Washington Center

Toxic Rhetoric

Day and Time: 
Tuesdays, 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Semester Dates: 
January 9 to April 17, 2018
Semester Elective

The valorization of the down-to-earth simplicity of the everyman is a mainstay of American politics; even Ivy League educated public servants affect the pose of being "just like us" as a means to discredit their critics and win political support for their ideas. To label someone as "elite" ("a latte-drinking, Volvo-driving, egg-headed, French loving, sushi-eater") whether a politician, a reporter or an expert is to discredit the authenticity of his or her ideas. Elites are not to be trusted, and expertise is dangerous; intellectuals twist the facts and "hold average people in contempt." Conversely, the masses are considered by “educated” elites as ignorant, backward, rural, chauvinistic and bigoted.  In this class we will explore both the roots of anti-intellectualism and its contemporary manifestations in the toxic rhetoric that currently dominates American political culture.  To do this, we will immerse ourselves in some of the divergent media environments and eco-systems which feed the culture of American politics, including film, television, radio, blogs, print media, memes, posts, comments, twits, etc., as well as academic literature.  The syllabus, as it stands, can and will be altered according to current events, and these current events will be used to supplement our weekly discussions and analysis.

Draft Syllabus

Course ID: