We could write a history of the last 30 years as a history of rising gullibility. It ought to concern all of us who teach, since it’s the exact opposite of critical thinking. It might begin with that amiable old con man Reagan, who never seemed in any way believable but who was sold as the epitome of the effective politician. That’s when the gap between what we saw with our own eyes and what was being said widened.
It’s been on my mind because of the rise of Newt Gingrich, whose career marks a key turning point between the delusional but somehow gentile lies of the Reagan era and the wildly unbelievable lies of the current time. Reagan and his ilk told us that if we give our money to the rich it will come floating back down to us like manna from heaven; Michele Bachmann suspects FEMA is setting up concentration camps.
The real question is how the right has managed to successfully use the nonsense of supply side economics as a kind of foundation for an entire empire of nonsense that huge numbers of people find persuasive. It’s an ethos based gullibility, a belief that if the (right) person in authority says something it must be true, combined with a certain palette of pathos appeals, from fear to anger to paranoia and victimization.