“Stupid is as Stupid Does These words uttered by Forest Gump in the movie of the same name, pretty much describes Americans, at least in the eyes of Charles P. Pierce, in his book, “Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free.”

I would like to report that Pierce is off base in his assessment, but the book's first chapter, "Dinosaurs with Saddles," makes the truth painfully clear. The author correctly shows how Americans ignore or discount expertise in favor of “gut feelings.”

This is how Idiot America engages itself. It decides, en masse, with a million key strokes and clicks of the remote control, that because there are two sides to every question, they both must be right, or at least not wrong. And the words of an obscure biologist carry no more weight on the subject of biology than do the thunderations of some turkey neck preacher out of the Church of Christ’s Own Parking Structure in Deland, Florida. Less weight, in fact, because our scientist is an “expert” and, therefore, an “elitist.”

As Pierce points out, many Americans believe that freedom of speech means their opinions count just as much as an expert’s, they don’t, yet, that doesn’t stop them from believing things that are not only preposterous but just flat wrong. Twenty percent of Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth. A large number of these people vote on issues that affect all Americans.

The theory of evolution and global warming are just two glaring examples among many that Americans allow "gut-feeling" to override expertise, according to Pierce. Whether or not Pierce is correct, he raises the correct points and in a country where 75% of high school graduates never buy another book, it is not surprising.

I have only touched on one-example brought out by Pierce, but the entire book is filled with example after example of what stupidity in America is doing to the country. I characterize the book as a reference for assumptions because it lists examples of how the “gut” overrides concrete thinking and leads to division based on quackery, fiction and rumor.

Is "Idiot America" worth the read? To the informed, it is nothing surprising and strong verification of what they already know. For the "gut instinct" people it is just further proof that as a Dover, PA pastor said, “We’ve been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture.”

That sums it up nicely. Read and enjoy.

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Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 14, 2013 at 2:44pm

Nope! I am retired early. I was a straight news journalist although I also handled photo duties as well. You are right about the media. Like FOX news fair and balanced reporting. LOL What a crock, but the others aren't but a tad bit better. The 200 man March on Washington with Sarah Palin and Cruze drew 200 people. That's barely a picnic much less news. It was a non-story. Editors that ran it should be drawn and quartered.

Comment by Luara on October 14, 2013 at 1:09pm

So are you still working as a journalist or retired?  What department - news, science, sports ...

What I've noticed most about the media is that they distort stories to grab people's attention - generating artificial novelty, drama, fear.  So that ads get some of the attention. 

There's the Flynn effect that average IQ has been increasing over decades, contradicting the impression that people are getting stupider.  The grass looks greener than it is on the other side, in time as well as in space :)

Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 14, 2013 at 12:00pm

As a journalist for print, radio and television, I am concerned for the state of journalism today. When I went to J-school, we were taught to get the story. That's all. Just the facts and let the chips fall where they may. Today there are few if any privately owned newspapers left. The same could be said of network television. Today's corporate media dance to the tunes of corporate ownership even though they say they don't. The New York Times fired a Pulitzer Prize winner because he didn't toe the company line. Anything on the boob tube from news organizations is suspect. Editorials belong on the editorial page. The rest of the news should be nothing but the facts with no left or right lean.

Comment by Luara on October 14, 2013 at 10:52am

The newspapers are suffering because people get their news by video - TV or internet.  Video news is less thoughtful and gives you info at a slower speed than print.  And newspapers aren't particularly thoughtful or challenging writing. 

Comment by Luara on October 14, 2013 at 10:41am

TV is a big source of this stupidity.  As well as indoctrination that benefits advertisers.

So what does one do about it? 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 14, 2013 at 10:36am
Absolutely. As a former color printing person we took advantage of human beings natural appetite for visual stimuli.
Comment by Luara on October 14, 2013 at 10:19am

Video has a very powerful draw.  It plays on parts of us that are hardwired to pay attention to moving images and to color.  It's hard for books to compete with that. 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 14, 2013 at 10:11am
According research, more than half of Americans never read a book after graduating high school. Now, that is frightening. Other than genre based fiction, those that do read stay inclusively in those realms and rarely read nonfiction. These folks have the vote.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 8, 2013 at 7:46pm
I think it's Bill Engval. I know he says "Here's your sign," and I think he is the one that says "you can't fix stupid." It might be Ron White. I have a friend that is conspiracy oriented. Every piece of gibberish that hits publication brings new warnings from him. His latest is that UN is coming to get our guns.
Comment by Luara on October 8, 2013 at 9:17am

The USA has a distrust of government that goes way back in our history.  I think Charles Dickens mentions it in his writings from the 19th century. 

I see this a great deal in the little lefty town I live in - this paranoia about the evil government, and corrupt experts that amounts to a kind of conspiracy theory. 



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