Agnotology and the destruction of knowledge

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia highlight the possible epidemic of the growing cultural production of ignorance. Historians of science Robert N. Proctor and Jimena Canales have proposed that we are now so inundated with false informational venues through digital media that we need a compliment to epistemology which they call agnotology. Epistemology is of course the study of knowledge: the point being that we also need to study and analyze what we do not or are simply prevented from knowing. The putative catalyst for the events in Charlottesville is a familiar one the last few years: the removal of a Confederate monument from a public venue. Putting aside all the dimensions of the rise of White Nationalist and other so-called Alt-right groups and their intersections with the rise of Donald Trump, we must also understand that many of these monuments were erected after the end of Reconstruction in many former Confederate cities in an ideological push by Southern states to rewrite the history of the Civil War. The main point being the comprehensive new narrative that the Civil War was not fought for slavery but for the “noble cause” of freedom, states rights, etc. The results of this ideological propaganda, which was so dramatically captured in D.W. Griffith 1915 film, The Birth of Nation, included the honoring of Confederate heroes with public monuments. This narrative, which is still disseminated today is a great example of cultural ignorance at work. The mention of slavery as the cause of Southern rebellion is anathema to this day in much of the South, and no white Southern politician can expect to be elected but with the endorsement of this ideological explanation for the War between the States. Some have suggested (including Trump himself) that we always need to honor history, but that must always include the mechanism of agnotological critique. The issue is not the destruction of monuments but the destruction of cultural memory. Perhaps a statue of Robert E. Lee surrendering, honorably, to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia could replace the statue in Charlottesville.