“Idiot America” is great, informative book about concepts we see everyday. Also, many of the 1-star reviews are likely biased because of some of the political and religious topics noted. I think this book is definitely a full, 5-star book.
The Following comments aren’t meant to be particularly negative towards the United States and the concepts in this book aren’t exclusive to the USA. The concepts in “idiot America” exist all over the entire world. “Idiot America” is a superbly covered account of something that’s very prevalent in the US.
Charles Pierce provides the history of “cranks” (con artists and showmen) from the founding of the nation to current examples today in contemporary America. I focused on TV and Radio because of it’s widespread impact on the populace today (even in the age of the growing Internet, which is becoming dominant). Much of TV and Talk Radio promote misinformation based on emotion, histrionics, shock, being loud, and over-the-top attempts to get ratings.
The author notes “The 3 Great Premises: and applies them to many instances in this book:
1. Any theory is valid if it moves units (rating, and making money).
2. Anything can be true if it is said loudly enough.
3. Fact is what enough people believe (the Truth is what you believe).
There are many examples in this book. Here are just a few:
The NAFTA Superhighway, that never was:
Even in the year 2003, a completely false rumor can end up being debated by Congressman, and end up on Lou Dobb’s TV show. In 2003, the Texas legislature approved the the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) to improve road and rail lines to facilitate the movement of good within the state of Texas. Due to modern day mass communication (mostly the Internet) the TTC very quickly turned into a fictitious NAFTA Superhighway. The Superhighway was to be 400 yards wide and stretch from El Paso, TX to Saskatoon, Canada. North to South, East to West. The NAFTA superhighway would be the trade corridor for the newly united states of Canada, US, and Mexico. Congressman were asked their position on the highway by reporters in DC, and many cited their opposition to it and the erosion of America’s Sovereignty. Lou Dobbs ran the story on his show on a major American news network. Viewers were “outraged.” Silly as this may seem, it reinforces the point that we
cannot automatically trust nor believe the mainstream media.
Religion and politics have merged, and both use the characteristic tactics of brand marketing in the modern marketplace. Church consultant George Barna in 1988 stated that the church has failed “to embrace a marketing orientation in what has become a market-driven environment” (page 131).
After failing to sneak religion into classrooms to get Creationism taught in biology classes, in addition to nation-wide prayer in schools, a new brand was carefully and methodically invented: intelligent design. ID was funded among many, including the owner of Domino’s Pizza through a right-wing legal foundation.
A school board tried to sneak ID into the Dover, Delaware school system not by Constitutionality but by marketing. The Intelligent Designers tried to remove a science textbook and replace it with one advocating Intelligent Design. The scientific basis for the ID movement was by the term “irreducible complexity.” Under this, if you cannot remove one element with demolishing the system, it proves creationism works. The ID legal strategy in court under ‘irreducible complexity’ was, bacterial Flagellum. But the micro bacterial flagellum fell apart in court, and a judge ruled that ID was not sufficiently proven to be taught in public science classes in Delaware. Later this judge, who was given the case, was called a “fascist” by Tim O’Reilly on TV, with Pat Robertson calling him “absurd.”
POLITICAL TALK RADIO:
One set of rules noted by a professor studying radio discourse:
*Never Be Dull
*Embrace willfully ignorant simplicity
*The American public is stupid; treat them that way
*Always ignore the fact and the public record when it’s convenient
TELEVISION: “Television is an emotional medium. It’s entertainment, not analysis or reasoned discourse.”
In spite of the massive growth of those getting their information from the Internet in recent years (which I think is good if people check the source appropriately) many folks still get their information from TV.
I think TV has devolved so much and become so bad, that instead of becoming more informed on issues, people are actually becoming less informed. When I visit the US, instantly notice how bad television news is, not only on reporting the issues to the public but by its inclusion of tabloid stories. .
How many people do you know, that simply regurgitate the ideas, positions and arguments they see on radio & television? I know and witness this plenty, and yes I sometimes do it myself.
“Idiot America: How Stupidity Became Virtue in the Land of the Free,” by Charles Pierce, is an excellent book.