Esteban del Mal's Reviews > Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free

Idiot America by Charles P. Pierce
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Jul 27, 10

bookshelves: americana, non-fiction, when-the-world-was-new
Read from July 17 to 27, 2010 — I own a copy, read count: 1

Facts are a matter of opinion and opinion is shaped by the most adept, if cracked, demagogues. Still, hasn't it always been thus?

"Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about." -- Mark Twain
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Reading Progress

07/17/2010 page 45
15.0% "He's preaching to the choir, but I really like his voice."
07/22/2010 page 125
41.0% "Rules for modern pundits (devised by Professor Andrew Cline of Missouri State University): 1. Never be dull; 2. Embrace willfully ignorant simplicity; 3. The American public is stupid -- treat them that way; 4. Always ignore the facts and the public record when it is convenient to do so."
07/24/2010 page 200
66.0% "Science leads you to killing people. -- Ben Stein"
07/27/2010 page 270
89.0% "But Idiot America is a collaborative effort, the results of millions of decisions made and not made, to reduce everything to salesmanship. Debate becomes corrupted argument, in which every point of view is just another product, no better or worse than all the others, and informed citizenship is abandoned to the marketplace."
07/27/2010 page 299
98.0% "The marketplace of ideas -- once as unruly as a Moroccan bazaar -- has become as regimented in its design and operation as any Wal-Mart. We know by instinct now in which aisles we can find the products that make us the most comfortable. Expertise is distrusted, competence derided, reason disrespected."

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Mariel (new)

Mariel Papa Smurf made Smurfette for more sinister reasons than anyone knew.


Mark Facts are a matter of opinion and opinion is shaped by the most adept, if cracked, demagogues.

Your characterization of human psychology is no doubt valid and insightful, but I'm not sure "it's always been thus" to the same degree.
I'd still rather crankily insist that opinions are a matter of opinion, and they're the things that need not be tethered to the real world or uninfected by deranged, toxic fantasy.

Facts are, on the other hand, a matter of reality, and adopting the opinion that gravity does not exist will not cause you to float off into space.

I know your point is just to affirm that people's (usually wildly distorted) perceptions of reality have always been influenced, per Twain, by the ignorant, bellicose psychopath who yells most loudly -- and I agree -- but I don't think it's ever been so comprehensively and exhaustively implemented through universal lobotomization and 24/7 mind control as in the current era.

And yes, Mariel, I think one should always be suspicious of a patriarchal society of diminutive blue mutants that somehow contains only one female.


Esteban del Mal Hi, Mark. Thanks for the comment. My reply will be brief because I'm tired. I just wanted to acknowledge your thoughts while they're on my mind, otherwise I'll forget about them completely because I'm easily distracted and work a lot.

I would say that we human beings deserve what we have and are incapable of anything more. I would also say that each generation thinks itself somehow remarkable and to attribute more willful ignorance to this particular generation than any preceding it is not only a mistake but a sort of perverse hubris. I would say that as idealists (which I count myself amongst, no matter how blunted) age we settle into an easy curmudgeonly, judgemental repose, like this author who has been marketed to fellow and like-minded curmudgeons.

I like your profile blurb.


Mark Hi, Esteban,

I have expressed my concurring opinion in my review of this very book that we (Americans, in particular) are hubristically deluded in convincing ourselves of our exceptionalism.

The human genome hasn't changed much in time out of mind (and I'm certainly out of mine), nor is it more than .4% different from that of a chimpanzee, in any case. I guess what I think *has* changed qualitatively is our technology, and in particular the efficacy of the psychiatric and neuroscientific arsenal available to the usual bunch of bellicose troglodytes (the ones who always find themselves in charge), to effect mindless, self-defeating acquiescence in and enthusiasm for an agenda intended actually to subject them to virtual genocide, on the part of the population at large. It does take some degree of sophistication to cancel out the survival instinct. (I say this as a retired scientist and born-again Luddite, fully repentant of whatever inconsequential contribution he may have made to the arsenal of technology applicable to changing the ground rules of civilization, before realizing that there is no technology that is not heinously abused by the worst among us.) (I could actually "a tale unfold"... but I won't.) So you're right: this is an artifact of my declining into senescent "curmudgeon-hood," as have others who find Pierce's "speaking of truth to idiocy" cathartic, just because they do perceive that Americans have attained (or been driven to) a level of mental incompetence unprecedented in their history -- and something that could not have been inflicted upon them absent radical advances in the sophistication of mind control technology that could not have been brought to bear upon their forbears because it didn't then exist -- even as the technological wherewithal to destroy all of life on the planet did not really exist much before 1945. Technology *is* a game-changer, even if humans themselves don't much change in their genetic constitution.

Anyway, thanks for your amicable and well-reasoned reply. I hope I've adequately explained, though, why I don't think this is just another iteration of the same old game. Thanks, too, for the comment about my profile. You have me rather curious about yours, but you've marked it private, and I won't ask to intrude.


Esteban del Mal Mark, you have game and you're half-insane, just how I like 'em. We should be pals.

Now your comment up there, the opening barrage about Americans being hubristically deluded in our exceptionalism. Do you think it could be any other way? Why are we, as a people, so constituted at this particular point in the human story? Do you think if the continent had been colonized by the Maori that it'd be some sort of freethinking utopia? I don't. But then again I'm one of those pessimists. It doesn't mix well with my idealism.

And why do the demagogues find themselves at the top of the pyramid? Where else would a manipulator be than in a position to manipulate? And then, by dint of his/her capacity to manipulate, would not the manipulator rationalize that he/she is righteous and holy and all that other crap that feeds a zealous, rapacious, growing, and, in our case, a very nearly ahistorical nation-state? Indeed, I think that's the very thesis SpongeBob SquarePants.

And as for technology is it, as Sam Harris would have a believe, neutral? A mere tool? I dunno. I'm not convinced of that either. What sort of deranged mind dreamt up the gun, anyway? The atomic bomb? Funnel cakes?

No. We're in the thrall of instinct and at the mercy of historical inertia. It won't end well because it can't. That's my thinking. But I do admire the progressive spirit. It has bolstered me plenty of times because even I can't believe completely what I just asserted. I just mostly believe it. I find that life is easier when I give myself over to the notion, so maybe I'm just biased.


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