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The Culture Wars Are Over and the Idiots Have Won A veteran journalist's acidically funny, righteously angry lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States. In the midst of a career-long quest to separate the smart from the pap, Charles Pierce had a defining moment at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where he observed a dinosaur. Wearing a saddle.... But wo The Culture Wars Are Over and the Idiots Have Won A veteran journalist's acidically funny, righteously angry lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States. In the midst of a career-long quest to separate the smart from the pap, Charles Pierce had a defining moment at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where he observed a dinosaur. Wearing a saddle.... But worse than this was when the proprietor exclaimed to a cheering crowd, “We are taking the dinosaurs back from the evolutionists!” He knew then and there it was time to try and salvage the Land of the Enlightened, buried somewhere in this new Home of the Uninformed. With his razor-sharp wit and erudite reasoning, Pierce delivers a gut-wrenching, side-splitting lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States, and 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. With Idiot America, Pierce's thunderous denunciation is also a secret call to action, as he hopes that somehow, being intelligent will stop being a stigma, and that pinheads will once again be pitied, not celebrated.


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The Culture Wars Are Over and the Idiots Have Won A veteran journalist's acidically funny, righteously angry lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States. In the midst of a career-long quest to separate the smart from the pap, Charles Pierce had a defining moment at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where he observed a dinosaur. Wearing a saddle.... But wo The Culture Wars Are Over and the Idiots Have Won A veteran journalist's acidically funny, righteously angry lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States. In the midst of a career-long quest to separate the smart from the pap, Charles Pierce had a defining moment at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where he observed a dinosaur. Wearing a saddle.... But worse than this was when the proprietor exclaimed to a cheering crowd, “We are taking the dinosaurs back from the evolutionists!” He knew then and there it was time to try and salvage the Land of the Enlightened, buried somewhere in this new Home of the Uninformed. With his razor-sharp wit and erudite reasoning, Pierce delivers a gut-wrenching, side-splitting lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States, and 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. With Idiot America, Pierce's thunderous denunciation is also a secret call to action, as he hopes that somehow, being intelligent will stop being a stigma, and that pinheads will once again be pitied, not celebrated.

30 review for Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Ben Carson, our Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, believes that Joseph (the dude from Genesis) built the pyramids to store the grain reserves of Egypt, and that The Adversary (BKA "Satan") personally encouraged Darwin to write The Origin of the Species. And Donald Trump--who believes thousands of Arab-Americans in New Jersey cheered when the Twin Towers went down. and that global warming is nothing but a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese--is now President of these United States. O my rea Ben Carson, our Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, believes that Joseph (the dude from Genesis) built the pyramids to store the grain reserves of Egypt, and that The Adversary (BKA "Satan") personally encouraged Darwin to write The Origin of the Species. And Donald Trump--who believes thousands of Arab-Americans in New Jersey cheered when the Twin Towers went down. and that global warming is nothing but a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese--is now President of these United States. O my readers, how did we come to this? Charlie Pierce knows. He wrote a book about it in 2009. Charlie Pierce loves cranks, whom he views as distinctively American types who stay true to their convictions and, in the process, help keep us all intellectually honest. He doesn't even mind it when individual cranks sell out and become charlatans, as cranks will no doubt do upon occasion. But when our contemporary cranks--particularly anti-science right wing fundamentalist cranks--become commodified and exhibited by the 24 hour news cycle as if they were mainstream voices, and then are in turn exploited by organizations and corporations with a specific political agenda, the result is that the United States of America becomes stupider and stupider. Pierce is a very good writer and often a very funny one too. His individual vignettes--whether the subject be a Creationist Museum in Kentucky featuring dinosaurs with sidesaddles or the global warming controversy from the perspectives of Eskimos living on a disappearing island of ice--are both informative and entertaining.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    The three great premises of Idiot America, according to Charles P. Pierce: Premise 1: Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units. Premise 2: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough. Premise 3: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it. ---------------------------------- From the Indian Express, December 4, 2014: Emphasising that India’s “knowledge and science do not lack anything”, former Uttarakh The three great premises of Idiot America, according to Charles P. Pierce: Premise 1: Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units. Premise 2: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough. Premise 3: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it. ---------------------------------- From the Indian Express, December 4, 2014: Emphasising that India’s “knowledge and science do not lack anything”, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who is now a BJP MP, claimed on Wednesday that an ancient sage, Kanad, who is believed to have lived around the 2nd century BC, had conducted a nuclear test during his time. Participating in a debate in the Lok Sabha, Nishank said, “Today we are talking about nuclear tests. Lakhs of years ago, Sage Kanad had conducted a nuclear test. Our knowledge and science do not lack anything.” Nishank also echoed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s earlier remarks citing “plastic surgery” and “genetic science” to explain the creation of Lord Ganesh and Karna respectively. “People are raising questions on Modiji’s comments on Ganesh’s surgery. It was actually a surgery. The science available to us is not available elsewhere in the world… science or knowledge to transplant a severed head existed only in India,” claimed Nishank. “Jyotish is a science to make calculations lakhs of years in advance. All other sciences have been dwarfed by our ancient astrologers. Astrology is the number one science for the entire world. We should promote the science… I want to say that astrology is the topmost science in the world,” said Nishank. Emphasis mine. ---------------------------------- Warm regards from Stupid India to Idiot America. May our Foolishness prosper together! ---------------------------------- Update 25/01/2017 From The Hindustan Times, Jan 17, 2017: Rajasthan education and panchayati raj minister Vasudev Devnani has said that cow is the only animal that ‘inhales and exhales oxygen’ and that people need to understand its ‘scientific significance’. According to a release issued by the Rajasthan education department, the minister made the statement at a programme organised at the Hingonia Cow Rehabilitation Centre by Akshay Patra foundation on Saturday. Devnani also said that diseases such as cold and cough are healed if one goes near a cow and emphasised on the role of youth in promoting cow conservation in the entire country. He also claimed that cow dung has ample quantity of vitamin B that results in soaking radioactivity. Again, emphasis is mine. The idiocy continues. This "education minister" is of the same ilk as the "education secretary" who wants guns in schools to thwart grizzly bears.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    I am an idiot. Yeah, yeah... get it out of your system. You done? Good. Because you are, too. Stop crying. It's OK... The first step towards recovery is always admitting that you have a problem. I wish I could say that I wasn't an idiot, but I am. I see it in myself. I allow certain political issues to push my emotional buttons and set off knee-jerk reactions. Two of these, off the top of my head, are gun control and abortion. I let my gut rule on these issues, and that is what makes me an idiot I am an idiot. Yeah, yeah... get it out of your system. You done? Good. Because you are, too. Stop crying. It's OK... The first step towards recovery is always admitting that you have a problem. I wish I could say that I wasn't an idiot, but I am. I see it in myself. I allow certain political issues to push my emotional buttons and set off knee-jerk reactions. Two of these, off the top of my head, are gun control and abortion. I let my gut rule on these issues, and that is what makes me an idiot. So, going forward, I will try to be more aware of this in myself, and try to be more conscious of when I'm letting emotion rule so that I can be better informed and rational. But enough about me. I have one criticism of this book. No, actually, one and one-quarter criticisms. First, it was repetitive. The repetition usually took the form of the Three Great Premises of Idiot America: - Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units. - Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough. - Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it. If you've read the book description - which is where I borrowed it from so I didn't have to type it - then you're ahead of the curve. I guess in a way, the repetition serves to drive the points home, but I felt like I got it after the first 3 or 4 times, and after that it was a bit of overkill. The quarter-criticism is that this book was full, jam-packed, packed to the gills and all but bursting with scathing snark and insults, many of which were rather partisan. I found it amusing, but sarcasm is my default mode when I'm conscious, so it worked for me. That really should tell you all you need to know. Still, at the same time, I could feel that the level of snark might turn off some readers (yes, even those who've seen the title), and that I feel is not good, because this book is insightful and interesting and more people should read it. Just read it and think about the concept of how we, as a society, tend to lean toward whoever yells loudest and ignore the more *cough*sane*cough* soft-spoken experts trying hard not to let the issue being discussed get buried in rhetoric and flung mud. Personally, I think we'd do well to pop this sucker on school reading lists and maybe the next generation won't end up regurgitating Ann Coulter's vileness as their main source of information on foreign policy or evolutionary biology or... well, anything. (Unless someone literally ingested that beast, in which case, I don't blame them for wanting to spew.) But where this book excels, I think, is in SHOWING the reader examples of Idiot America. If you've seen Fox News, there you go. Experts are shouted down, talking heads spout nonsense, "some people say..." gets thrown out there as though they'd actually done any kind of investigation and aren't just making things up as they go along... and people buy into it. And, oh my, some of the examples were... just amazing. To be clear, I don't mean amazing in the positive way that one usually uses the word - I mean it in the most literal way possible. I was amazed at the sheer balls of some people. The way that facts are twisted, or outright omitted, is just... ballsy. The Terri Schiavo case is one of those. The book outlines how "experts" who swore that Terri was walking and talking convinced people that she was being mistreated and abused while in hospice care, but states that none of these "experts" had examined her, and some had never even seen her in person or even been in the same state. The media outlet - the fact that they are on TV - gives them credibility. There are more examples: the Dover Schools Intelligent Design lawsuit, Global Warming, the "War on Terror", just to name a few. And I have to say that the perspectives were eye-opening in each of these. Just seeing the media bias and situation through a different lens was fascinating to me. Definitely worth the Audible credit.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ivonne Rovira

    Surprisingly enough, author Charles P. Pierce comes to praise cranks, not to bury them — at least, the good old-fashioned type of cranks. Per Pierce, cranks and crackpot ideas are eminently American; why their right to expound ideas — “no matter how howlingly mad” — are enshrined in the very First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution! Cranks — including founding father Thomas Paine — traditionally formed a conduit for new ideas in American life. (We forget now, but the American democratic, meritoc Surprisingly enough, author Charles P. Pierce comes to praise cranks, not to bury them — at least, the good old-fashioned type of cranks. Per Pierce, cranks and crackpot ideas are eminently American; why their right to expound ideas — “no matter how howlingly mad” — are enshrined in the very First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution! Cranks — including founding father Thomas Paine — traditionally formed a conduit for new ideas in American life. (We forget now, but the American democratic, meritocratic ideal had yet to be proven at the close of the 18th century.) At one time, cranks’ ideas were challenged by the status quo and, after being examined by their more skeptical fellow citizens, rejected outright or incorporated into the scientific schema or national consensus, whether in whole, in part, or with adaptation. Pierce takes the time to extol Ignatius L. Donnelly, a Pennsylvania congressman and crank who promoted the Atlantis mythos so beloved of New Agers today. And Pierce lauds William Jennings Bryan who, in contrast to today’s cranks, put in a great deal of hard work in organizing. Then came television. No one has to “prove” anything on television — nor could they if they wanted to do so in five, 10, or 20 minutes. So decisions are made based on “gut” reaction — never a good idea, says Pierce, as anyone who has ever kicked in a door or thrown a punch could testify. Pierce takes particular aim at the Creation Museum, Jonah Goldberg, 24 co-creator Joel Surnow, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Mitch Albom. Idiot America is not the place where people say silly things. It is not the place where people believe in silly things. It is not the place where people go to profit from the fact that people believe in silly things. That America has been with us always — the America of the medicine wagon and the tent revival, the America of the juke joint and the gambling den, the America of lunatic possibility…. 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…. And the words of an obscure biologist carry no more weight on the subject of biology than do the thunderations of some turkeyneck preacher 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. Decrying a New York Times article noting “a politically savvy challenge to evolution,” Pierce points out what the eminent astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has: science is “true whether or not you believe in it” and not subject to poll numbers. But let us hear directly from Pierce: “‘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.” How could you not love prose like that? Pierce goes on to hilariously lambast the Evolution Wars, the Terri Schiavo travesty, reality television, the perfidious pursuit of the Iraq War, the orchestrated attacks on climate science, and the cynical politicians, those Hollow Men who believe whatever their campaign contributors and consultants tell them to believe. While lacking the breadth and scholarliness of Susan Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason, Idiot America is definitely worth the price of admission to the sideshow carnival.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Furrawn

    I think finding the first few pages of the book- the part about the dinosaur wearing a saddle at the creationist museum- will stay with me for the rest of my life. I looked up the museum thinking surely it wasn't real. It is. Good book. Helps explain how we ended up with Trump as our president. Look at the top 100 bestselling books for the 1960's,1970's, and 1980's and compare those lists to the new millennium. The lists began to have shorter and easier books. Until eventually, the lists are mos I think finding the first few pages of the book- the part about the dinosaur wearing a saddle at the creationist museum- will stay with me for the rest of my life. I looked up the museum thinking surely it wasn't real. It is. Good book. Helps explain how we ended up with Trump as our president. Look at the top 100 bestselling books for the 1960's,1970's, and 1980's and compare those lists to the new millennium. The lists began to have shorter and easier books. Until eventually, the lists are mostly just pool books ("pool books" are what I call books that are a nice diversion at the pool, require zero thought, and can be read in a couple of hours). Don't get me wrong. I read plenty of pool books... but people who only read a few books a year are reading drivel. Their knowledge of themselves and the world isn't expanding. We need to return to reading. There's a reason Hitler burned and banned books. Keeping people in ignorance makes them easier to control...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Crook

    This turned out to be one of the most partisan books I've read in years, but was still helpful in putting words to the climate of Idiocracy that's risen to prominence in the US, and to some extent Canada. The book lays much of the blame at the feet of conservatives and religious extremists (i.e. evangelical christians, right-to-lifers, etc), but there's plenty of blame to go around. Most worrying is the trend toward "gut feeling" (later called "truthiness" by Stephen Colbert) over facts and real This turned out to be one of the most partisan books I've read in years, but was still helpful in putting words to the climate of Idiocracy that's risen to prominence in the US, and to some extent Canada. The book lays much of the blame at the feet of conservatives and religious extremists (i.e. evangelical christians, right-to-lifers, etc), but there's plenty of blame to go around. Most worrying is the trend toward "gut feeling" (later called "truthiness" by Stephen Colbert) over facts and reality. If it "feels" right and it moves the needle in terms of sales, viewers, listeners, etc, then it's determined to be more valid than anything an "elitist" intellectual would have you believe. This is the America where 40% of the populace believes in ghosts, 78% believe in angels, and more people believe in horoscopes than they do evolution. The book examines this break down of reason and the trend away from the "reality-based community" and towards faith or the Gut by recounting some of the major inflection points from the last ~200 years. Selected anecdotes from the founding fathers all the way up to Terri Schiavo, Guantanamo, the Iraq war, JFK, and more are used to make the book's points. One pervasive misgiving I had about the book was that it fell somewhere in between being a laundry list of anecdotal examples and a systematic, chronological account of how Idiot America came to be. A great example of the latter technique is Amusing Ourselves to Death (one of my all-time favourite books), wherein Neil Postman illustrates how the nature of public discourse has changed as a result of media, starting with the telegraph and ending with the television. Idiot America never makes the connections between each incident the way Postman's book does, which leaves each chapter as a prolonged anecdotal example. Ultimately this feels less fulfilling and lacks the analytical bent of Postman's book. If I didn't find Idiot America all so horribly depressing in terms of what it means for the future of critical debate, free thinking, skepticism, reason, intellect, facts and reality, I'd write more. But instead, here are some illustrative quotes from the book. Please read them! They'll give you a great idea of what the book's about. "We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture." - Pastor Ray Mummert defending the Dover, PA school board's attempt to get "intelligent design" taught in high school biology classes. "...a little over a century ago, this cardinal idea (creationism) came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science." - Discovery Institute, a christian conservative think tank responsible for "Teach the Controversy." "...(the Left, etc) represent the reality-based community... (people who believe) that solutions emerge from judicious study of discernible reality... That's not the way the world works anymore." - Karl Rove, Chief of Staff for the Bush administration "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."" - Quote from the book "In 2003, the psychologist Paul Ginnetty examined this dynamic in Newsday, focusing on Limbaugh's show but analyzing the appeal of the entire genre, what he called "the potent narcotic of reassuring simplicity."" - Dealing with the subject of removing nuance from a concept in favor of dismissive (and untrue) rhetoric. Read the whole Ginnetty article here: http://bit.ly/eeb1kK "He has risen to prominence by the seemingly limitless means of being sure of everything about which you actually know very little. You pitch it to the Gut, is what you do." - The book, discussing how Sean Hannity (and most right-wing talk show or TV hosts, IMO) rely on "gut" or "truthiness" over facts to make their arguments against the intellectual "elite." And the best quote on this subject, which is actually from another book... "The case against intellect is founded on a set of fictional and wholly abstract antagonisms. Intellect is pitted against feeling, on the ground that it is somehow inconsistent with warm emotion. It is pitted against character, because it is widely believed that intellect stands for mere cleverness, which transmutes easily into the sly and diabolical. It is pitted against practicality, since theory is held to be opposed to practice. It is pitted against democracy, since intellect is felt to be a form of distinction that defies egalitarianism Once the validity of those antagonisms is accepted then the case for intellect… is lost.” - Richard Hofstadter, author of Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lilo

    I read this book half a year ago. Did not have time to review it then. Wanted to review it today. Changed my mind. All I am going to say is that I wish the author had published an updated review of this book in 2016. It is too late now. For a real evaluation of this book, please read Ivonne Raviro's review. Here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... I read this book half a year ago. Did not have time to review it then. Wanted to review it today. Changed my mind. All I am going to say is that I wish the author had published an updated review of this book in 2016. It is too late now. For a real evaluation of this book, please read Ivonne Raviro's review. Here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Nomen-Mutatio

    The title's a bit, um, idiotic, but provocative enough to get people reading and thinking, hopefully. The following is from PZ Myers somewhat (in)famous blog, Pharyngula: Idiot America, new and expanded Category: Books • Creationism • Kooks • Politics • Religion Posted on: May 11, 2009 2:43 PM, by PZ Myers Charles Pierce has expanded an essay into a full blown book on Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, soon available in fine bookstores everywhere, and I recommend The title's a bit, um, idiotic, but provocative enough to get people reading and thinking, hopefully. The following is from PZ Myers somewhat (in)famous blog, Pharyngula: Idiot America, new and expanded Category: Books • Creationism • Kooks • Politics • Religion Posted on: May 11, 2009 2:43 PM, by PZ Myers Charles Pierce has expanded an essay into a full blown book on Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, soon available in fine bookstores everywhere, and I recommend it highly. You might be wondering what Idiot America is, and he explains it well. "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 Hofstader teased out of the national DNA, although both of these 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 the 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 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 the rest of us, poor fool." Pierce then goes through several sublime instances of American Idiocy: the Creation "Museum", the Terry Schiavo case, the Dover creationism trial, the War on Terror, right-wing talk radio, climate change denialists, the Republican roster of candidates in the last presidential election…it's terrifying and humbling that this country has so excelled at churning out such appalling stupidity. And, of course, he points out everywhere how our journalists simply gaze on approvingly, churning the chum and making money out of mindlessness. He uses one of my favorite (for a version of "favorite" flavored with schadenfreude) examples, the way the NY Times covered creationism and evolution, and especially that willing palimpsest, Jodi Wilgoren. Wilgoren, by the way, has since been promoted at the Times — I think for vacuity above and beyond the call of duty. Lest you think Pierce is doing nothing but delivering a thunderation of his own, he also often reveals a fondness for the quirkiness of cranks and kooks — he clearly thinks they spice up American intellectual life. He even starts his book with the tale of a famous local kook, Ignatius Donnelly, a 19th century visionary who founded a utopian city on the banks of the Mississippi…a dream that failed dismally, after which he turned to writing bestsellers about Atlantis and Velikovskian (although he long preceded that crank) cometary catastrophes. He was a crank, but he was an entertaining crank, and most importantly, there was little risk that he could rise to run the country as president. That's the heart of the problem. Wild, loony ideas aren't dangerous in themselves — what's dangerous is when criticism is set aside and wacky ideas are given unquestioning acceptance and allowed to set the national agenda. It changes the dynamic: no longer do kooks have to work to get their voices heard, but the more insane their claims, the more likely they will be given media attention, promoted and passed around, given the imprimatur of authenticity because, well, Larry King featured them on his show. What has America become? America has become an episode of The Office, where lovable assholes are put in charge to fumble their way along incompetently, coasting on the slack, disinterested efforts of their underlings. The show is a comedy, and it can be hilarious, in part because there is some stinging truth to it. You won't laugh very much at Idiot America, though. It's too real.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Granted, I'm no intellectual giant. I'm just an average right brainer trying to hack it on these mean tech savvy streets. Who am I to call somebody else an idiot? To label our larger society as thus? But just look around you these days. Isn't it scary sometimes? Do you ever get the feeling you are playing a bit part in a George A. Romero feature? I came up in the 1970s and 80s..."Good Times!", "Happy Days", "Keep Looking Out for Number One" and "Greed is Good" were the memes. As kids we split our Granted, I'm no intellectual giant. I'm just an average right brainer trying to hack it on these mean tech savvy streets. Who am I to call somebody else an idiot? To label our larger society as thus? But just look around you these days. Isn't it scary sometimes? Do you ever get the feeling you are playing a bit part in a George A. Romero feature? I came up in the 1970s and 80s..."Good Times!", "Happy Days", "Keep Looking Out for Number One" and "Greed is Good" were the memes. As kids we split our time between the mall and Fantasy Island. And those were the smart kids. Not to take anything away from my own generation and our Caddyshack childhood...but our expectations for gravitas are not high. And it is starting to show. The ship that is our society appears to be heading straight for an ice berg sized mountain of stoopid and the people who are supposed to be steering are as drunk on their own opinions and antics as that Exxon Valdez guy was on Johnny Walker. Charles P. Pierce has taken note. Through his reading, travels and interactions with Idiot America he has kindly distilled the Three Great Principles that are keeping our national discourse at the level of a food fight. 1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings or otherwise moves units. (Think Rush Limbaugh) 2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough. (Think Rush Limbaugh) 3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it. (Think Rush Limbaugh's audience.) So enamored are we of the outlandish, the fringe, the boorish loudmouths and the human train wrecks -- they are all on TV or radio 24 hours a day. Once upon a time these people would be relegated to a soap box in a park or the back of a wagon selling flim flam patent medicine. Now they create the news, demand (and receive) equal time for their crack pot theories and are taken very seriously. There are a million stories in the City of Naked Idiocy. Pierce goes into just a handful. At times depressing and at times very funny, this book should plant the seed of suspicion that things are not quite right. Where are the sober, gray suited and somewhat starchy grownups of our youth? Remember when you left the room as a kid because the news was boring? Remember when nobody screamed at each other at the anchor desk, flung racial epithets or gave each other the finger? Don't you kind of miss that sometimes? Can't we at least get a channel on cable where they try something really revolutionary and some serious person just reads the facts without partisan embellishment? It could be called the "No Idiot Zone." Too bad Ted Knight died. These days his Ted Baxter character would come across like Edward R. Murrow.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    If you've ever felt like picking up the entire country, shaking it, and yelling "What is wrong with you?!", this may be the book for you. Pierce gives a more reflective and erudite version of that, but leaves the vitriol intact. Pierce's basic thesis is that cranks are all well and good, and America has always been relatively hospitable to cranks, but they need to occupy the fringe. They help drive new ideas, either to refute them or to support them, but the cranks themselves are always fringe. H If you've ever felt like picking up the entire country, shaking it, and yelling "What is wrong with you?!", this may be the book for you. Pierce gives a more reflective and erudite version of that, but leaves the vitriol intact. Pierce's basic thesis is that cranks are all well and good, and America has always been relatively hospitable to cranks, but they need to occupy the fringe. They help drive new ideas, either to refute them or to support them, but the cranks themselves are always fringe. However, Pierce argues, this is no longer the case in America, and cranks are now swallowed whole into mainstream culture, creating Idiot America. Various anecdotes centered around dinosaurs with saddles, JFK assassination conspiracies, Atlantis, and more follow. And James Madison serves as a touchstone, someone who tried his best to organize a democracy that wasn't Idiot America. One suspects Pierce is engaging in a bit of a misty-eyed view of the past. After all, 80 years ago the Europeans were already looking bewildered at America during the Scopes trial, and the majority of Americans have probably never been very good at critical thinking. Still, Pierce argues convincingly that this has gotten much worse recently, and is both amusing and cathartically angry.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Beyond Knowledge and Mental Competence Americans are exceptional. We're exceptionally jingoistic, bellicose, misogynistic, self-infatuated, ignorant, illiterate, sexually enamoured of instruments of death, and so phenomenally hubristic that we presume to consider ourselves "exceptional," whereas we enjoy a Gini Index of Wealth Inequality squarely athwart that of Rwanda! (factoid taken from that left-wing, conspiratorial document, The CIA Handbook) To be fair, it's not really our fault. The malevo Beyond Knowledge and Mental Competence Americans are exceptional. We're exceptionally jingoistic, bellicose, misogynistic, self-infatuated, ignorant, illiterate, sexually enamoured of instruments of death, and so phenomenally hubristic that we presume to consider ourselves "exceptional," whereas we enjoy a Gini Index of Wealth Inequality squarely athwart that of Rwanda! (factoid taken from that left-wing, conspiratorial document, The CIA Handbook) To be fair, it's not really our fault. The malevolent plutocracy has been engaged in a forty-year campaign so to undercut American education, that we've churned out a hopelessly stultified populace eager to wave flags, root for unnecessary wars, and cheer on their own economic evisceration as we obliterate the middle class and they all move to jobs flipping burgers. Exceptional! Pierce assembles a painfully graphic pastiche of the resultant cretinism rampant in the land, and of course, none of the dinosaur-saddling troglodytes will comprehend a word, nor will the vicious kakistocrats who've overseen the national lobotomy care a single whit. But it's worth reading (for the residue of us who still retain that faculty)... partly for its mordant humor, and partly for its historical significance as a requiem for American sentience.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leo Walsh

    Fun, easy to read, and yet by turns scary and hilarious take-down of America's current state. Which is pitiful, with fact-free talking heads getting facts wrong to gin-up the base. It runs the gamut of how dumb we Americans have been acting for decades. From Evolution denial to Global Warming. To Right-wing media spreading fact-free lies loudly (though, funny enough, in 2016 there are times when Bernie Sanders supporters seem just as virulent and contra-factual in their insistence that "it ain't Fun, easy to read, and yet by turns scary and hilarious take-down of America's current state. Which is pitiful, with fact-free talking heads getting facts wrong to gin-up the base. It runs the gamut of how dumb we Americans have been acting for decades. From Evolution denial to Global Warming. To Right-wing media spreading fact-free lies loudly (though, funny enough, in 2016 there are times when Bernie Sanders supporters seem just as virulent and contra-factual in their insistence that "it ain't over.") Recommended for people who enjoy laughing at politics. No doubt that people from the hard-Right will be offended. But a smart conservative, like William F. Buckley, would no doubt enjoy and agree with the core arguments.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dj

    A book that examines the fact that we have been allowing ourselves to be sold fiction in place of fact. It points out that America is a land of imagination and that this in and of itself isn't a bad thing. Having someone write about Atlantis, or someone else writing the works of Shakespeare is all well and good until it becomes so popular an idea that it is the truth and not just the work of imagination. The book explores this turn about of ideas in a number of ways. First it looks at Americans A book that examines the fact that we have been allowing ourselves to be sold fiction in place of fact. It points out that America is a land of imagination and that this in and of itself isn't a bad thing. Having someone write about Atlantis, or someone else writing the works of Shakespeare is all well and good until it becomes so popular an idea that it is the truth and not just the work of imagination. The book explores this turn about of ideas in a number of ways. First it looks at Americans love of 'Conspiracy Theories' and almost total disregard of actual Conspiracies. It also looks at what happens when faith and politics mix, the author argues a cheapening of both. It explores the results of discussions becoming Bar Room Arguments where the loudest voice presented with the most conviction wins and reality is cast aside. The examples chosen are a wide range and include modern events. Like the fact that the assassination of JFK is still selling books by the hundreds while Iran/Contra is barely a whimper. How Intelligent Design is being pitched as Science. How one woman's right to life became a cause of national anxiety while no one thought to mention that these same decisions are made hundreds of times a day across the nation and no one tries to have a Governor break the Constitution to pass a law to be able to decide the fate of one individual. It looks at how a scientific report on Global Warming, can become watered down to the point that it can be considered a hoax. It also looks at how a TV show can become a legitimate tool for justifying torture. While many of the examples are generated by Conservative institutions the author points out a few times that this is not a one sided affair. First and foremost the book doesn't blame politicians or those who are involved in religion for the way these events are playing out. It blames the root cause. The people. We have allowed this drift, in some sense we have embraced it and until we understand the consequences of such an action it will continue. It would be my hope that people reading this book, would get a wake up call to reverse a trend that is turning fact and fiction around.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I agree with the premise, but was quickly turned off by specious arguments & cherry picked examples (some taken out of context) exactly the sort of behavior that he says he has an issue with. He blames TV & the Internet for spreading misinformation through popularity. He says this wasn't so bad before their appearance. Apparently we have some very different takes on the history of yellow journalism & the many myths that have permeated the public consciousness. I don't see why he picked out Mitch I agree with the premise, but was quickly turned off by specious arguments & cherry picked examples (some taken out of context) exactly the sort of behavior that he says he has an issue with. He blames TV & the Internet for spreading misinformation through popularity. He says this wasn't so bad before their appearance. Apparently we have some very different takes on the history of yellow journalism & the many myths that have permeated the public consciousness. I don't see why he picked out Mitch Albom. He seems to be one of those feel-good, gooey types with some strange, eminently ignorable ideas, neither unique nor obnoxious. He's not promoting an exclusive religion nor condemning any other group like Pat Robertson & Ken Ham, both of whom certainly deserve everything & more that Pierce lays at their feet. IMO, Horace Fletcher (who perpetrated the myth of super chewing food) is worse than Albom & would have made a far better example, but he died before the TV was around. I gave this a couple of hours, but the snark on top of the scattered train of his thoughts just got to be too much. It's a shame, because I really agree with him. The anti-vaccine, Young Earth Creationists & many other loud idiots need all the rebuttal we can give them. As Harlan Ellison says, “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” Unfortunately, too many are & think they deserve our respectful attention. No, I completely agree with Pierce on that, they deserve nothing but our public contempt, but I refuse to read a book that stoops to their level.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Al Gore lost the 2000 presidential election "because of some jiggery-pokery" in Florida. This appears on page 28. I got through another 34 pages before completely bailing. I remember Pierce's original Esquire essay as an entertaining and smart riff on absurdities such as creation museums and Sean Hannity. But this book is a cranky and unfunny rehash of sorta-current events that basically boil down to "Republicans! Amiright?" I think Pierce can write strongly and very well when focused, but this Al Gore lost the 2000 presidential election "because of some jiggery-pokery" in Florida. This appears on page 28. I got through another 34 pages before completely bailing. I remember Pierce's original Esquire essay as an entertaining and smart riff on absurdities such as creation museums and Sean Hannity. But this book is a cranky and unfunny rehash of sorta-current events that basically boil down to "Republicans! Amiright?" I think Pierce can write strongly and very well when focused, but this is a hyperbolic groaner perhaps better-suited for those who find The Daily Show to be too nuanced and clever. Back to The Craftsman.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tippy Jackson

    If you're interested in this book because it sounded like it might be funny, don't bother. All of the humor is in the book jacket. Dinosaur with a saddle-ha! But that's it. Nor are his arguments, true or not, presented in full-that is he presents a conclusion but no discussion or argument. He just runs on and on, one example after another, but doesn't bother to explain why the example is relevant or give us even a teensy bit of analysis. I like his idea of "cranks" and how they are important but If you're interested in this book because it sounded like it might be funny, don't bother. All of the humor is in the book jacket. Dinosaur with a saddle-ha! But that's it. Nor are his arguments, true or not, presented in full-that is he presents a conclusion but no discussion or argument. He just runs on and on, one example after another, but doesn't bother to explain why the example is relevant or give us even a teensy bit of analysis. I like his idea of "cranks" and how they are important but shouldn't run shit. However, he then goes on to define "the Gut," and by now he's just trying to get his own jargon going.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Shaina

    Probably clever. Satire. Tongue in cheek? I really just hate politics and anything that has even the slightest hint of it or that. Which makes staying aware of things painful, which is why stupidity would be bliss; that is why this goes here.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tom Roche

    Wow - this book is enlightening, maddening, frustrating and heartbreaking all at the same time. Enlightening because Pierce gives a very sound theory of how science and intellectualism went from being praised and admirable to being scorned and looked upon with suspicion. Maddening because this country could be so much further advanced that it is now, if not for those who think their opinions deserve equal ground despite being no more sound than a street corner preacher's. Frustrating, as you rea Wow - this book is enlightening, maddening, frustrating and heartbreaking all at the same time. Enlightening because Pierce gives a very sound theory of how science and intellectualism went from being praised and admirable to being scorned and looked upon with suspicion. Maddening because this country could be so much further advanced that it is now, if not for those who think their opinions deserve equal ground despite being no more sound than a street corner preacher's. Frustrating, as you read about towns along the Arctic circle that are being destroyed in less than a generation's time while global climate change deniers are given the microphone where we don't even see the effects really firsthand. And heartbreaking as you read about the workers in the hospice where Terri Schiavo who had to have armed escorts just to get to work to do their job, giving comfort to not just Terri, but many others and their families who were in their last days of life - all while the media circus spread lies that Terri was alert and blinking and talking, when in fact she had no brain activity whatsoever. The main takeaway from this book is that "cranks" used to be easier to spot in this country, whereas now they're given primetime platforms, and assigned undeserved credibility. It's time to start calling out the cranks for what they are. Forgot to mention that there's also a great deal of humor in this book, particularly the author's visit to the Creation Museum, and his description of the dinosaur that sports a saddle - and an English saddle at that!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    About halfway through this book, I thought "This is the kind of book that will never be read by the people most in need of its content." Why? Because journalist Charles Pierce is skewering America's anti-intellectuals with flawless research, brilliant examples -- and their own words. For example, when Pastor Mummert (major proponent of the Dover School District intelligent design fiasco) says "We're under attack by the intelligent, educated part of society" and people respond as though it's a bad About halfway through this book, I thought "This is the kind of book that will never be read by the people most in need of its content." Why? Because journalist Charles Pierce is skewering America's anti-intellectuals with flawless research, brilliant examples -- and their own words. For example, when Pastor Mummert (major proponent of the Dover School District intelligent design fiasco) says "We're under attack by the intelligent, educated part of society" and people respond as though it's a bad thing to be intelligent and educated -- well ... there's the premise for this book. Pierce's work started out as an essay, but continued to grow. Beginning with Madison's premise that an educated populace is necessary for self-government, Pierce shows us how cranks were tolerated on the fringes of our free society. He then moves on to show how they were given a national platform and taken seriously (evangelical takeover of government, the Tea Party, etc.). Well-written and oftentimes witty, Pierce presents a problem that we, as the intelligent, educated part of society need to resolve. Highly recommended.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Melora

    Sigh. Well, this is a useful reminder that unprincipled and idiotic politicians have been with us for quite a while, pandering to and profiting from willingly deluded citizens. Pierce's book was published in 2009, and his focus is primarily on events from about 2001 to that date, but he goes back to James Madison and the founding documents of our country at regular intervals, reminding readers that the Founders were men of the Enlightenment, who recognized that if the government they were creati Sigh. Well, this is a useful reminder that unprincipled and idiotic politicians have been with us for quite a while, pandering to and profiting from willingly deluded citizens. Pierce's book was published in 2009, and his focus is primarily on events from about 2001 to that date, but he goes back to James Madison and the founding documents of our country at regular intervals, reminding readers that the Founders were men of the Enlightenment, who recognized that if the government they were creating was to have any chance of lasting, citizens needed to be informed, involved, and educated.“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” (Madison) As Pierce illustrates in chapters on religion taught as science in public schools, global warming denialism, politicized medical care, etc., a vocal and media savvy segment of the population has become increasingly skilled at using drama and passion to obscure facts and secure their ends, and an intellectually lazy, spectacle-seeking public has willingly exchanged reasoned, fact-based policy making for government by acclaim, with victory in each match being awarded to the best performance artists. As the cover of the book suggests (my copy, at least, shows a Tyrannosaurus rex processing with the other animals onto Noah's ark – Pierce visits the Creation Museum in Kentucky, and notes with derision... well, everything!), Pierce's ire tends to fall on the conservative end of our political spectrum, though he has some to spare for Obama and liberals. Nothing really new or helpful here, and his “Three Great Premises” do become repetitive, just outrage at the indifference and stupidity of citizens who have forgotten that self-governance requires effort and vigilance. Still, as a fairly liberal reader incensed by our current (March 2017) political situation, I found this morbidly satisfying. Recommended for liberal sorts in the mood for a wallow in outrage.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

    Author Charles Pierce has a piercing sense of humor, a fine ear for the absurd, and an honest intellect engaged in research. His book, Idiot America, How Stupidity became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, is deservedly a national bestseller. It’s also a curious mix of slow well-argued positioning, historically well-researched references, and scathingly hilarious comments. An English teacher once told me it was easy to make readers cry but much harder to make them laugh. Pierce’s book does both in Author Charles Pierce has a piercing sense of humor, a fine ear for the absurd, and an honest intellect engaged in research. His book, Idiot America, How Stupidity became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, is deservedly a national bestseller. It’s also a curious mix of slow well-argued positioning, historically well-researched references, and scathingly hilarious comments. An English teacher once told me it was easy to make readers cry but much harder to make them laugh. Pierce’s book does both in equal measure. While it’s probably quite easy to poke fun at “the other side” in any debate, the author fills his arguments with enough facts (yes, real facts rather than well-saddled dinosaur fictions) to slow the laughter down with serious thought. Idiot America is a well-reasoned analysis of many of the “popular” fictions of American belief, from creationism to global warming to the War on Terror and beyond. The prose is well-seasoned with humor and well-illustrated with specific examples of the effects of “idiocy” on real human beings. The result is a fairly slow read, though I hardly dare criticize that since much of our fictional certainty comes from a desire for everything to be given in simple sound-bites. There’s no simple misdirection here—no magic wand promising a better future; just honest, tragic, comic, powerful lament for the descent of the absurd into the norm, where both are rendered simultaneously powerless and disastrous. Would I recommend this book? Yes. Read it slowly. Enjoy its biting humor. Absorb its history and cultural references. Don’t let the idiots get you down. And then engage brain. Perhaps if we all do that we might remember who we once were and strive to be who we can be. Disclosure: I borrowed this book from a friend.

  22. 4 out of 5

    James

    I was hooked from the first line on the dust jacket notes - "It was the saddle on the dinosaur that did it." If you've seen Bill Maher's film 'Religulous', the image probably just flashed in your mind as it did in mine. The author pulls no punches in this book, a hilarious, scathing, sometimes angry examination of the seemingly-ever-growing part of our national character that consists of willful, boneheaded, superstitious, stupid thinking or non-thinking. There truly has been a culture war raging I was hooked from the first line on the dust jacket notes - "It was the saddle on the dinosaur that did it." If you've seen Bill Maher's film 'Religulous', the image probably just flashed in your mind as it did in mine. The author pulls no punches in this book, a hilarious, scathing, sometimes angry examination of the seemingly-ever-growing part of our national character that consists of willful, boneheaded, superstitious, stupid thinking or non-thinking. There truly has been a culture war raging in America for about the last 150 years, with many of the battles taking place in the educational system and the results showing up in the phenomena Pierce documents here. One side wanted education to have the aim of producing well-rounded citizens, learning not only math and sciences but also critical thinking, civics, and liberal arts. The other, the winners as it has turned out, wanted education to produce docile workers just skilled enough to work a deep-fat fryer or cash register but ignorant enough to be easily led by the nose in political matters. Read this - along with Carl Sagan's 'The Demon-Haunted World' and Kurt Vonnegut's 'Armageddon in Retrospective' - and weep, then start teaching your kids how to be good skeptics.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Keith Swenson

    One of the big challenges of our time is to understand why people continue to believe things that are clearly false, when valid and correct information is readily available. Pierce gives voice to the feeling that something is terribly wrong. He has researched a number of good examples, and these details help quantify exactly how big the problem is. Americans increasingly ignore experts on any topic, and give cranks a platform to stand on without question. There seems to be a backlash AGAINST expe One of the big challenges of our time is to understand why people continue to believe things that are clearly false, when valid and correct information is readily available. Pierce gives voice to the feeling that something is terribly wrong. He has researched a number of good examples, and these details help quantify exactly how big the problem is. Americans increasingly ignore experts on any topic, and give cranks a platform to stand on without question. There seems to be a backlash AGAINST experts. Why is this happening? He puts forward these three reasons: 1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings or otherwise moves units. 2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough. 3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it. More than anything else, this explains the situation. The vast public does not believe that there is a "truth" that can be discovered, but instead, you can choose a truth the same way you choose a football team to root for. He talks about the role that the media play in this; they are not shepherds of quality information to guide accurate decision making, but instead entertainment designed to thrill the lizard brain, Consider the case where he interviews workers taking care of the comatose Terri Schiavo. The stories in the media seemed about 35% accurate, and 65% completely fabricated. At one point Senate members were so out of touch with reality, that they sent a subpoena to Terri Schiavo to appear and give testimony in congress! It should not be that hard to get accurate information. Anyone in the care center could (and probably did) report that it was impossible for the patient to accomplish that. But our means and practices for collecting and distributing information are so distorted by out distrust for expertise, that the public will believe anything as long as there is a person willing to say it loud enough. This is a book that is important and that everyone should read and understand. It is well enough written. Pierce clearly, like many of us, has run out of patience on the worse offenders, and is not above ridiculing them. Clearly, believers in pseudo-sciences and crank theories are not going to appreciate his razor sharp wit. Reading the reviews here, some reviews are just too funny. For example, find any review that says the book is too "partisan." That means that the reviewer believes that there should be an equal amount of criticism on both political parties. In other words, everyone's view has in the average equal validity, and there should be a tit for every tat! This is EXACTLY the kind of idiocy that Pierce is railing against. Truth is not simply a nice happy median between all the yelling voices, instead it is something that teased out by careful study and a lifelong commitment to a particular subject. The book points out the logical fallacy of those who think there must be two sides to every position and that every position has equal merit -- but obviously not all the readers get this point. You can feel Pierce's frustration, and he certainly puts words to my frustration. Yet it helps to see a careful, rational, analysis of how this comes about, and what the causes are. It is clear that healing the country requires us to (a) gain an appreciation for expertise, (b) learn how to recognize an expert, and (c) promote and support true experts. The is the core of the solution to our current crises. Pierce does not tell us how to do this ... that is an exercise left for the reader.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    This book was recommended by a friend, to whom it was in turn recommended by another friend. Knowing where this chain of recommendations started, I was expecting that I would disagree with much of this book, and I was right! The author develops three premises (read the book to find out what these are) that explain how dumb ideas gain currency and circulation through society. And some of the ideas and events he talks about are truly dumb ones (intelligent design, the Terry Schiavo case, etc.) These are c This book was recommended by a friend, to whom it was in turn recommended by another friend. Knowing where this chain of recommendations started, I was expecting that I would disagree with much of this book, and I was right! The author develops three premises (read the book to find out what these are) that explain how dumb ideas gain currency and circulation through society. And some of the ideas and events he talks about are truly dumb ones (intelligent design, the Terry Schiavo case, etc.) These are causes embraced by many on the right, and it's an embarrassing problem for those of us of a more libertarian bent with a rational, scientific outlook. But that aside, this author is unwilling to countenance any consideration that those on the right may hold views that are based on something other than knee-jerk reaction, religion or retardation. As an example, he rails against "climate change deniers". The strawman he attacks, though is motivated solely by a desire to keep driving his Hummer to the grocery store. Like all leftists, he is oblivious to the argument that while the climate may (or may not) be changing that there is a HUGE cost involved with doing anything about it - assuming that anything CAN be done about it. Rather than crippling or destroying an economy that has provided a populace unprecedented prosperity, intelligent people can explore how we can live with the changes at much, much less cost (if we must). And because these people are unwilling to hand their liberty over to "enlightened" elites in their quixotic quest to save us all from ourselves, they get ridiculed by people like the author as "deniers" who are as evil as Holocaust deniers. The author simply ignores examples of Idiocy on the left, such as the idea that we can borrow trillions of dollars indefinitely without ever suffering the pain of default or curreny devaluation. (Politicians of either party would both be leftists in this regard.) When the author ridicules and attacks radio talk show host Michael Savage, it is clear that his bias has prevented him from listening to Savage's show long enough to have any idea of what Savage is about. At one point, he all but brands Savage an antisemite based on a quote that is taken totally out of context, when Dr. Savage is as far from antisemitic as is possible to be. (In fairness to the author, Savage did totally step in it with his comments on autism. He did apologize for that though.) I could continue, but in the interest of brevity, I won't. Enough to say that I didn't like the book for two main reasons. First and most obvious is the unacknowledged bias of the author. Second, the book is poorly written and reads in a disjointed way as if it's a collection of fattened up newspaper columns rather than a book that should flow smoothly from one chapter to the next. I'm not satisfied with this rambling review, but I really disliked this book and don't want to spend additional time polishing the review or thinking about the book. But come to think of it, as soon as I post this review, I'm going to go back and subtract one star!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    This is a book of juxtapositions--cranks who produce goofy ideas, but are--in essence--harmless versus idiots who are ignorant and try to impose their ignorance on others. Example: a crank, Ignatius Donnelly who argued that he had discovered Atlantis, versus advocates of the Creation Museum in Kentucky (an example of Idiot America), whose fellow travelers try to get evolution out of the classroom or intelligent design in. A second juxtaposition--faith in reason and human development, associated This is a book of juxtapositions--cranks who produce goofy ideas, but are--in essence--harmless versus idiots who are ignorant and try to impose their ignorance on others. Example: a crank, Ignatius Donnelly who argued that he had discovered Atlantis, versus advocates of the Creation Museum in Kentucky (an example of Idiot America), whose fellow travelers try to get evolution out of the classroom or intelligent design in. A second juxtaposition--faith in reason and human development, associated with James Madison (one of the key influences on formulating the Constitution and a former President) versus idiots who want to install their doctrines as guides to policy and living. For me, one key problem with this book is that it does not take on idiocy throughout the political spectrum. To be sure, Idiot America contains many conservatives and even reactionaries. But it also contains leftists and moderates. So, I am amused to see Pierce eviscerate foolishness that advocates try to enforce on others--but I wish that his evisceration project was not confined so much to the right. For instance, evolution. Pierce fairly lampoons the view by some that dinosaurs shared Noah's ark with humans, but I have spoken with those who would get heckled, who would have water thrown at them by those on the left when the speakers tried to make presentations about the evolutionary bases of human behavior. Many on the left have ridiculed that contention over time and have served as representatives of Idiot America, too. Anyhow, thought-provoking, but I wish Pierce were more ecumenical in his critique.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Daniel DeLappe

    I would have given this book a zero but could'nt. This guy use to write for the Boston Globe magazine. I now know why papers are going out of business. I can take political writing as long as it is well written and intersting. This is neither. DO NOT WASTE YOU TIME WITH THIS BOOK. When you are using Susan Jacoby as an example of an intellectual(or even an intresting person) and you state that Keith Olbermann is erudite. You have to be intellectality challenged. Get a clue-The left is just as stu I would have given this book a zero but could'nt. This guy use to write for the Boston Globe magazine. I now know why papers are going out of business. I can take political writing as long as it is well written and intersting. This is neither. DO NOT WASTE YOU TIME WITH THIS BOOK. When you are using Susan Jacoby as an example of an intellectual(or even an intresting person) and you state that Keith Olbermann is erudite. You have to be intellectality challenged. Get a clue-The left is just as stupid as the right. This Author proves it with this tome of idiocy.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bart

    This is a well-written rebuttal to what the author sees as the stupidity of the Bush presidency and a time when "Idiot America" took over the reigns of power in the United States. This is not a joyous book. Its humor, when humor is allowed, is sneering and immodest. The author is smarter than the subjects he pans, knows he's smarter and often cannot help himself; it is essential that his readers know how much smarter he is. In many ways, this book is a return to the years of the Bush presidency, This is a well-written rebuttal to what the author sees as the stupidity of the Bush presidency and a time when "Idiot America" took over the reigns of power in the United States. This is not a joyous book. Its humor, when humor is allowed, is sneering and immodest. The author is smarter than the subjects he pans, knows he's smarter and often cannot help himself; it is essential that his readers know how much smarter he is. In many ways, this book is a return to the years of the Bush presidency, years in which people on the political left were so taken aback by the President's stupidity that they made unconvincing counterarguments to his policies. Far too often, one recalls, the political left's form of argument reduced to a slogan somewhat akin to: This man is so stupid that if you cannot see how stupid he is, I feel sorry for you. Two elections were lost - three if you count the disastrous midterm elections of 2002 - and many lives were lost in war, in some part because the opposition party could not be troubled with lowering itself to arguing with an idiot. Charles Pierce knows this, and when he is at his best he works to counter some well-chosen examples of the Bush presidency on their own terms. He also employs an assortment of interesting words that happen to begin with the letter 'b': blatherskite, bafflegab and bunco. This book works best as a cultural criticism of sorts, not a book of remedies. But Pierce is an entertaining writer, as shown in passages like this one: Debate no longer consists of thesis and antithesis; it is now a matter of choosing up sides, finding someone on your team to sally forth, and then laying the wood to each other in between commercials for male-enhancement products. Ultimately, though, this book is little more than another sermon shouted at the choir. Those who already agree with its premises will eagerly underline something on every page. Those who already disagree with its premises will not be persuaded - there is, after all, little effort to persuade, here, beginning with the title. Idiot America begins and ends with nostalgic glances backwards at James Madison, the least-celebrated of our Founders. It imagines that Madison would be displeased by what we are today - without giving full voice to how displeased he was with what we were in his day. And what we are is this: A collection of the most-ambitious folks, not smartest or sanest, from every land round the world. We are a nation of salesmen plying the day's wares with undying enthusiasm. That was as true in Madison's time as it is in Bush's.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    In Idiot America, journalist Charles P. Pierce takes aim at a country that has rejected intelligence, facts and evidence in favour of sound bites, gut feelings and personal prejudices, taking the beliefs of crackpots from the fringes and embedding them firmly into the mainstream. Taking in, amongst other things, creationism as science, climate change, the war on Iraq and the appalling media circus that surrounded the death of Terri Schiavo - with the ignorant threatening the lives of hospice work In Idiot America, journalist Charles P. Pierce takes aim at a country that has rejected intelligence, facts and evidence in favour of sound bites, gut feelings and personal prejudices, taking the beliefs of crackpots from the fringes and embedding them firmly into the mainstream. Taking in, amongst other things, creationism as science, climate change, the war on Iraq and the appalling media circus that surrounded the death of Terri Schiavo - with the ignorant threatening the lives of hospice workers and doing their utmost to ensure her death was stripped of any dignity as it was used as a political tool - Pierce lays out the three great premises of Idiot America: Premise 1: Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units. Premise 2: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough. Premise 3: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it. Which is how we have a country full of normally intelligent people believing that vaccinating your children against serious diseases is bad, that more guns will help control gun violence, that 24 gives a successful blueprint for dealing with terrorism, that Glen Beck is an insightful political commentator rather than a screaming man-baby and that Jesus is on their side no matter what they do. A country that now has an unhinged, bright orange hate-monger with Shredded Wheat for hair running for the most powerful position in the world. Not that we, America's faithful lapdog, are any better (as evidenced by the amount of fuckwits googling 'what is the EU?' the day after voting to leave it, and who now have Boris Johnson, a clown who seems never to have met anyone without offending them, as Foreign Secretary. That's sure to end well.) Thankfully, I know plenty of Americans that are most definitely not idiots to give me faith that things won't always be this way. And Pierce was good enough to include plenty of biting humour to offset the rage and despair that some of these cases inspired, even if he got a tad repetitive at times (those three premises mentioned above are now imprinted on my brain thanks to how often they were repeated.) If you think that Jesus has a place in the science class, that your beliefs over the contents of my uterus trump my own, that climate change isn't real because you've not been personally affected by it, and that TV personalities opinions should be trusted over legitimate experts, then this book isn't for you. If you're everyone else, read it and weep. And be vocal about supporting fact and reason over faith in the political sphere.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dan Sussman

    I love Charlie Pierce. I mean, when I wake up at 5:30 on a Saturday morning (yeah, I'm one of those nuts), I immediately flip on "Only a Game" on our NPR station to hear Charlie's hilarious take on sports. And the speed of his wit on "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me" is dazzling. So, it was with great gusto that I seized "Idiot America" off the library shelves. Disappointing? Well, maybe just a little. Charlie is a funny/angry man who can laugh/rail/bemoan the sorry state of America at the moment. The I love Charlie Pierce. I mean, when I wake up at 5:30 on a Saturday morning (yeah, I'm one of those nuts), I immediately flip on "Only a Game" on our NPR station to hear Charlie's hilarious take on sports. And the speed of his wit on "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me" is dazzling. So, it was with great gusto that I seized "Idiot America" off the library shelves. Disappointing? Well, maybe just a little. Charlie is a funny/angry man who can laugh/rail/bemoan the sorry state of America at the moment. The problem: the cranks who have served the country well as the great, off-center American sideshow somehow have taken center stage and are being taken seriously. Don't think so? Pierce gives us plenty grounds to show us otherwise -- the creationist museum in Kentucky, where throngs of visitors contemplate scientific facts such as men riding dinosaurs; those who deny global warming in the face of overwhelming evidence; huckster/politicians like Bill Frist, "diagnosing" Terri Schiavo for political advantage. And the list goes on. Pierce's central premise: In Idiot Ameria: 1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units. 2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough. 3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it. Obviously, much of Pierce's path is already well-trodden. He tends to repeat himself and go down some fairly abstract rabbit holes and sometimes belabors the obvious in making his case. So, "Idiot America" is a bit of a hodgepodge at times. But at his best, Pierce is erudite, articulate and funny, so I forgive him much. The scariest movie I've seen in years -- the one that really haunts me late at night and when I quake at the level of illiteracy in my 8th Grade English students -- is "Idiocracy." Pierce's "Idiot America" is the roadmap to that cinematic dystopia. Pierce's message is the same as that of the film -- we need to wise up and usher the idiots back to the sideshow.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Pierce is concerned with the growing contempt for knowledge in our culture, which he feels has wide relevance for our political, economic and social future. The material he covers will seem fairly self-evident to many i.e., the equating of religious belief with scientific theory, the growth in influence of talk radio hucksters as opposed to the informed experts, the mainstreaming of "crank" conspiracy theories. What makes this book refreshing is Pierce's wit and bravery. He makes the obvious, bu Pierce is concerned with the growing contempt for knowledge in our culture, which he feels has wide relevance for our political, economic and social future. The material he covers will seem fairly self-evident to many i.e., the equating of religious belief with scientific theory, the growth in influence of talk radio hucksters as opposed to the informed experts, the mainstreaming of "crank" conspiracy theories. What makes this book refreshing is Pierce's wit and bravery. He makes the obvious, but frequently derided assertion, that not all assertions of fact or opinion are equally valid. Many people may vehemently believe something, but it may still be false. I have to give an example or two from the book. About the "Creation Museum" sponsored by Answers in Genesis: "It was impolite to wonder why our parents had sent us all to college, and why generations of immigrants had sweated and bled so that their children could be educated, if not so that one day we would feel confident enough to look at a museum full of dinosaurs rigged to run six furlongs at Aqueduct and make the not unreasonable assertion that it was batshit crazy, and that anyone who believed this righteous hooey should be kept away from sharp objects and their own money." Or this about the national "hangover" concerning our national level of thought. "Things are in the wrong place. Religion is in the box where science used to be. Politics in on the shelf where you thought you left science the previous afternoon. Entertainment seems to have been knocked over and spilled on everything." Gems like these kept me laughing and wincing. This book also made me more determined to speak out about abuses of language and sloppy or malicious abuses of logic in the public sphere. It's a refreshing, if sobering, book. People with a brain, you are not alone.

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