Television host and prominent reasonable person Mike Rowe unloaded on a man who attacked him on Facebook recently, taking his critic to task over the accusation that Rowe embraces Republican "anti-intellectualism" and turns a blind eye to white nationalism. He also parlayed the smear into an opportunity to advocate and model political restraint and humility among celebrities. Let's start with the comment that set Rowe off in the first place, courtesy of someone named Chuck Atkins:
"One of the tenants of white nationalism is that college educated people are academic elitests. Comment? No? I'm not surprised. You never take a political stand because you don’t want to alienate anybody. Its bad for business. I get it. But there is a current of anti intellectualism in this country - promoted by Republicans. Those people love you, and they think your initiative is their initiative. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is kickin our ass academically."
What's rich about this supercilious and judgmental attempted defense of intellectualism is that it manages to both misspell "elitists" and mistake "tenants" for "tenets" in its very first sentence. In a lengthy rejoinder, Rowe lets Atkins have it. Some highlights:
Since we’re being candid, allow me to say how much I dislike your post. Everything about it annoys me – your smug and snarky tone, your appalling grammar, your complete lack of evidence to support your claims, and of course, the overarching logical fallacy that informs your entire position. What really bugs me though, is the fact that you’re not entirely wrong. It’s true; I haven’t shared any political opinions this week, in part anyway, because doing so might very well be “bad for business.” What can I say? I work for half-a-dozen different companies, none of whom pay me to share my political opinions. I run a non-partisan foundation, I’m about to launch a new show on Facebook, and I’m very aware that celebrities pay a price for opening their big fat gobs. Gilbert Gottfried, Kathy Griffin, Colin Kaepernick, Milo Yiannopoulos…even that guy from Google who just got himself fired for mouthing off. There’s no getting around it – the first amendment does not guarantee the freedom to speak without consequences. And really, that’s fine by me. So no – I’m not going to share my personal feelings about Charlottesville, President Trump, or the current effort to remove thousands of statues of long dead soldiers from the public square. Not just because it’s “bad for business,” but because it’s annoying. I can’t think of a single celebrity whose political opinion I value, and I’m not going to assume the country feels any differently about mine
You know, I suspect I know of a book that Rowe might enjoy. He goes on to explain why he sees comments like Atkins' as "a far greater threat to the future of our country" than memorials to long-dead men, exposing and slamming the man's lazy demagoguery:
You say that White Nationalists believe that everyone who goes to college is an “academic elite.” You then say that Republicans promote “anti-intellectualism.” You offer no proof to support either claim, but it really doesn’t matter – your statements successfully connect two radically different organizations by alleging a shared belief. Thus, White Nationalists and The Republican Party suddenly have something in common – a contempt for higher education. Then, you make it personal. You say that Republicans “love” me because they believe that my initiative and “their” initiative are one and the same. But of course, “their” initiative is now the same initiative as White Nationalists. Very clever. Without offering a shred of evidence, you’ve implied that Republicans who support mikeroweWORKS do so because they believe I share their disdain for all things “intellectual.” And poof - just like that, Republicans, White Nationalists, and mikeroweWORKS are suddenly conflated, and the next thing you know, I’m off on a press tour to disavow rumors of my troubling association with the Nazis!
Rowe wraps up by highlighting the scourge of logical fallacies (offering bipartisan examples), and how they ruin our national discourse -- and strenuously defending his own organization, replete with some reasoned critiques of the shortcomings of contemporary American higher education:
MikeroweWORKS is a PR campaign for the skilled trades. For the last nine years, we’ve partnered with numerous trade schools, raised millions of dollars for work-ethic scholarships, and called attention to millions of jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. But that doesn’t mean we’re “anti-intellectual.” We're not even “anti-college.” We simply reject the popular notion that a four-year degree is the best path for the most people. And we’re hardly alone. Millions of reasonable people – Republicans and Democrats alike – are worried that our universities are doing a poor job of preparing students for the real world. They’re worried about activist professors, safe spaces, the rising cost of tuition, a growing contempt for history, and a simmering disregard of the first amendment. These people are concerned that our universities – once beacons of free speech – now pander to a relatively small percentage of students who can’t tolerate any political opinion that challenges their own. And they’re concerned – deeply concerned - that millions of good jobs are currently vacant that don’t require a four-year degree, or any of the catastrophic debt that comes with it. Again - these are not the concerns of “anti-intellectuals." They are the concerns of people who care about the future of the country.
He punctuates his righteous message with this meme:
As of this writing, Rowe's post has attracted thousands of comments and tens of thousands of 'likes.' This country would be much better off if his brand of common sense became far more common. I'll leave you with Rowe's lengthy 2013 interview with Reason, discussing his passionate views on higher education and jobs -- which he's championed for years: