Thomas Nast contrasts the reedy scholar with the bovine boxer, epitomizing the populist view of reading and study as antithetical to sport and athleticism. (Note the disproportionate heads and bodies, with the size of the head representing mental ability and the size of the body representing physical ability.)

Anti-intellectualism is hostility to and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectualism commonly expressed as deprecation of education and philosophy, and the dismissal of art, literature, and science as impractical, politically motivated, and even contemptible human pursuits.[1] Anti-intellectuals present themselves and are perceived as champions of common folk—populists against political and academic elitism—and tend to see educated people as a status class detached from the concerns of most people, and feel that intellectuals dominate political discourse and control higher education.[1]

Totalitarian governments manipulate and apply anti-intellectualism to repress political dissent.[2] During the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) and the following dictatorship (1939–1975) of General Francisco Franco, the reactionary repression of the White Terror (1936–1945) was notably anti-intellectual, with most of the 200,000 civilians killed being the Spanish intelligentsia, the politically active teachers and academics, artists and writers of the deposed Second Spanish Republic (1931–1939).[3] In the communist state of Democratic Kampuchea (1975–1979), the Khmer Rouge régime of Pol Pot condemned all of the non-communist intelligentsia to death in the Killing Fields.[4]

Ideological anti-intellectualism

The cultural re-organization of Cambodian society by the dictator Pol Pot created a government which tried to re-make its society anti-intellectual in what became known as Democratic Kampuchea (1975–1979), a de-industrialized, agricultural country
In the Night of the Long Batons (29 July 1966), the federal police physically purged politically-incorrect academics who opposed the right-wing military dictatorship of Juan Carlos Onganía (1966–1970) in Argentina from five faculties of the University of Buenos Aires

In the 20th century, societies have systematically removed intellectuals from power, to expediently end public political dissent. During the Cold War (1945–1991), the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (1948–1990) ostracized the philosopher Václav Havel as a politically-unreliable man unworthy of ordinary Czechs' trust; the post-communist Velvet Revolution (17 November – 29 December 1989) elected Havel president for ten years.[5] Ideologically-extreme dictatorships who mean to recreate a society such as the Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia (1975–1979) pre-emptively killed potential political opponents, especially the educated middle-class and the intelligentsia. To realize the Year Zero of Cambodian history, Khmer Rouge social engineering restructured the economy by de-industrialization and assassinated non-communist Cambodians suspected of "involvement in free-market activities" such as the urban professionals of society (physicians, attorneys, engineers, et al.) and people with political connections to foreign governments. The doctrine of Pol Pot identified the farmers as the true proletariat of Cambodia and the true representatives of the working class entitled to hold government power, hence the anti-intellectual purges.

In 1966, the anti-communist Argentine military dictatorship of General Juan Carlos Onganía (1966–1970) intervened at the University of Buenos Aires with the Night of the Long Batons to physically dislodge politically-dangerous academics from five university faculties. That expulsion to the exile of the academic intelligentsia became a national brain drain upon the society and economy of Argentina.[6][7] In opposition to the military repression of free speech, biochemist César Milstein said ironically: "Our country would be put in order, as soon as all the intellectuals who were meddling in the region were expelled".

However, anti-intellectualism is not always violent. Any social group can act anti-intellectually by discounting the humanist value to their society of intellect, intellectualism, and higher education.