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Sunday, April 13 - Book Club
"The Age of American Unreason," by Susan Jacoby (2008) - Sunday, Apr. 13, 2008 4:00 p.m. - At Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Kingston Pike - NOTE: Susan was the speaker at our annual public meeting, in February.



Reference: http://www.susanjacoby.com/

This impassioned, tough-minded work of contemporary history paints a disturbing portrait of a mutant strain of public ignorance, anti-rationalism, and anti-intellectualism that has developed over the past four decades and now threatens the future of American democracy. Combining historical analysis with contemporary observation, Susan Jacoby dissects a culture at odds with America’s heritage of Enlightenment reason and with modern knowledge and science. With mordant wit, the author offers an unsparing indictment of the ways in which dumbness has been defined downward throughout American society—on the political right and the left. America’s endemic anti-intellectual tendencies have been exacerbated by a new species of semiconscious anti-rationalism, feeding on and fed by a popular culture of video images and unremitting noise that leaves no room for contemplation or logic.
The book surveys an anti-rational landscape extending from reality TV and “infantainment” videos for babies to a pseudo-intellectual universe of “junk thought.” This vast kingdom of junk thought reaches from semiliterate blogs of all political persuasions to institutions of so-called higher education that offer courses in “fat studies” and horror films but do not require students to obtain a thorough grounding in American and world history, science, and literature. Throughout our culture, disdain for logic and evidence is fostered by the infotainment media from television to the Web; aggressive anti-rational religious fundamentalism; poor public education; the intense politicization of intellectuals themselves; and—above all—a lazy and credulous public increasingly unwilling or unable to distinguish between fact and opinion.
Finally, the author argues that anti-rational government is not the product of a Machiavellian plot by “Washington” but is the inevitable result of “an overarching crisis of memory and knowledge” that has left many ordinary citizens and their elected representatives without the intellectual tools needed for sound public decision-making. The real question is not why politicians have lied to the public but why the public was so receptive and so passive when it heard the lies. At this crucial political juncture, The Age of American Unreason challenges Americans to face the painful truth about what our descent into intellectual laziness and our flight from reason have cost us as individuals and as a nation.
Susan Jacoby is the author of eight books, a frequent contributor to national magazines and newspapers, and the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2001 appointment as a fellow of the New York Public Library’s Center for Scholars and Writers. She is a panelist for On Faith, a blog published by The Washington Post and Newsweek. Jacoby is also program director of the Center for Inquiry-New York City, a rationalist think tank with offices in Lower Manhattan.




Posted by pking
Apr. 12, 2008