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Book Report: Idiot America

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the FreeCharles P. Pierce

Dinosaurs with saddles and Terri Shiavo’s brain. I know you have wondered from time to time, how we have come to a place in our history where the Republican Majority Whip can stand up on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and say that the 1999 Columbine school massacre occurred because, “our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who are evolutionized out of some primordial soup of mud.” Or, where a U.S. Senator can declare, “The Earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth.” with a straight face and not be laughed out of his home state.

The answers to your questions are to be found in this short book by Charles Pierce, staff writer for the Boston Globe Magazine. Pierce traces the history of America’s cranks and snake oil salesmen through Ignatius Donnelly and the creation of Atlantis to Lou Dobbs and the NAFTA Superhighway. He follows the conspiracies of the Masons and Templars to the explanations of street-corner conspiracy theorists in Dealey Plaza. How did we come to believe that there are secret tunnels beneath the Denver International Airport holding clandestine bunkers for the 2012 apocalypse? Why do we decipher the cryptic Masonic murals? And don’t get me started on “Bluecipher” the evil blue mustang sculpture at the entrance to DIA.

We used to love our crackpots and zealots. John Harvey Kellog developed a large following by advocating vegetarianism, whole grains, peanut butter and yogurt enemas, but he was a crank. He was crazy as a bedbug, and we loved him for it. Today, our lovable eccentrics have morphed into the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and we actually believe the insane lies they spout. Ken Ham can now build a multi-million dollar Creation Museum and Noah’s Ark theme park in Kentucky to prove that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that there were teeny, tiny dinosaurs on the Ark. And, he can get $37.5 million in tax breaks to move the project along.

In his book, Pierce postulates the Three Great Premises of Idiot America:

  1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
  2. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.
  3. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.

In today’s world, fact is no longer determined by how much data or reason is behind a theory, fact is now determined by how many people you can get to believe your rant. If enough people can be made to believe that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, it matters little whether or not there is a factual basis for the claim. If you can get enough support for the claim that “climate change is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people“, the science is irrelevant. We can morph Creationism into Creation Science and further to Intelligent Design, and if we can garner enough support for our idiocy the theories cannot be refuted by facts. Due to the advent of teevee and the Internets, every fanatic can now become an authority. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a turn of the century hoax by the Russian secret police purporting to reveal a master plan by Jewish leaders to control the world. The document was debunked almost before it was released, yet a Google search today will reveal more than 200,000 hits for sites analyzing the “truthiness” of the Protocols.

In Idiot America, “Pierce asks how a country founded on intellectual curiosity has somehow deteriorated into a nation of simpletons more apt to vote for an American Idol contestant than a presidential candidate.” This is a book you will want to pick up if you have ever wondered just how we lost faith in science and became a nation of “dittoheads” who can ignore every relevant scientific fact and seriously discuss whether our president is likely a Kenyan-born Socialist bent on putting all conservatives in FEMA concentration camps.

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2 Responses

  1. Hey mister editor, I like your posts. They hit the nail right on the head. Especially this one; Idiot America.
    Keep up the good fight. I have been reading your posts quite a while now, and sure do enjoy them. To bad more people don’t have the good sense like you.

    It’s snowing and cold over here in western North Dakota.

    • Hey Guy,
      It’s snowing and cold here too, but not as cold as you get. I was over in Great Falls the last couple of days and it was chilly there too. What’s up in your part of Montana?

      Idiot America is a book you should pick up, you’d like it. We here at the Button Valley Bugle try to expose the idiots in Montana and National politics and after the last election, it looks like there will be plenty of fodder for our commentaries. The legislature isn’t even in session yet and the crazies can’t keep their mouths shut. So, try to stay warm out there in the hinterlands and if the weather gets too bad you can always stop by Button Valley where it’s always sunny and pleasant.

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