Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free (Random House / Doubleday, 2009)

Okay, so I'm biased. Perhaps shockingly so. The right has gotten so hotdamned stupid in the last dozen or so years that I find myself wishing that William F. Buckley was still around, because he, at least, espoused original ideas and presented them well. I'm very hotheaded, very temperamental and you probably wouldn't like me very much if you pulled a ballot for John McCain and Sarah Palin, if you think Sean Hannity's a great American, if you listen to any of his Islamophobic ilk on talk radio, if you genuinely believe Fox News is fair and balanced, or if you sympathize with that blue-haired nutjob who bawled about wanting her America back after Obama's inauguration. You probably wouldn't like me because I think you're a hotdamned moron and our nation, our planet, would be better off without your presence.

So yes, Idiot America is a book for people like me. It's not written in a way that will convert anybody. Charles Pierce is very much preaching to the choir. We had a temp at my last job for about seven weeks, before she kidnapped her stepdaughter and drove off to Tennessee with her. There was an occasion when she was telling me about some dangerous cult to which her husband had started donating, which was preaching about humanity having "three ages," one of which predated the dinosaurs. I raised an eyebrow and she, thinking she'd found a sympathizer, said "Right! Because everybody knows that dinosaur bones were put here by God as a test of our faith!" She wasn't joking. I don't think this book would persuade her of much of anything.

I certainly enjoyed the hell out of this book, but I wonder whether Pierce missed an opportunity. The deeply-held beliefs of creationists, talk radio audiences and their like aren't going to be changed by people ranting at them. It's going to take patient and slow explanation. Then again, I doubt any book is going to do it. The near-fifth of Americans who've concluded that President Obama is a Muslim got there by regular spoonfeedings of innuendo and assumption. When ministers in Texas can warn their community that they are at war with the "intelligent and educated" segment of society and their congregation just nods in agreement like Monty Python characters, you start to realize that books aren't going to help matters much.

I found the book entertaining and funny and certainly recommend it, particularly to people who have friends and relatives who lap up that Fox propaganda.

1 comment:

Rex Gambill said...

I hear Charlie Pierce as a commentator on the Saturday morning sports-oriented radio show "Only a Game" and have found his to be a refreshing wit. You describe his book as entertaining and funny but I suspect it will leave me just as discouraged as it appears to have left you.