The Consummation of Ignorance and Arrogance
‘I was somewhat surprised to see your acknowledgment of von Hayek. I have not read his book myself; it is much read and discussed in this country, but praised mostly by the protagonists of free enterprise and unrestricted capitalism, while all leftists regard him as a reactionary.’—Letter from Analytic philosopher Rudolph Carnap to F.A. Hayek’s friend and also a philosopher Karl Popper.
In the introduction by Bruce Campbell to F.A. Hayek’s ‘The Road to Serfdom,’ (edition can be found in blog, ‘Reading 2011), Campbell goes through many of the receptions this book received in both Britain and in the US- but this one stood out as particularly interesting. Campbell goes on to point out that both the left and the right would be surprised by the inaccuracy of their misconceptions upon reading this text, but there is a similar issue that the beginning quote merely touches with a feather tip, but captures an overall tendency. Campbell goes on to cite those who ‘haven’t read Hayek but think that they already know what he is all about’ (pg. 6).
How often have you come across the vulgar manifestation of this tendency? I urge you to think back to the time when you heard someone say, ‘I hate (CNN, Fox News, Noam Chomsky, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore, anybody you want)’ who then immediately admits, with no glaring shame that he/she has never read the author, watched the program, seen the interviews, but the hatred is not only justified, but ‘fair’ because the person in question was critiqued (bashed, mocked) in a source ‘that I trust’? This, for some horrible reason is seen as completely practical in today’s discourse- which mostly is found in politics but can be found in other controversial issues.
As far as I’m concerned, if you haven’t read it yourself, seen it yourself, shut the hell up!! Now dear friends, I consider myself a libertarian-anarchist (as to whether left or right anarchist, a whole other blog, but for now, irrelevant to the purpose here), and yet I have read Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Thomas Sowell, George Lakoff, John Stossell, Bernard Goldberg. I have seen Michael Moore’s films along with the lower budgeted conservative reaction films. My point in this is not to showcase all the books I’ve read (I would have picked different authors to showcase that I assure you), but to demonstrate what I’m referring to in my righteous rage when I hear someone hate a commentator/theorist, etc. and then admit that they heard it on Media Matters, Daily Kos, mentioned on Limbaugh or O’Reilly.
Now this doesn’t include for example, Carnap’s admittance at the beginning of this piece, admitting you haven’t had firsthand experience and merely reiterate what seems to be a consensus of reception. The quote meant to highlight the more responsible way to address an issue/policy/figure you aren’t that familiar with. To admit ignorance but throw out some perceptions or report some others’ thoughts is not the arrogance I am arguing against, it is the overall reluctance to admit any kind of ignorance whatsoever. I have met liberals who detest Bill O’Reilly yet have never seen his show on Fox News nor read any of this books. I have met conservatives who hate Noam Chomsky because Limbaugh told them to and Limbaugh is a trusted source to them- so why not right?
This needs to stop….Take the time to find out for yourself what you think of these people in their own words. This does not mean you need to devote a summer in advanced study of Sarah Palin or Michael Moore, but watch one of the latter’s films, watch a speech of the former in its entirety or read one or two of her books. Be able to reference a firsthand source, not some commentator’s source. I can’t tell you how many times I have had a conception of something that was drastically overturned by actually taking the time to look up the actual document, quote, read the author in question, listen to the politician on his/her own turf. Try it and I’m sure you may be amazed.