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September 24, 2011 • Editorials, Rants and Raves

Are We Suffering Through An Anti-Intellectualism Backlash?

A few months ago I had started writing up an article called “Study: ‘Being Green’ Isn’t About Saving the Planet, But Pushing an Elitist Agenda” which I will get to shortly … but today there was an article about the “10 Things That Are Killing Indie Music in 2011”. And #1? “Suspicion of intellectualism”.

The basis of the argument is that we are at a point where something that seems ‘smart’ shouldn’t be trusted, and should be rejected for being elitist:

any semblance of intellectualism — or any divergence from popular opinion, for that matter — tends to get you labelled a “hipster.” The message is clear: hipsters are pretentious and think they’re smarter than you, and we can’t be having that, can we?

This is symptomatic of the general anti-intellectualism that seems to have infected US culture over the past several decades — we’re increasingly suspicious of clever people, it seems, perhaps because of the constant diet of determinedly idiotic political discourse we’ve been fed since the Reagan administration. Whatever the case, we’re left with a culture where both intellectualism and its attendant polemicism are largely absent. People marveled at PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake this year because it actually said something — but it was very much the exception to the rule.

During the election seasons we always read about analysis of speeches to ensure that nothing reads above an 8th grade level in order not to alienate the mainstream audience. President Obama in particular drew ‘elitist’ criticism during the election of 2008, something he still has trouble shaking today. It has been a very successful tactic that has time and again painted those with intellectual pursuits as ‘not normal Americans’.

This view extends to those who pursue ‘green’ technology such as recycling, reduction of emissions, and organic foods as well as other things.

As the title of the article at Consumer Reports says, “Real men don’t tote reusable shopping bags.” It points to a study of ‘green’ habits, which looks at attitudes as well as practices.

From the main study, three things stand out:

Existing green marketing is either irrelevant or even alienating to most Americans. Half of Americans think the green and environmentally friendly products are marketed to “Crunchy Granola Hippies” or “Rich Elitist Snobs” rather than “Everyday Americans.”

High Costs of Green
The number?one barrier Americans claimed was holding them back from more sustainable behaviors was money. “One trip to the grocery store and you would see that green products can have as much as a 100% price premium. It’s as if we’re penalizing virtuous behaviors with a defacto sustainability tax,” says Bennett.

But price was far from the only thing preventing consumer behavior change. The Super Green minority who venture into the green space do so with a relatively high social and emotional cost. This segment reveals that they feel ostracized from their neighbors, families, and friends.

The barrier to adopting sustainable behaviors is even higher for men. Fully 82% of our respondents said going green is “more feminine than masculine.” More men identified as Green Rejecters, and the ranks of the Super Greens were dominated by women. This feminization holds men back from visible green behavior like using reusable grocery bags or carrying around reusable water bottles.

Personally I have constantly found myself annoyed at the ‘green tax’ – buying reusable products, non-processed foods, and so on costs much more than things that are bad for the environment and our bodies. In a down economy, seeing green efforts falter due to higher costs actually makes sense.

But I bristle at the others. The macho attitude is simply mind-boggling … somehow destroying our planet, filling landfills, wasting natural resources, and so on is ‘manly’. If that is the case then perhaps a new synonym for ‘manly’ should be ‘stupid’.

The final one REALLY bothers me … that the goals of recycling, avoiding dangerous chemicals and over-processed foods, saving resources, seeking non-destructive energy sources and so on are reserved only for “Crunchy Granola Hippies” or “Rich Elitist Snobs” seems to defy credulity. It is a sorry commentary on the state of our country that seeking preservation of our world would be something to look down upon … just as the desire for more knowledge. Perhaps Idiocracy was right after all.

What are your thoughts on all of this? Let us know in the comments!

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