During the last election, when asked his opinion about experts and intellectuals, Trump supporter Fiore Napolitano voiced a fairly common sentiment from his cohort, "I've got more brains in my little thumb." That made us wonder whether hostility to intellect is an underestimated feature of American politics, which prompted us to formulate some questions.
What's up, America? Why the qualms about erudition and expertise? Where does this wariness spring from, and what role did it play in the rise of Donald Trump — who was opposed by just about every intellectual associated with either party but whose supporters simply did not care about that issue?
We talk to the learned and those who loathe them, including writers and commentators, a neuroscientist, and a gun shop owner in a red-voting part of upstate New York. We quote a fiery pamphlet penned by a yeoman farmer from the Revolutionary Era, and we delve into the 1963 book that describes and frames this issue better and more enduringly than any other.
Jim O’Grady walks us through the centuries-long debate about intellectualism, elitism, and our reverence for the common man.
The United States of Anxiety is hosted by Kai Wright and produced by WNYC Studios.
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