All the Known Unknowns and the Unknown Unknowns..ah Shades of Cheney and Bush and Rumsfeld
Perhaps many of us had enough American political history in high school or college to have a vague recollection of the 19th Century political party known as the Know Nothing Party. My vague recollection has always been that these were folks that were sort of cousins of the earlier Luddites….taking a stand against the knowledge and science of the modern age and of the elites (as they saw them) whom they did not understand.
In this age of anti-science and anti serious discourse based on facts and collections of informative reports, I thought I’d check out my impressions and see if the this century’s version of Know Nothingism matched my memory.
Well, not in the way I thought. That earlier party had the official name of the American Party. It stood for preventing new migrants from settling in the US. It was more or less focused on the desirability of American males as opposed to foreigners, and to that extent it matches with the alt right and the base of Donald J. Trump’s following. However, the emphasis of opposition was toward immigrants from South East Europe and Ireland because the party was primarily opposed to Roman Catholicism. It was believed that the followers of the Pope in Rome were planning to take over the country along with some members of Catholic immigrant communities (notably Irish and Italian but Catholics from other locales were coming in also).
Apparently the party was not opposed to knowledge or science as such. Of course, most ideologies based on stereotypes are deficient to some extent in objective information and knowledge, but unlike some today, that 19th Century group was not about denying scientific facts. Today we have people saying very specifically that climate science, or at least the version that says