Amanda Marcotte: Right-Wingers Are Promoting Revenge Against the Nerds

A specter is haunting conservatives, suggests Amanda Marcotte –- the specter of nerdiness. In a Wednesday article for AlterNet, Marcotte blasted the right’s supposed resentment of "things like evidence, rationality, and empiricism," as expressed in forums such as a recent National Review cover story critical of what its writer called America’s "extraordinarily puffed-up 'nerd' culture." In other words, black males whom conservatives dislike apparently include not just Barack Obama but also Steve Urkel.

Marcotte believes that the right has targeted nerds because their ideas "are a direct threat to the corporate and religious authorities who rightfully fear that evidence and reason could hurt [right-wingers’] profits and their hold on power." From Marcotte’s piece (emphasis added):

The mythology that conservatism is about promoting excellence and encouraging strivers is found throughout conservative media and literature…While it often manifests as contempt for the poor and the vulnerable, in the abstract this conservative enthusiasm for doing better could, in theory, be channeled productively toward actually pushing people to achieve.

So why are so many conservatives abandoning this enthusiasm for the exceptional in favor of what can only be described as jealous sniping aimed at people who are actually trying to expand the world creatively and scientifically?...

…[C]onservative pundits are exploiting their audiences, turning their class-based anger away from the people who are actually causing their economic problems, such as the Wall Street elite, and toward people who may be successful but who are not doing any harm to other Americans and are often trying to help them. If you can get your audiences to hate journalists and scientists, they won't hate the wealthy bankers who actually screwed them over.  

This was epitomized by the recent National Review story by Charles C. W. Cooke titled “Smarter Than Thou” in which he fussed and whined about “the extraordinarily puffed-up ‘nerd’ culture that has of late started to bloom across the United States”…

[Cooke] argues [that] the emphasis amongst liberals on things like evidence, rationality, and empiricism is purely insincere, nothing more than a way to signal that you are better than “southern, politically conservative, culturally traditional” types.

His evidence for the supposed stupidity lurking behind the glasses and nerdy demeanor of some MSNBC hosts and actual scientists is “they are attractive, accomplished, well paid, and loved.” It’s not actually an argument, it’s a temper tantrum. Cooke openly argues that the folks he targets are smart and cool for no other reason than to spite conservatives, because to admit that perhaps these people are simply being themselves—and that being smart and cool tends to be inherently rewarding—would be to admit that his base jealousy is being channeled for political ends…

…Audiences aren’t being asked to tear jealously at oil billionaires, even though they live a much more lavish lifestyle than bike-riding hipsters or bespectacled scientists. No, the targets of “you think you’re better than me, smartypants?” hate is being channeled at people who are sharing ideas that are a direct threat to the corporate and religious authorities who rightfully fear that evidence and reason could hurt their profits and their hold on power.

That’s why a $50 cocktail in the hands of a Koch brother is just a cocktail, but a $15 cocktail in the hand of Rachel Maddow is grounds for accusations of being high and mighty. Leadership on the right has very good reason to believe that if their followers actually engaged with the arguments being offered by those evidence-loving, reality-based liberals, they might start finding those arguments persuasive. So the key is to head it off at the pass…

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