Why Is The Right So Dumb?

Nathan Cofnas writes:

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) ranks the world’s universities based on objective criteria such as the number of publications they produce in Nature and Science and how many of their alumni have won Nobel Prizes or Fields Medals. It gives more weight to achievement in the hard sciences, which conservatives consider “real subjects,” than in the humanities. According to the ranking, 5 of the top 20 universities in the world are in California—the bluest and gayest state in America. In the top 50, there are 28 American universities, of which 25 are in blue states. The three in red states are Duke University (ranked 22nd in the US), the University of Texas at Austin (25th in the US), and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas (27th in the US). All three of these red-state universities are located in solidly blue cities (Durham, Austin, and Dallas), and none of them are conservative institutions—in fact, they are about as woke as their blue-state counterparts. The only relatively conservative university in the US that’s even listed on the ARWU is Brigham Young University, whose global ranking is in the 501–600 range. I say BYU is “relatively conservative” rather than “conservative” because it still leans liberal, with 61% of its political donors giving to liberal rather than conservative causes. If conservatives are just as smart and intellectual as liberals, why have they failed to create even a single major conservative-friendly university that is remotely competitive with the top liberal universities?

The right has a handful of think tanks that in some cases employ scholars who are as good as, or better than, those at elite universities. But these are relatively small operations. The annual expenditures at the conservative American Enterprise Institute are less than $50 million. At the Manhattan Institute, they’re less than $20 million. If conservatives seriously cared about building elite institutions of learning and scholarship, they could do better than this. The fact that they don’t is further evidence that they are not as intellectually oriented as liberals.

Tucker Carlson recently said: “Let’s keep dumb people and crazed partisan demagogues away from our financial system and our power grid. They can keep the sociology department—have fun. But why don’t you stay away from the fundamentals that keep the country running.” A liberal commentator would never say something like this, because most liberals understand that culture is influenced by ideas, and surrendering idea-generating institutions to the enemy is a bad strategy. Carlson himself is far more intelligent than most professors of sociology. But he knows that, to his conservative audience, the notion of studying social phenomena in a scholarly way (what sociology is supposed to be) is literally a punchline. The fact that conservative leaders often express this kind of attitude is evidence that the average conservative doesn’t get why ideas are important.

Journalism is another area in which conservatives display less intelligence and competence than liberals. In a moment of lucidity at the 2009 CPAC convention, Tucker Carlson lamented the fact that conservatives have been unable to create institutions like the New York Times. Over boos from the audience, he noted that “yes they are liberal, yes they twist it. But they are still out there finding the facts and bringing them to people.” He said that “conservatives need to mimic that in their own news organizations.” They should “not just interpret things they hear in the mainstream media but gather the news themselves.” And yet, 14 years later, after Carlson was fired from Fox News and the fetters were off, he started trumpeting fake news about UFOs and Barack Obama’s gay affair. He was ultimately pulled down to the level of his conservative audience.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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