Chief book critic Michiko Kakutani tackled Susan Jacoby's "The Age of American Unreason," a jeremiad against American anti-intellectualism (often personified by Bush and conservatives) and used the book to give herself a boost onto her usual liberal high horse.
Kakutani accused conservatives of using "liberal" as an expletive, but in the next sentence hurled the word "neoconservative," a liberal expletive since the beginning of the Iraq War.
There are few subjects more timely than the one tackled by Susan Jacoby in her new book, "The Age of American Unreason," in which she asserts that "America is now ill with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism."
For more than a decade there have been growing symptoms of this affliction, from fundamentalist assaults on the teaching of evolution to the Bush administration's willful disavowal of expert opinion on global warming and strategies for prosecuting the war in Iraq. Conservatives have turned the term "intellectual," like the term " liberal," into a dirty word in politics (even though neo-conservative intellectuals played a formative role in making the case for war against Iraq); policy positions tend to get less attention than personality and tactics in the current presidential campaign; and the democratizing influence of the Internet is working to banish expertise altogether, making everyone an authority on everything. Traditional policy channels involving careful analysis and debate have been circumvented by the Bush White House in favor of bold, gut-level calls, and reasoned public discussions have increasingly given way to noisy partisan warfare among politicians, commentators and bloggers alike.
Kakutani doesn't mention left-wing anti-intellectual, anti-science fears over nuclear power (which even France has embraced), or genetic modification (what the excitable left calls "Frankenstein Foods"). Not to mention the embrace of apocalyptic visions of drowned cities and mass death as a result of global warming.