"He is counting on us not having YouTube. That's how much he thinks we're stupid," Newt Gingrich yelled at Floridians a couple of days ago, before adding, tongue in jowl, "and we're not stupid."
Leaving aside the questionable link between YouTube and nonstupidity, Gingrich has a point. Mitt Romney does think we're stupid. Gingrich, on the other hand, knows we're stupid -- at least compared to Gingrich, whose ideas are so large only a head of his size can contain them. And they are both toeing the internal party line. The puppeteers of the GOP not only think we are stupid; they are counting on it. Having allegedly abandoned their Southern Strategy, which capitalized on niche stupidity, Republicans are now welcoming idiots of all diminutions, and doing everything possible to keep them that way.
"It's no wonder President Obama wants every kid to go to college," Rick Santorum carefully explained to some other Floridians last week. "The indoctrination that occurs in American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in America." Such indoctrination would presumably include critical thinking, which none of the candidates wants anybody doing, or geometry, which might have been what Gingrich was referring to when he accused Romney of thinking "the rest of us are too stupid to put the dots together." In addition to warning young Americans away from the evil secularism of biochem, Santorum also had a thought on charitable giving to alma maters: "Stop it."
Anti-intellectualism has long been in the GOP arsenal, going back to the name-calling of the original egghead, Adlai Stevenson II, and continuing to Rick Perry's spin of his inability to remember all the federal agencies he would eliminate (he did remember Education) by proudly declaring he was not a "Debater in Chief" like some people. But it is no longer enough not to be smart; an ideal voter must now be ill informed as well.
Last week, the conservative media watcher Brent Bozell announced the launch of Tell the Truth 2012, a $5 million campaign designed to get people to stop paying attention to anything. Bozell, who once likened Obama to a "skinny ghetto crackhead," called on the mainstream media to stop their "onslaught of character assassination" of the Republican candidates, which would require no longer quoting any of the Republican candidates. The program will be organized around the T-shirt meme "Don't believe the liberal media" -- the liberal media being all media outside of Fox News, which studies have shown* leaves viewers less informed than if they had watched no news at all.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, an egghead once said; it is better to have none at all.
*Speaking of studies, there was another one released last week that has direct bearing on this discussion, but I decided to leave it out. There was a lot of math.
Originally published in a slightly different form at Time.com, January 31, 2012