Agnotology and the Know-Nothing Party: Then and Now
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Belligerent ignorance has always proved strategic in the hegemonic goals of empire. The imperial history of the present is no exception. The Know-Nothing Party was founded in the USA in 1843, a pivotal year in America’s history of territorial expansion. It was disbanded as a national political party in the no-less pivotal year of 1860, a year in which patriotic gore would turn on itself as the grossly misnamed Civil War. Nonetheless, the political and ideological tenets of the Know-Nothing Party endure with global repercussions in the twenty-first century. The literary and historiographic diagnoses of this deliberate bellicosity founded on the cultivation of ignorance have ranged from poetic to critical discourse starting in the nineteenth century. Nonetheless, in the twenty-first century, what the Germans termed schrecklichkeit (“ruthless terror”) to describe the horrors of World War I continues to be visited on peoples and nations targeted by imperial hubris and economic rapacity through a cynical strategy of expediently manufactured ignorance. Keywords: agnotology, doublespeak, empire, epistemology, hegemony, media, realpolitik, xenophobia.
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