Today, everyone knows everything.

How can this be, even though it’s clearly and preposterously absurd?

I think the author Tom Nichols gets it exactly right when he says the “increasingly democratic dissemination of information, rather than producing an educated public, has instead created an army of ill-informed and angry citizens who denounce intellectual achievement.”

He goes on to say that when ordinary citizens believe that no one knows more than anyone else, “democratic institutions themselves are in danger of falling either to populism or to technocracy or, in the worst case, a combination of both.

We are seeing this everywhere. On college campuses, in political campaigns, in debates on cable news, and even at local public hearings where dozens of ill-informed “experts” pontificate about subjects they know little or nothing about.

Attend any public hearing in California on any oil project…you’ll see.

Today, it is absolutely true that all voices, even the most ridiculous, demand to not only be heard but to be taken seriously. Indeed to be given equal seriousness to every other voice, regardless of the disparity in educational achievement. And any attempt to verify, or qualify the credibility of a person or group of people claiming to know things, are dismissed as hate-speech, fascism, or as Nichols suggests, “undemocratic elitism”.

In his book The Death of Expertise, Nichols calls attention to the campaign against established knowledge. I’d maybe add to the title and call it The Death of Expertise and Reasoned Debate.

For example:

  • We only have 12 years left until the world ends from climate change…if you disagree you are a climate denier.
  • We need to break our addiction to fossil fuels or our coastal cities will end up under water…if you disagree you are anti-science.
  • If you oppose abortion you hate women and obviously want to rule over them…
  • If you oppose higher taxes you’re anti-government and want potholes, dirty air, and anarchy…
  • If you support a secure border you’re not only xenophobic, you hate brown people…
  • If you are against Socialism you know nothing about Sweden and of course, you hate poor people…
  • If you support Capitalism, you’re obviously against the environment, hate poor people, and support Wall Street, not Main Street…
  • If you favor intervening militarily in Venezuela to end Maduro’s reign of terror on his own (brown) people, you’re a white imperialist…
  • If you wear a “Make America Great Again” hat, you hate blacks, women, Mexican, gays and you want to bring back Jim Crow, back-alley abortions, and slavery…
  • If you’re pro-Israel, you’re all about the Benjamins…
  • If you support Trump you are a sexist, bigot and a fascist who hates democracy and the rule of law…
  • If you believe children are best raised by a loving mother and father (who are married to each other), you’re a right-wing homophobic Christianist…
  • If you oppose gender-neutral bathrooms, you clearly hate transgender people…

And the list goes on and on. I’m sure you can add many examples to my list.

And it’s not only the death of expertise, as explained by Tom Nichol’s in his excellent book, it is also the death of reasoned debate, and, ironically, it is the death of tolerance.

All of this brings to my mind the famous quote by Ernest Hemingway who said: “Remember, everything is right until it’s wrong.

Indeed.