Friday, September 12, 2008

Dumbo -- In a Landslide!

It's a subject I keep circling back to, not because I find it encouraging or uplifting, but because it's just ubiquitous. Every day in every way I am reminded of it. The acclaim being accorded the bubble-headed Ms Moose-Gutter from Alaska is just the its latest manifestation, but even if this hadn't ever happened, I'd still have to confront it on the radio or TV constantly (while channel-surfing, of course, since I could hardly be expected to linger). What are we talking about here, this ubiquitous companion of daily life? Why, American stupidity, of course. This piece, which talked at length about a new book on the subject, Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter by Rick Shenkman is guaranteed to depress you. Alas, it documents an unstoppable trend: as a people we are pretty damn dumb and getting dumber. And that, brothers and sisters, does not bode well for democracy and our future.

Some exhibits:
  • half of us can name 4 characters from "The Simpsons," but less than a quarter can name more than one of the guaranteed rights in the First Amendment. (And only 1 in 1,000 can name all five.)
  • only 2 out of 5 voters can name all three branches of the federal government.
  • only 1 in 5 know that there are 100 federal senators.
  • only 1 in 7 can find Iraq on a map.
  • only one-fifth of Americans between ages 18-34 bother to keep up with current events.
Had enough? OK. I won't wallow in this anymore (today). But lemme just leave you with the five defining characteristics of American stupidity according to Shenkman:
  1. Ignorance -- I don't know about important news events or how government works
  2. Negligence -- and I'm not going to take the time to find out
  3. Wooden-headedness -- because I believe what I believe regardless of facts
  4. Short-sightedness -- and I'll support contradictory national policies against my own and the national interest
  5. Bone-headness -- because I'm a prisoner of my fears/hopes and easily snookered by absolute nonsense.
More details in the article. Cheerio!
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