I don't know when/how/why it started, but I was thinking of anti-intellectualism-the dislike, distrust or even hatred of those who actively seek to expand their knowledge in aspects of life. From Wikipedia:
Anti-intellectualism describes a sentiment of hostility towards, or mistrust of, intellectuals and intellectual pursuits. This may be expressed in various ways, such as attacks on the merits of science, education, art, or literature.[my emphasis]
Anti-intellectuals often perceive themselves as champions of the ordinary people and populism against elitism, especially academic elitism. These critics argue that highly educated people from an isolated social group tend to dominate political discourse and higher education (academia).
Anti-intellectualism can also be used as a term to criticize an educational system if it seems to place minimal emphasis on academic and intellectual accomplishment, or if a government has a tendency to formulate policies without consulting academic and scholarly study.
This highlighted paragraph shows instantly the perceived correlation between intellectuals and 'elites.' That is, elitism and intellectualism are almost interchangeable, at least in anti-intellectual circles. This is probably because both intellectuals and elitists are seen as 'out of touch' with the 'ordinary' folk, if for different reasons. Elitists are out of touch because of their wealth; they're the ones with the multiple houses, their BMWs and hummers, their monthly trips around the world and so on. Elitists are unable to connect with the ordinary citizens because their lifestyles are so different to the common peoples'. Intellectuals, on the other hand, are out of touch because their philosophies and interests don't resonate with the majority of other people. Why would an intellectual go to the footy, to the pub, throw a bbq when they're concerned with Renaissance art or studying some useless science? Hence, both elitists and intellectuals are enemies of the common man. The reason why the 'intellectual elite' exists (rather then intellectuals and elitist, asides from the obvious reduction in the number of syllables) is because of the idea that due to their wealth, elitists can pursue intellectual interests above the lowly commoners. Thus, according to anti-intellectuals, intellectualism and elitism go together. They are one and the same.
I checked to see who sees who as the 'elites.' What happens when you Google 'liberal elite'?
Wow. 1,220,000 hits. And 'conservative elite'?
You may notice that 'liberal elite' gets its own wikipedia entry.
In the United States the term liberal elite is a political buzzword used by conservatives to describe affluent, politically left-leaning people. It is commonly used with the pejorative implication that the people who support the rights of the working class are themselves members of the upper class, or upper middle class, and are therefore out of touch with the real needs of the people they claim to support and protect. In other English speaking societies, where the term "liberal" has a different meaning, the terms "elite" or "elitist" may still be used (sometimes in formations such as "left-wing elite" or "progressive elite") with similar implications[again, my emphasis]
It is considered a political disadvantage for a campaigning American politician to be associated in the minds of the electorate with the "liberal elite" because they would then seem to be not only out of step with mainstream opinion, but also privileged, and therefore unfamiliar with the concerns of the typical American voter. The liberal elite are often stereotyped as being snooty and condescending toward others, particularly those living in Middle America. Thus it is often used by many politicians to apply to their left-leaning opponents if they also live an affluent or upscale lifestyle.
The notion of a liberal elite is entirely false; liberals are the ones who advocate social equality and, President Obama put, "spreading the wealth." That hardly sounds elitist to me. Equally, the idea of a conservative elite is preposterous. What conservatives have in common are usually social ideals, not economic ones (most conservatives are neoliberals; however, neoliberalism isn't a prerequisite for social conservatism). If there is an 'elite' group of people, it exists amongst those politicians who work to 'spread' the wealth in favour of the already filthy rich, at the expense of the rest of the country. The Republican Party of America comes to mind; their tax cuts are always directed towards the richest 2%, which is surely a definition of elitism.
There is, however, a pretty obvious reason for the conservatives to build up a 'liberal elite' (whilst simultaneously acting on the behalf 0f big business): electoral gain. There is little more devastating for an aspiring politician then to be branded as being "elitist" and "out of touch." Once that brand sticks, it sticks hard. Popular and influential talk show hosts, such as Limbaugh and O'Reilly, ramp up the notion of liberals (and, by extension, Democrats) being "elitist" (usually for having IQs high than their ages, which is far higher then the average red-meat conservative), Republicans ramp up their attacks on their opponents as elitist and before liberals can collectively say "WTF?" 'Liberal elite' has its own wikipedia entry.
(I've also inadvertently gone off on a tangent with little relation to the original subject. Don't worry. Back on track)
Moving on, we can establish that anti-intellectualism resides in both the political left and right. The two most infamous examples of anti-intellectualism come courtesy of the left, albeit the authoritarian left. They are the Chinese cultural revolution, and the Khmer Rouge's rule of Cambodia. However, in in the West, anti-intellectualism has a stronger grounding in amongst conservatives. In America, anti-intellectualism and a total disdain for economic principles has pushed the Republican Party to adopt an economic philosophy that fundamentally ignores what qualified economists say on the issue. The notion of 'tax cuts generates a net increase in revenue' is anti-intellectual because it appeals to people's basest instincts (more money) whilst promising all public funding problems to be solved. This process refuses any intellectual and economic explanation (anti-intellectualism in the Republican Party in general is brilliantly examined in this journal article). A part of Sarah Palin's appeal to lifelong Republicans is her clear distain for science and education, and her regular Joan Sixpack folksiness.
In Australia, Lucy and Mickler summed up right-wing anti-intellectualism in their critique of Andrew Bolt. In essence, anti-intellectuals are collectively "an independent, straight-talking, bare-fisted brawler who can dish it out, week by week, to the grant-fed, latte-sipping, ABC-loving parasites who are the class enemies of the ordinary, hard-working Aussie battlers." A search of Newsbank and Bolt's articles mentioning 'intellectual' or 'academic' shows such people in entirely negative lights. The same results come for other Aussie battler columnists such as Akerman, Blair and Devine. You name an Australian righty columnist, chances are very likely that they will have a strong dislike to those well-educated. This, of course, appeals to their readership, which reflects the columnists' support for the Liberal Party. Iain Lygo, citing pollster Ross Cameron, writes that the Aussie battlers, in their support for Howard, were/are "less well educated, insular, conservative, and narrow minded, anti-elites in a big way...(and they) have a strong sense of discontent, of being ignored." This sums up the columnists readership (which, collectively, is highly influential) in just about every way.
On a different note, there is the question: are authoritarian regimes, by their nature, inherently anti-intellectual? My concise answer: absolutely. All communist and fascist regimes (if there's even a differences between the two) have, to varying extents all promoted a strong dislike of intellectuals. Mao and Pot have already been mentioned, however all authoritarian regimes have suppressed intellectuals, as they are more willing to question absolute rule. Ironically, the Nazis, despite their twisted social Darwinism, did a great deal of research into the human anatomy. Nazi scientists were the first in the world to discover the health effects of smoking. In this way, the Nazis promoted a narrow form of scientific pursuit.
Another, more controversial question can be raised; does religion promote anti-intellectualism? I would say "religion is not inherently anti-intellectual, but it an extremely powerful voice and justification for it." Religion's main crime against intellectualism is science; from house-imprisoning Galileo to teaching creationism in science classrooms, to banning stem cell research, religion has consistently undermined scientific pursuit. However, it is difficult to know how religion affects other forms of intellectualism (such as writing, arts, philosophy, etc)-whether it impedes these intellectual outlets, or actually enhances them.
This blogger raises the excellent point that educated, thinking minds are more likely to question authority figures, whether they be God or the Dear Leader. Hence, it is in the interest of organised religion and totalitarian countries to suppress all forms of intellectualism. SEB exposes that the Vatican (surprise, surprise) has a strong dislike of education, as it breeds skepticism of authority.
The results of anti-intellectualism are truly frightening. Extreme examples, such as the Cultural Revolution or the Rouge do exist, but anti-intellectualism affects us in far more subtle ways. From Wikipedia:
In the US 2000 Presidential Election, the media (particularly late night comics) portrayed Candidate Al Gore as a boring "brainiac" who spoke in a monotonous voice and jabbered on about numbers and figures that no one could understand. His supposed "claim to have invented the Internet" was widely ridiculed. It was the classic stereotype of a pompous, out-of-touch intellectual, and this perception arguably hurt Gore in the election. In the years since, debate between the left and right in America has often centered on the relation of the intellectual class to the public as a whole.[my emphasis]
Anti-intellectualism helped Bush Jr. win* the 2000 election. Anti-intellectualism brought us the Iraq War, generated trillions of dollars in debt, wrecked havoc with the US' human rights policies, wasted almost a decade of action on climate change and brought about genocide of African women through the global gag rule.
Sue Blue, regular commenter at Bay of Fundie, brilliantly summarises the threat of anti-intellectualism:
"If there’s one thing Bush accomplished, it was the empowerment of stupid people. Hey, if a moron can make it to the top Office in the country, it must be GOOD to be ignorant! It seems these people have made it a point of pride to proclaim their complete cluelessness at every opportunity. The logical extension of this is their suspicion of the educated and intelligent..."The eternal irony, of course, is that intellectuals are disproportionally the ones who founded our modern society. Scientists and inventors, from Galileo, to Newton to Edison to Baird, to were all intellectuals by default (although to varying degrees, obviously). Intellectuals were the ones who questioned the monarchy and the idea of divine rule, which paved the way for Westen democracy. The Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions-they were all propelled by intellectuals who specialised in countless various fields-whether it be arts, philosophy, science, or something more obscure but still vital.
The above paragraph is perhaps the best way to counter anti-intellectualism. If somebody is attacking the intellectual elite for undermining our values or for wasting taxpayers' money on frivolous pet projects, tell them "it is wasn't for intellectuals, we wouldn't have electricity or democracy, the life expectancy would be in the 30s..." and so on and so fourth. In America, it's easier because some of America's heroes were clear intellectuals. Ben Franklin rivaled Da Vinci in his repertoire of intellectual fields, whilst Martin Luther King had a doctorate in philosophy.
Coming to a conclusion, it is inevitable that anti-intellectualism will always survive, and in many cultures it will bloom into a grotesque way of life. The best we can to is limit its influence.
Also see here, here, here, here and here.
*I use 'win' in the loosest sense possible.