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Title: How America Lost Faith in Expertise
Source: Foreign Affairs
URL Source: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/arti ... w-america-lost-faith-expertise
Published: Mar 30, 2017
Author: Tom Nichols
Post Date: 2019-08-11 07:57:07 by A Pole
Keywords: experts, propaganda, democracy
Views: 27
Comments: 1

In 2014, following the Russian invasion of Crimea, The Washington Post published the results of a poll that asked Americans about whether the United States should intervene militarily in Ukraine. Only one in six could identify Ukraine on a map; the median response was off by about 1,800 miles. But this lack of knowledge did not stop people from expressing pointed views. In fact, the respondents favored intervention in direct proportion to their ignorance. Put another way, the people who thought Ukraine was located in Latin America or Australia were the most enthusiastic about using military force there.

The following year, Public Policy Polling asked a broad sample of Democratic and Republican primary voters whether they would support bombing Agrabah. Nearly a third of Republican respondents said they would, versus 13 percent who opposed the idea. Democratic preferences were roughly reversed; 36 percent were opposed, and 19 percent were in favor. Agrabah doesn’t exist. It’s the fictional country in the 1992 Disney film Aladdin. Liberals crowed that the poll showed Republicans’ aggressive tendencies. Conservatives countered that it showed Democrats’ reflexive pacifism. Experts in national security couldn’t fail to notice that 43 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats polled had an actual, defined view on bombing a place in a cartoon.

Increasingly, incidents like this are the norm rather than the exception. It’s not just that people don’t know a lot about science or politics or geography. They don’t, but that’s an old problem. The bigger concern today is that Americans have reached a point where ignorance—at least regarding what is generally considered established knowledge in public policy—is seen as an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to demonstrate their independence from nefarious elites—and insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong.

This isn’t the same thing as the traditional American distaste for intellectuals and know-it-alls. I’m a professor, and I get it: most people don’t like professors. And I’m used to people disagreeing with me on lots of things. Principled, informed arguments are a sign of intellectual health and vitality in a democracy. I’m worried because we no longer have those kinds of arguments, just angry shouting matches.

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IMHO, the lost of trust in experts, came in part because many of them became dishonest propagandists and because thanks to Internet, common people were able to notice it.

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#1. To: A Pole (#0)

You are correct. "Expertise" was turned, for awhile, into an "opinion license". Only if you were an "expert" would people permit you to have an opinion. The natural, and inevitable, reaction to that by a free people was to downgrade the importance of expertise to meaninglessness.

It's just like voting. People who believe themselves superior speak of restricting the franchise to the "informed". The response they get is to lose that argument every time when it comes to actual policy. Not because people want the uninformed deciding everything, but they'd rather include ignoramuses in the archive than let self-appointed "experts" rule anything.

Vicomte13  posted on  2019-08-12   10:05:44 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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