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Book Review–Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free

April 4th, 2012 Comments off

“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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