Sarah Palin and the cult of mediocrity


February 17, 2010 by 8junebugs

(I’m aware that a title like that is likely to pull in at least as many trolls as the ones I bounced from the post mentioning Mafia Wars. Yay for WordPress’s spam filters!)

Sarah Palin and the easily led automatons who think she’s the second coming scare the ever-loving crap out of me, and I’ll tell you why. They actively, loudly, derisively assert that setting aside evidence, logic, and reason makes them “real” and “better”…that determinedly NOT knowing about things makes them more knowledgeable, more qualified, more apt than someone more intellectually sophisticated.

Palin and her ilk are acting out the scariest Orwellian chapters of our high school canon, to say nothing of resurrecting the most reprehensible characters of Atlas Shrugged. They seek to know without thinking, to be experts without knowing, to lead inexpertly, and to be venerated for being “real Americans.”

So, if they’re the “real Americans,” what does that make me? A hippy commie socialist gay-loving tree-hugger? Do I have to actually be gay for that? And does it tip the scale in their direction that I’m not a vegan?



I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction. ~Ayn Rand, Anthem

(I posit that the Declaration and Constitution dudes would’ve dug Rand. I’m pretty sure that’s off-limits for my thesis, though.)

By working to be part of the intellectual elite (to say nothing of the environmentally conscious), I am of no interest to Palin’s crowd, and my rights, interests, and expectations are irrelevant. Because I demand evidence and citations and honest inquiry, I am clearly part of the problem. I seek to understand, for example, what words and concepts mean, instead of relying on my own perception of truth to negate empirical evidence (see: Hannity, who thinks that snowstorms in February somehow refute the fact that the last decade was the hottest on record…but who, oddly, doesn’t remark on why Dallas residents got a snow day last week.).

“In Oceania at the present day, Science, in the old sense, has almost ceased to exist. In Newspeak there is no word for ‘Science.’ The empirical method of thought, on which all the scientific achievements of the past were founded, is opposed to the most fundamental principles of Ingsoc.” ~George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 9

Palin and her party of teabaggers seek to undermine one of the most basic liberties we have: The freedom to think. The three-pound mass of brilliance I carry in my skull (like unto the one you carry around in yours) is designed to reason and understand and remember and question and respond, and asking me to set aside its incredible power is insulting. Intellectual inquiry is not a scary side effect of humanity — it is the very foundation of humanity, and what brought us down from the trees.

What? Sarah Palin doesn’t believe in evolution? Sorry…that she doesn’t believe in it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been scientifically proven. From her autobiography, Going Rogue: “But I believe that God created us. …I had just dared to mention the C-word: creationism. But I felt I was on solid factual ground.”

No. “I believe” = Faith. Faith ≠ Science. Feeling factual does not make you factual — knowing and using facts does that. Lots of people believe things that are simply not true. There’s nothing wrong with faith or even instinct, until you try to make people believe that those words mean something they do not mean.

“WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.” ~George Orwell, Book 1, Ch. 1 (emphasis mine)

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?… Has it ever occurred to your, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?… The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” ~George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 5  (emphasis mine)

Knowledge = knowing things empirically (by means of observation, experience, or experiment). Knowledge ≠ “I know because I know.” That boils down to an “I’m the mommy, that’s why” argument. I don’t know about you, but that didn’t work for me after the age of four. Palin expects her supporters to rebel against the leadership of law professor types who know what they’re talking about and follow her lead, even though she, proudly, doesn’t know what what she’s talking about. (Or she lies based on the expediency of the moment — I’m not always sure when she’s lying about something and when she just doesn’t have a clue.)

On what planet is that a reasonable request, to follow the lead of the person who knows the least? (Theoretically, the same planet on which one can consider oneself an advocate for people with disabilities but only bristle at the word “retarded” when someone from the other party uses it.*)

If I’m going to follow someone’s lead or advice, that person had damn well better know more than I do. (If I wanted to make deviled eggs the way Mom always made ’em, I called Mom. If want to make a souffle, though, I’m calling Alicia.) This anti-intellectual movement is ridiculous…and dangerous.

What’s killing me (and what threatens the Democratic majority in Congress) is that rejecting Orwellian pronouncements in favor of evaluating and understanding evidence connotes a commitment to academic rigor, the scientific process…and civil discourse. The same principles for which we’re so vilified are the ones that keep us from fighting back against baseless, useless, senseless attacks by simply saying, “No. You’re wrong.” These principles push us to give the other side the benefit of the doubt, to listen to what they have to say, as if an uninformed opinion deserves the same weight as fact, logic, and reasoned arguments.

“…they want us to pretend that we see the world as they pretend they see it. They need some sort of sanction from us.” ~Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (Hank Reardon to Dagny Taggart)

It does not deserve the same weight, and certainly not at the policy-making level. I don’t care if you believe that God created Adam and then Eve, or that fossil fuels are not exacerbating global warming (and the planet is warming — we’ve only changed the terminology to try to get you to understand it), or that smoking doesn’t cause cancer because you’ve smoked for 20 years and still don’t have it. You can believe whatever you want — you have a constitutionally protected right to be willfully ignorant and irrational.

Rationality is the recognition of the fact that nothing can alter the truth and nothing can take precedence over that act of perceiving it. ~Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

But do not — do NOT — attempt to foist your fact-free, stunted view of the world on the rest of the population. I do not accept Sarah Palin’s view that something can be true after scientific inquiry has proven it to be false. I do not accept that she is smart enough to be in a position of power when she can’t remember her own convictions without writing them on her hand. I do not accept that believing what a pundit tells you without questioning why they’re telling you and what they have to gain from getting you to believe them makes you an “informed” voter.

In short:

“It is not advisable, James, to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener.” ~Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (Francisco D’Anconia to James Taggart)

Take note, Palin supporters: You can do better. Your brain has the same three-pound Brilliance Capacity as mine. If you refuse to use it, don’t expect me to act as though you are using it.

*Someday, I may write about why Sarah Palin is a wretched advocate for a kid with Down Syndrome, and why I’m qualified to say that. This is not that day.


2 thoughts on “Sarah Palin and the cult of mediocrity

  1. Chris Hutchings says:

    “Common sense” and “the Will of The American People” have become red flags in any political discussion because of talking bobble-heads like Palin. She wants me to vilify words like “hope” and “change”? I’m supposed to dismiss 200 years of progress in the American political system and go back to bare bones political minimalism? Downsize and deregulate?

    Rub out those talking points on the palm of your hand and let’s get down to policy, Sarah. Remember to cite your sources… and folksy, substance-free quips don’t count as a source.

    • 8junebugs says:

      Welcome, Chris! Dude, your comment is apropos of everything today. I’ve got one of those substance-free-quippers in my own family, and she responds to the kind of know-nothing rhetoric Palin puts out. I suppose it’s because it’s easy…the talking points don’t require independent thought or inquiry.

      What a fantastic coup for people without the chops for or interest in rigorous debate.

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