Longacre: Ignorance is an essential tool for autocrats 


How many “Make America Great Again” voters does it take to win an election? One to actually vote and 30 million to scream that it was rigged. Too many of us are ruled by ignorance, fiction and fantasy, in that order. Ignorance, especially civic ignorance, is the raw material found here in abundance (according to David French’s “The Articulate Ignorance of Vivek Ramaswamy,” a 2018 survey found that most Americans could not pass the U.S. citizenship test). This is fertile ground for the MAGA leadership’s fiction and fantasy (read: “fact-free propaganda” and “conspiracy theories”).

Much of the ignorance above comes out of an environment including such things as poor-quality public education, lack of economic opportunity and, worst of all, the feeling of being forgotten. Here are two statements that, in one form or the other, pass for descriptions of fact: “Democrats are woke, satanic pedophiles” and “Your prosperity is just a tax cut away.” Nowhere is there any indication that the meaning of these statements is understood, let alone that they may be in need of corroborating evidence. It is this ignorance that provides the fuel for people like Donald Trump and his sycophants to propel their way to power.

One lesson that this crisis has taught those who love democracy is that its survival depends on reducing the amount of ignorance in our population through better education and economic opportunities and, by so doing, reducing the effectiveness of fiction and fantasy in the public square. A small dose of any one or even two may be OK, but taken together in larger doses, it can be lethal, not only for our democracy but possibly the world.

Frederick Longacre


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