First, this is a letter about letters to the editor and those who unfailingly, even tiresomely comment on them, particularly Meredith Hunt and the “Group of Three” who haunt opinion commentaries of Mountain Xpress. You have only to read letters such as Mark Wonnacott’s “Abortion Protesters Should Go Home” on May 29 (99-plus comments), Jerry Sternberg’s “Gospel” of March 27 titled “Parsing the R-Word,” (58 comments) or anything I write to understand their attempts to use an inflation of “rights,” principally those of the First and Second Amendments, to turn the tables on “liberals” and reshape political discourse to their own ends.
It’s all part of the politics of resentment, of ongoing cultural wars and of a pervasive, modern anti-intellectualism that believes college is bad, professors worse, the curriculum tainted and students needlessly driven into ruinous debt. In fact, education likely is more vilified by Republicans than the media, and their contempt of “intellectuals” rivals that of ambitious women and “leftists,” namely anyone to the left of the alt-right. Moreover, Hunt and the “Gang of Three” bloggers profess a disdain for knowledge and learning, especially for great works of literature and the humanities and often share a “politically correct” populist belief that “my opinion is as good as yours,” especially if you’re an “expert.”
Yet Hunt and many like him, President Trump included, forever parade their “intelligence,” reading, achievements, philosophies and, yes, their writings in a quest for acceptance, approval and “intellectual” validation. Hunt, for example, proudly tells all that he is a fan of Patrick O’Brian’s historical fiction, the latter the operative word, and that he has written “sci-fi” pieces such as “Attack of the Gravid Amazons” and “Ships Passing in the Night: Romance and Marriage Between Lovers from Antisynchronous Worlds” in the Mad Scientist Journal, while other bloggers constantly refer to articles on websites often not juried or reviewed. All are not equal. Hunt hardly wants to be the “anonymous bad guy” he claims, but, instead, an arbiter of public policy and opinion, someone to be taken seriously, always the center of attention.
In all this, I do not think Hunt and the alt-right are all wrong nor should their backlash against universities and intellectuals be written off simply as a currently popular celebration of mindlessness, all part of the “cult of ignorance” now gripping science and education. Examination of the issues raised by Hunt and others, particularly that of abortion and freedom of speech, often is good not only for civil and public discourse but also for our democracy. In fact, I likely will read his Mad Scientist writings and, like him, fondly remember how much I liked and read sci-fi writers like Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and H.G. Wells. Along with Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Arthur Clarke’s adapted 2001: A Space Odyssey, they entertained my adolescent mind and gave me much early intellectual stimulation.
I am sure that, in aping, Trump-like fashion, Meredith “Mick” Hunt and others will find a response irresistible, even necessary, but, unlike the president, I will not tweet them that way.
— Milton Ready