Anti-intellectualism impedes US COVID-19 fight


Violating social distancing requirements, protesters gathered on Saturday afternoon, April 25, in Austin and Dallas of Texas, to rally against local stay-at-home orders and to demand Texas businesses reopen, according to local news portal the Austin American-Statesman.
Video clips circulating online show protesters holding signs calling COVID-19 “a hoax” with a crowd shouting “Arrest Bill Gates!”
During a “You Can’t Close America Rally” in Austin on April 18, some 300 protesters decried local government’s COVID-19 control measures. Protesters shouted “Fire Fauci!” during the rally and declared the virus “a hoax.”
Bill Gates, a philanthropist, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, US top medical expert on the coronavirus pandemic, have been targets of some right-wing campaigns in the US as both of them have been at odds with US President Donald Trump on the measures to contain coronavirus.
Such rallies reflect the prevailing anti-intellectualism in some parts of the US, where people have little scientific knowledge of COVID-19’s severity and of the function of vaccines. Some of them even believe in a conspiracy theory that says Bill Gates’s goal is to reduce global human population.
Anti-intellectualism is not new in the US, but the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus has exposed its existence in an unprecedentedly absurd way. President Trump has been exploiting populism, which drives anti-intellectualism further in the US.
The US is now trapped in a series of problems – governance, policy, anti-intellectualism, populism, white supremacy, and so on all looped together. The sequence to disentangle the loop is yet to be found due to severe political polarization.
Many people in the conservative states believe in Trump without a shadow of doubt. They take anything or anyone at odds with Trump as part of a political conspiracy, regardless if Trump is correct.
Such being the case, calls to poison control hotlines skyrocketed across the US as more Americans have questions about using bleach and other disinfectants to kill the coronavirus, after Trump suggested injecting disinfectant to the lung could be a treatment, Toronto-based CityNews reported Sunday. Even Canada has issued warnings regarding Trump’s suggested COVID-19 treatments.
It is unbelievable to see people in the US, the most powerful and most developed country both economically and technologically, make such nonsense.
Some argue all these phenomena reflect the degradation of the US. But there are still capable politicians who could better lead the US. If the US were hit by COVID-19 during Barack Obama’s tenure, it would have been a very different situation today.
The main factor leading to these astonishing phenomena in the US to a large extent lies in Trump being a very unusual president, who has made existing problems even more protruding.
For any country including the US, the more critical a crisis, the stronger the leadership it needs, leadership that can convey correct information, take effective measures, solidify public opinion, and unite the whole country to fight the pandemic. Trump is incapable of achieving that. Apart from Trump’s spreading of information that lacks a scientific basis, scenes such as the scramble for scarce resources between state and federal governments have also been witnessed, igniting the public’s anxiety and uncertainties over the outbreak. These have fueled some Americans’ willingness to attend public gatherings in an attempt to express their mood.
To some extent, the capacity of a government is matched by the people it governs. The kind of government it is and the policies it makes determine how the public – at least some of them – behave or believe. The Trump administration provokes populism and fans anti-intellectualism, which has contributed to its failure in effectively containing the coronavirus.
The US is the world’s largest economy, and it is strong and powerful in pharmaceutical and technologic sectors. There should not have been so many infections, so many deaths, nor such a massive economic and social impact, but all have become the truth and will continue. This is a tragedy for the US.
The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Lu Yuanzhi based on an interview with Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for US Studies at Fudan University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn
SourceGlobal Times