I was very saddened to learn of the death of Chuck Dupree. Though I didn’t know him well, I admired his writing a great deal. He was an erudite guy whose writing was informed by a knowledge Arnold Toynbee, Richard Hofstadter, Bertrand Russell and Sigmund Freud, and he could could write authoritatively about ancient history, psychology, philosophy, technology and, of course, politics. In fact, the first post I ever read at Bad Attitudes one of Chuck’s pieces about Edward Gibbon. It got me hooked and made this blog one of my daily reads.
After I started blogging here, Chuck tutored me along on how to use this platform. He received more than a few emails and phone messages from me that began, “Hey, Chuck, I made another stupid and embarrassing mistake. How do I go in and fix it? Please help, quick!” Luckily for me, he always responded promptly and courteously, regardless of where he was or what he was doing (he called me back from a city bus in San Francisco one time en route to his eye doctor to help me fix some dumb mistake I had made). He was always patient and helpful, a really cool guy, and he would occasionally send an encouraging email, “Loved your latest! Keep ‘em coming!”
It’s a source of endless consternation to me that fuzzy headed boobs like David Brooks and Peggy Noonan are hailed as important thinkers, whereas genuinely insightful commentators are pushed to the margins and don’t receive the recognition they deserve. Oh well, such is life in our big dumb
republic empire, and which Chuck, as a devotee of Richard Hofstadter, well understood. I’d encourage you to visit Chuck’s old blog Belisarius Blogs! It tapers off around 2007, but it’s well with your time and attention to revisit (good writing always is). Besides, it's still relevant. Here’s an excerpt from a post called “Appealing to the Dolts” from 2007:
There was a time when the US was the best educated country in the world. Before that, Tocqueville reported, there was a time when even illiterate citizens understood how their government worked and were full participants in its implementation.But the American system has been about dumbing down the populace for several decades now. We’ve shifted our resources from education to incarceration, and our tax base from wealth to work, thus simultaneously freeing the rich from paying their fair share and providing them with cheap labor, either from convicts or from poorly educated, non-unionized workers.A process of dumbing down which the Bush-Cheney regime was more than happy to encourage and exploit, and their followers more than happy to go along with:
Basically, the Cheney administration is pandering to the dolts among us, those who’ve given up trying to understand the world because they’ve realized they’re not smart enough to do so. Disappointed by their own self-evaluations, they seek validation by forcing everyone else to believe the same historical lies they believe, and blaming their failure on oppression by the elite, by which they mean the smart.Change Cheney to Trump and Intelligent Design to climate change, and you have a description of Trumpism that could have been written five minutes ago (and should be pointed out to Clinton Democrats of the Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann school who seem to regard Trump as some sui generis phenomenon and have taken to the airwaves to issue apologies to George W. Bush). Unfortunately, Chuck won’t be here to witness the sordid and disastrous denouement of the psycho-social phenomenon he describes and that we are enduring now. It might be awful, but it will be interesting and provide loads of fodder for bloggers.
For example, take the concept of Intelligent Design, based on the idea that there are parts of the universe that are “irreducibly complex”—that is, too complex for stupid people to deal with. “I can’t understand it, therefore you’re not allowed to investigate it. If you figured it out, my belief system would be shown to be foolish.” This is the path the Roman Empire followed into the Dark Ages.