Newsweek recently printed a piece that tries to tie anti-intellectualism to rural America. The author makes the case, with little evidence, that climate change denial and anti-vaccine sentiments are part of the identity of people who live in rural America. Presumably, the author lives in an urban setting amongst people she considers to be more enlightened. She’s wrong about the rural/urban dichotomy in brain power, of course.
Her evidence is a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which shows Americans living in rural areas were less likely to have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The study, published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, showed the rate of first dose uptake was 58.5 percent for rural counties, compared with 75.4 percent in urban ones. The difference does not need to be attributed to anti-intellectualism. It could be explained by ordinary complacency. People in rural areas may, rightly or wrongly, have decided they have less reason to worry about Covid infections.
As a person who grew up in the smallest of small towns, I see no reason to perpetuate the stereotype of the backwards, backwoods hillbilly. Admittedly, as a boy growing up in a small-town, my friends and I did our best to perpetuate the myth, but we always meant that the dumb people lived even more remotely than us. You know, way out in the woods.
I have news for Newsweek and the author, Andrea Chipman, it goes deeper and broader than that. America, and by extension the world, is experiencing an epidemic of disdain and denial.
Last night 60 Minutes did a segment on the Birds are not real movement. According to 60 minutes, a million people are willing to endorse the idea that the birds in the sky are really spy drones.
This morning my newsfeed featured a piece by The Independent showing a video of a woman claiming Joe Biden is dead and being portrayed by actors wearing masks. The knuckleheaded woman in that piece is not the only one willing to seriously utter that particularly bizarre bit of nonsense.
Some people reject any and all discussion of climate change, even though it is a well-known fact that the climate does fluctuate over long periods of time.
Vaccines save lives, but that fact is somehow not stopping the tsunami of knuckleheaded vaccine deniers. By the way, the Covid epidemic is flagging, but it is not over.
People think it’s funny to deny the facts, and I too enjoy a good laugh at the rigidity of the academic world. Let’s face it, there are plenty of knuckleheads to laugh at in academia. However, we are facing a crisis of faith in the factual nature of our reality. What’s a biology teacher going to do when kids in his or her classroom refuse to admit that birds are real?
I believe in satire. I write satire when I write fiction, but good satire not only gives us a laugh. It makes a point. If the point of our current epidemic of satire is that nothing is real and everything is just fake, then we have taken our satire too far.
Proposed: Let’s get serious! Everything is not a joke! Let’s not teach our children the opposite!