Credentialism is pretty gross. Then again, so is anointing anyone and everyone an expert – or even just a well-informed person with a valid opinion – simply because they're saying what you want to hear.
In the past couple weeks House Republicans have brought to testify before Congress, among others, Diamond & Silk, Gateway Pundit, and most recently, Candace Owens of Charlie Kirk's wet diaper of a pressure group TP USA. Owens achieved her greatest mainstream fame (which is to say, outside of right-wing social media circles) when she spent a minute defending Hitler on stage during a TPUSA event.
The most amusing thing about Kirk and Owens is that both are college dropouts. Kirk barely even went to college before quitting, while Owens couldn't handle the intense academic rigors of University of Rhode Island. Yet not only are they the right's great spokespeople for what's happening On Campus these days (hint: exactly what old white Fox News addicts suspect! Cultural Marxism! Silencing important conservative voices!) but here we have Owens literally testifying to Congress about important historical events.
The lack of credentials does not preclude one from having an important and useful intellectual contribution to make, nor does the presence of a credential – I have a goddamn Ph.D., to cite one useful example – mean that one is correct or has useful intellectual contributions to make. I could do 100,000 words on books and articles that are not just good, interesting reads but advance our understanding of the world in important ways, all written by people with no particular credentials. Useful knowledge about history can be and often is provided by people who aren't Official Historians with a degree and a job title to prove it.
The fundamental problem with people like Owens, and the right's infatuation with them, is not that they lack college degrees or other credentials; it is that Owens has absolutely no goddamn idea what she's talking about. At all. She gets the most basic facts wrong. Her arguments do not make logical sense even if considered in a vacuum. Her basic strategy is to define a concept incorrectly and then apply the incorrect definition to historical facts that are misrepresented. Like everything the right wing "Expert" machine churns out, everything she says and writes is utterly without redeeming value. It's entertainment for old white people. It is to informative non-fiction writing what Fox News is to journalism; being correct isn't even the point.
You might say, with some justification, "Who the hell is Candace Owens and who gives a shit." It is dangerous to underrate, though, just how important the redefinition of expertise is to modern conservatism. A "historian" is whoever is repeating the interpretation of history that you would prefer to believe is true. And they use the egalitarian impulse – Hey, does someone need a fancy-pants Ph.D. in order to be correct? – to great advantage. That is a very useful red herring, because of course the answer is No. No degree is needed to state facts correctly or offer a valid interpretation of history. But that rhetorical trick overlooks the fact that the speaker, Owens in this instance, is completely wrong about everything. She is not wrong because she didn't finish college – she is wrong because everything she says and believes is wrong.
"Credentialism is Elitism" is a useful defense for the right because 99.9% of us have no special expertise or credential to speak on any given topic. That's not wrong. It's also entirely beside the point. History can be written by the Person Off the Street, and it has been. But that's a far cry from saying that it can be written by anyone and everyone. Go find a goddamn library and write something that isn't completely incorrect and based on fallacious, bad-faith arguments and no one will even feel the need to ask if the author went to college.