward, we have to commit to reality and stop wasting time and attention on nonsense. The earth depends on it–the stakes don’t get any higher than this.