In relation to Proctor’s work on ignorance of science, I just finished reading Naomi Oreskes’ and Erik Conway’s Merchants of Doubt, published in 2010. Their work builds on Proctor’s studies, which they cite. Oreskes and Conway detail how opposition groups and individuals built a “simulacrum” of mainstream science via an alternate universe of newsletters, magazines, journals, and conferences. Not unlike Proctor, who Kenyon says was inspired by the misinformation spread by pro-tobacco groups, Oreskes and Conway root their narrative of scientific ignorance in efforts that began in the 1950s with the tobacco industry.Merchants of Doubt is an excellent work on how a small group of hyper-Cold Warrior scientists become “merchants of doubt” on issues like tobacco risk, acid rain, the ozone hole, second-hand smoke, climate change. They even attacked the legacy of Rachel Carson, who had helped expose the dangers of DDT and other pesticides.
The credibility of those “merchants” derived from their older scientific credentials (generally they were physicists) and industry respectability, the latter of which was obtained primarily from weapons work. They banned together in “think tanks”, such as the George C. Marshall Institute, to give their skepticism the patina of community. I look forward to Jason Stahl‘s forthcoming work on conservatism and think tanks, Right Moves: The Conservative Think Tank in American Political Culture since 1945 (North Carolina Press, April 2016) which will expand our knowledge of collaborative, ideologically-inflected misinformation. These mimetic institutions create, in Oreskes’ and Conway’s words, a “Potemkin village populated, in only a few cases, with actual scientists.”
But the problem of ignorance is bigger than fostering controversy in relation to science. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a Robert Proctor fan, even though I haven’t yet read his famous study (it’s on my list for this year). And I too have some done some work on scientific ignorance, accidental and purposed, in relation to the anti-vaccination movement. As I attempted in that paper, the work of Oreskes, Conway, and Proctor get at a few deeper currents that cut across other streams of ignorance—namely, the issues of agency, power, and capitalism. In relation to those other streams, many also choose to know not, to know nothing, and to know little. It is the problem of anti-knowledge, and extends far beyond science and politics. The propagation of ignorance serves to empower some and disempower others, hence the need for political analyses, as will likely be seen in Stahl’s work.
There can be little doubt, as was shown in Oreskes’ and Conway’s book, that money, or monetary concerns, lies behind a fair portion of the merchandising of doubt. Indeed, the same Cold Warriors they study feared that new scientific work would cast doubt on capitalism as a viable world system. As such, numerous businessmen and industries funded the doubt merchants. Some of that heretofore hidden trail of think tank money will be exposed in Jane Mayer’s new book, Dark Money. Mayer’s expose focuses on “The Koch Brothers,” meaning the billionaire conservative activists, David and Charles. 
The harvesting of emotion in the service of power, politically or for commerce, is also troubling. Indeed, beyond Jacoby’s overwrought thesis, one could still argue that the United States seems to be in the midst of what could be called an Age of Emotion—i.e. Trump’s pandering, the Tea Party rage, raw Obama Hate, and the focused provocations of Wayne LaPierre. Our instant communication tools enable emotional extremes of rage and outrage. The distance embedded in those tools also enables, paradoxically, a lack of emotional knowledge, intelligence, and sensitivity. The newspapers, radio, television, Twitter, and Facebook reveal the expression of individual emotion and the ability to ignore the felt experience of others. It seems, at times, like democratized insensitivity. And this toxic mix of rage, hate, unreason, anti-reason, ideology, and anti-intellectualism forces one to consider these factors under the umbrella a ‘sensibility’—an anti-intellectual sensibility.
Next week I’ll follow this up with an historical exploration on the media and democratized ignorance. – TL
 Jacoby tried to take up the mantle of Richard Hofstadter, especially his famous 1962 work Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (New York: Random House-Vintage). But instead she created a personalized, nit-picky work that made those of us who really care about anti-intellectualism, ignorance, and ideology seem like, well, cranks. At best, Age of American Unreason is a highly readable introduction to those topics—that should be forgotten quickly once one moves on to more serious scholarly work. Jacoby’s book has been discussed here many times.
 Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010), 244. They cited Proctor’s The Golden Holocaust (2012), which they saw in manuscript form. Here’s an article on that book.
 Oreskes/Conway, 245. Jason published a guest post here on his work in March 2012.
 Mayer’s book, which I just heard about a few days ago, is set to be released next week, on January 19, by Penguin-Random House.