Dirty Jobs and The Way I Heard It podcast host Mike Rowe does not take kindly to Facebook commenters who suggest he might have sympathy for "white supremacists," one unfortunate fellow discovered Wednesday morning.
In what can only be described as a "total floor-wiping" posted to the social media network, Rowe absolutely destroyed a man named Chuck Adkins who suggested that Rowe favored a sort-of anti-intellectualism, and was too afraid to confront a difficult political issue because Rowe feared alienating his fan base.
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.
And that's when Rowe brought the pain, though he started off with a concession — that his critic was, well, kind of right.
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."
Celebrities, Rowe says, do face consequences for taking sometimes extreme political stances, and as far as Rowe is concerned, that's perfectly acceptable; the First Amendment guarantees you can speak, but not that you'll be protected from other peoples' speech.
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."
But that's where Rowe drew the line — and also, where Rowe began to truly land his blows, saying that "comments like Chuck's" are one of the main reasons the country is in such dire straits, and suffering from such deep divisions (emphasis mine).
So, rather than blow myself up, or chime in with all the obvious observations about the cowardly scum in the pointy hats, I’m going to talk instead about my belief that comments like yours pose a far greater threat to the future of our country than the existence of a memorial to Thomas Jefferson, or a monument to George Washington. Ready?
Why? Well, for starters, because Chuck's insinuations allow people to draw logical lines between deplorable extremists, and people who are frequently labeled as "deplorable" for no reason.
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.
That means, of course, that by extension, Chuck is calling anyone who self-identifies as a Republican, but also supports Mike's charities, a "white nationalist," and suddenly, Mike Rowe himself is implicated in behavior he not only finds abhorrent, but has no connection to the good work he and others are doing.
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!
And that's when Rowe began to paint the larger picture: that even one man making these connections paves the way for more logical fallacy, and that's where things go off the rails, and well-meaning people are tarred-and-feathered for even mainstream political beliefs.
Far-fetched? Far from it. ... That’s how logical fallacies work. A flaw in reasoning or a mistaken belief undermines the logic of a conclusion, often leading to real-world consequences. And right now, logical fallacies are not limited to the warped beliefs of morons with tiki torches, and other morons calling for "more dead cops." Logical fallacies are everywhere.
As I type this, a Democrat on CNN is making an argument that says, "because Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, those Republicans now opposed to tearing down his memorial are ‘pro-slavery,’ and therefore aligned with the modern day KKK." That’s a logical fallacy.
Over on Fox, a Republican is arguing that "any Democrat who has not yet condemned the Senator from Missouri for publicly wishing that Donald Trump be assassinated, is guilty of wishing for the exact same thing." That’s a logical fallacy.
Yesterday, on The Science Channel, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, a noted astronomer, tweeted that the ability of scientists to accurately predict the solar eclipse, was proof that predictions of global warming were also accurate. That’s a logical fallacy.
He even used his "friend" Chuck as an example.
Want to hear another one? Imagine something like this, unfolding over on MSNBC.
“‘Good Evening, America, our top story tonight … Chuck Atkins is a racist! Why? Because he can’t spell. Just look at his grammar! In a recent post on Mike Rowe’s Facebook page, Mr. Atkins, while bemoaning America’s global academic standing, not only misspelled ‘elitist,’ he used ‘tenants’ when he meant ‘tenets.’ He neglected to use a hyphen in ‘anti-intellectual,’ and he misplaced several commas and apostrophes! But why is he a racist, you ask? Simple. Because everyone knows racists are ignorant. Chuck Atkins is clearly a poor speller. Poor spelling and grammar are signs of ignorance. Ergo – Chuck Atkins is a racist! Boom! The matter is settled!”
After that, Rowe brought the argument full circle, explaining to Chuck that this build up of logical fallacies eventually contributes to the anti-intellectualism that Chuck is so deeply concerned about.
There’s not much we can do about the news, but here on Facebook, I think we can do better. This isn’t Twitter. We’re not limited to a few inflammatory sentences and a flurry of emojis. Take a moment, Chuck. Think. Make a rational argument. Otherwise, just link us to a cat video. People love those, and they’re almost never "bad for business." (Unless of course, the cat gets hurt. People hate that.) Just don’t assume that people will care about your beliefs, if you’re not willing to back them up with some relevant facts and a rational conclusion. Here, for instance, are a few facts that matter to me, with respect to my foundation and the recurring charge of "fostering anti-intellectualism."
As for Chuck's charge of whether Rowe is fostering a hatred of the "academic elite" by promoting alternatives to college, well, Mike has an answer for that one, too: his work is not only important, its bipartisan.
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.
And those Republicans and Democrats — and laborers and public relations directors and volunteers and, yes, even those celebrities — are deeply concerned not about the influence of academic elites on higher education, but on the quality of education, and the quality of their constituents' lives.
Again – these are not the concerns of "anti-intellectuals." They are the concerns of people who care about the future of the country. I don’t know how many of these people are Republicans, but I can assure you that no one who actually supports my initiative is remotely confused about my feelings on education, because I’ve been crystal clear on that topic from the very beginning. To quote Thomas Jefferson, (while I still can,) "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free and live in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." On this point, my foundation does not equivocate.
Finally, Rowe drives it home.
In other words, Chuck, I have no idea what The White Nationalists think about my efforts, or the Republicans, the Democrats, the elitists, the Italians, the Presbyterians, the unions, or the self-proclaimed anti-intellectuals. And really, I couldn’t care less. My question is, why do you? Mike
Once the post gained popularity on Facebook, Mike returned with a couple of post-scripts, one apologizing for calling Chuck a lousy speller (but only because upon re-reading his post, Mike himself found a few spelling and grammar errors that he later corrected), and the other musing about how his own accusations might have also contributed to societal breakdown (he concluded that, even by his own standards, that was a stretch).
As for Chuck, well, he never showed up again.