Daily Bread for 9.7.21: Formation, General

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will see morning thundershowers with a high of 78. Sunrise is 6:27 AM and sunset 7:17 PM, for 12h 50m 22s of daytime.  The moon is new with 0.3% of its visible disk illuminated.

The Whitewater  Common Council meets at 6:30 PM.

 On this day in 1776, according to American colonial reports, Ezra Lee makes the world’s first submarine attack in the Turtle, attempting to attach a time bomb to the hull of HMS Eagle in New York Harbor.

Philip Bump writes When you prioritize anti-expert politics, you get reality-denying leaders:

In the abstract, it always seemed incongruous to refer to Donald Trump as “anti-elite.” The guy had billions of dollars and lived in a spacious penthouse suite in Manhattan at the top of a building that bore his name. But that’s not what “elite” meant in the context of Republican politics in 2015. What “elite” meant was that there was a party establishment that remained tethered — however shakily at times — to certain views of policy and politicking that followed from tradition and a shared sense of reality. What “anti-elite” meant was that someone was willing to chuck all of that, to treat the unserious complaints that filled hours of coverage on Fox News and hundreds of words on Breitbart as accurate and actionable. “Anti-elite” didn’t mean that someone had no power, it instead meant that the person was willing to elevate inaccurate, exciting and dangerous popular views over staid, boring and unexciting realities.

There’s not much use in spending a lot of time articulating how Trump manifested this particular sense of anti-elitism. The Washington Post’s fact-checking team spent years doing so. Trump would say and do things that his base wanted before he would say or do things that they didn’t, even if the latter was real and the former wasn’t. In doing so, he made it increasingly difficult for others in his party to do anything else. No one wanted to be the Republican telling the base uncomfortable truths when Trump was energetically telling them comfortable falsehoods.

Trump’s success was rooted not only in his willingness to say things that other Republicans wouldn’t but in the fact that the base of his party had been conditioned to treat establishment and expert opinions with suspicion. The pre-Trump GOP was walking a tricky path between casting the government as untrustworthy and unworthy of respect even as it often controlled all or part of that same government.


What he did, really, is create a system in which individual assessments of the pandemic are given primacy over actual expertise. His reinforcement of the idea that the experts had nothing more to offer compared with someone’s Facebook feed tied his own hands in an uncomfortable way: He would love to get credit for the vaccines that could contain the pandemic but, as he showed at a rally this month, is unwilling to tell his followers that the urgency of protection outweighs their interest in feeling as though they are smarter than medical professionals.

Some level formation, of structure and learning, is needed to make sense of a difficult subject.

Come now the conservative populists, who are convinced that there is no field, no topic, that requires more effort than their own ‘common sense.’  They ask — they demand — that others who have committed years of formal or self-study recognize unconsidered or ill-considered populist opinions as valid as any other opinion.

They sometimes simply don’t know what they don’t know. Their ignorance of substantive study is matched by their arrogance in insisting that substantive study doesn’t matter.  Someone might tell these conservative populists that arrogance invites Nemesis, but it would take some reading for them to make sense of those cautionary words.

Why have medicine, for example when any populist can spend a few moments on Facebook and diagnose any condition? (I’ve argued, for example, against amateur epidemiology, even when well-intentioned. See Whitewater’s Local Politics 2021 — COVID-19: Skepticism and Rhetoric.)

Modern medicine, architecture, or materials science requires dedicated study. Anyone, in any era, might have said he or she possessed ‘common sense.’ And yet, and yet, those people from those earlier times often lived short lives in filth and misery.

The conservative populists enjoy lives in an era of technological and scientific accomplishment dependent on the efforts of the very experts they denigrate.

When common sense fails for these populists, when they misread medical texts and legal documents, they make the excuse that the topics were too hard or too confusing for anyone to understand.  No and no again: the texts and documents were too hard only for those who had not committed the proper amount of study to the topic.

The lack of formation —of a learned foundation in politics, history, science, or even ordinary English usage — leaves the conservative populists unimpressive to anyone outside their circle.

Japanese Artist Transforms Cardboard into 3D Sculptures:

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2 years ago

[…] should be unsurprised: those without an adequate a moral or general formation will not allow someone to speak without interruption, and will be indifferent to any […]

2 years ago

[…] moral foundation. Candidly, they lack thorough reading in many areas. See from FREE WHITEWATER Formation, General and Formation, […]