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Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue…

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free (2009)

by Charles P. Pierce

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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I'm sure that when "Idiot America" was released in 2009, its thesis on the dumbing down of America, particularly in combination with the presidency of George W. Bush, no doubt saw it integrating with the zeitgeist. However, reading "Idiot America" in 2017 just makes you nostalgic for Bush.

From the Creationist museum (founded by an Australian) with its saddled dinosaurs, to the Terri Schiavo case, climate change and unnecessary wars, to mention a few issues, I just became increasingly depressed, and since I don't need a book to make me feel depressed, reading "Idiot America" became quite a drudge.

There are some effective sections within "Idiot America" (the Terri Schiavo case was both particularly educational and depressing) but with about 50 pages still to go I was looking forward to finishing this and turning to lighter fare, which is probably part of Pierce's argument; we just don't want to know about the problems of the world. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Oct 11, 2017 |
Astonishing to read about the abject idiocy of so many people (and on all parts of the political/social/religious spectrum)....but it's definitely made me want to read more Charlie Pierce (of whom I knew nothing other than his regular presence on NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me....). ( )
  SESchend | Sep 6, 2017 |
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. ( )
1 vote meandmybooks | Mar 31, 2017 |
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. ( )
1 vote kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
A much better book than the title would indicate. Pierce begins with the new, private, amusement park named Creation Museum in TN, where statue dinosaurs wear saddles and wait patiently in line as Noah herds them into the Ark, then takes us through several topics, stories that puzzled and amazed me, and how people came to accept such stupidity. He hits upon the Terry Schiavo disaster, interviewing hospice workers, focuses upon the right to believe what one wants, even when it obliterates science (climate change, public health, etc. I was shocked and dismayed to learn that "a solid 70 percent of the American people did not believe the conclusion of the Warren Commission", choosing instead, a conspiracy to murder JFK. _The Guardian_ review describes it as a "generally a good, hilarious and scary book' and I agree. However it goes on to state "Pierce seems to have too little faith in the American people." However, given the current (2016) presidential election, I think rather he didn't go far enough. The book deserves to be updated, and read and discussed, widely. ( )
1 vote JeanetteSkwor | Oct 22, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
[The book gives] the impression that Pierce is trying to stitch together a crazy quilt of a book with scraps of unused or already published material. Still, that material is enjoyable, and the book is loaded with poignant observations, such as the uncanny resemblance of A.M. talk radio to its television analogue, professional wrestling.
added by Shortride | editPopMatters, Josh Indar (Aug 14, 2009)
[The] book is a diatribe against everything that galls Jon Stewart and Al Franken. It sings to the liberal chorus but is unlikely to rouse those of a different persuasion.

What saves Pierce’s book from being so much warmed-over Pablum are his lyrical riffs and raucously mocking gibes. At his lampooning, outlandish best, Pierce invites comparison to H.L. Mencken.
Charles Pierce’s Idiot America is a lively and, dare I say, intelligent study of this ongoing assault on gray matter. “We’ve chosen up sides on everything,” he asserts, “fashioning our public lives as though we were making up a fantasy baseball team.”

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles P. Pierceprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pinchot, BronsonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Where can a heretic,

Where can a heretic,

Where can a heretic call home?

—Chris Whitley
To the memory of John Doris, Ph.D., lifelong teacher, lifelong student
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There is some art—you might even say design—in the way southern Ohio rolls itself into the hills of northern Kentucky.
Ralph Ketcham sits on the porch of his little house tucked away on a dirt lane that runs down toward a lake, pouring soda for his guest and listening to the thrum of the rain on his roof.
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Traces how uneducated buffoonery became popular to the point of representing American culture, and expresses the author's hope that the nation will eventually value intellect more than reality television.

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