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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Tue Jul 23, 2013, 08:46 AM

20. Recently read "Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free"

by Charles P. Pierce.

I would recommend it.

An excerpt:

The rise of Idiot America, though, is essentially a war on expertise. It's not so much antimodernism or the distrust of the intellectual elites that Richard Hofstadter teased out of the national DNA, although both of those things are part of it. The rise of Idiot America today reflects—for profit, mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power—the breakdown of the consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people we should trust the least are the people who know best what they're talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a scientist, or a preacher, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.

This is how Idiot America engages itself. It decides, en masse, with a million keystrokes 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 turkeyneck 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." Nobody buys his books. Nobody puts him on cable. He's brilliant, surely, but no different from all the rest of us, poor fool.

How does it work? This is how it works. On August 21, 2005, a newspaper account of the intelligent design movement contained this remarkable sentence:

"They have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin's defenders firmly on the defensive."

"A politically savvy challenge to evolution" makes as much sense as conducting a Gallup poll on gravity or running someone for president on the Alchemy party ticket. It doesn't matter what percentage of people believe that they ought to be able to flap their arms and fly: none of them can. It doesn't matter how many votes your candidate got: he's not going to be able to turn lead into gold. The sentence is so errantly foolish that the only real news in it is where it appeared.

On the front page.

Of the New York Times.


http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13281-idiot-america-how-stupidity-became-a-virtue-in-the-land-of-the-free

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xchrom Jul 2013 OP
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