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Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
In "Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free," journalist Charles P. Pierce does a fine job of bringing together the various components (ideology-driven government that had no use for facts; the unique American trait of assuming that since everyone is equal, my completely unfounded opinions on any given topic are as valid as those of experts who have studied the given topic for 40 years; and the rise of the Internet, a world of instantaneous communication where anybody can, and does, proclaim his/her beliefs at FULL CAPITALIZED FURY all the time) which resulted in the tremendously deep abyss in which the US now finds itself economically, morally and politically. This was published after Obama became the Democratic nominee for President but before the 2008 elections, and it focuses primarily, not surprisingly, on the Bush years. Pierce makes a case for America having always had its cranks and crackpots, people who enjoyed a full hearing and who even sometimes persuaded others that their crazy ideas had merit, but he notes that these were always fringe people, and now they have are center-stage. As just one example, he spends some time talking about the case in Dover, Pennsylvania, where the school board was taken over by creationists in around 2003/2004 and began insisting that "intelligent design" be taught in biology classes alongside evolution; this situation ended up in court, where the arguments put forth by the school board were thoroughly debunked (my favourite line comes from one of the creationists, a pastor named Mummert, who actually said, straight-faced, "we've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture"!). And of course Pierce has a field day concerning Iraq and the WMD hoax, particularly as he includes interviews with real experts who were asked for their opinions and then, when they didn't give Bush the "reality" he wanted, were completely ignored and in some cases fired from their government jobs. Because, you know, the reality they described didn't match the ideology of the neocons. Pierce also goes back, discussing historical situations in the States to some degree, but also to a large degree turning to James Madison and the Federalist Papers, which indicate that Madison and the other Founding Fathers were absolutely certain that the only way this experiment in democracy could work would be if the electorate was intelligent and educated. These frequent referrals to the historical characters of the Enlightenment serve to contrast what the US has become in recent decades (Pierce goes back to Reagan and his idiotic "trickle-down" voodoo economics) versus what it was hoped, 200+ years ago, it would be. A very well-written and researched book, and one well worth reading, even though ultimately it's just incredibly depressing fare.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
This book is about a rising anti-intellectualism in America and how it translates into a 'dumbing-down' of the nation as a whole. In the main, it is entertaining and enjoyable but, for a few reasons, it only rated three stars for me. The author adopted a format wherein he commences sections with an anecdote about Presdident Madison (for the author, an icon of rationalism and intelligence) and he then segues into a topical discussion of some modern idiocy. It was a clever structural idea, I suppose, but was not well implemented. In the first place, the connection between the anecdote and the discussion was often tenuous at best (and the anecdotes not always that interesting) but the main criticism I had is that there was annoying switch in prose characteristics between the two. While the topical discussions were generally lively, humorous and with a quick, upbeat tempo, the Madison passages were often slow and a bit tedious. For this reader, at least, he effect was jarring and did not work at all.I also found that the book languished toward the end. The material on the Iraq invasion could have been much more interesting. Unfortunately, the author seemed to have been running out of steam and the jaunty wittiness of earlier parts of the book was missing. Despite the weaknesses, however, I mostly enjoyed the book and will probably read it again.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Although I found the writing to be choppy at times and that the contrasts between James Madison and today's national situation to be somewhat forced, I did give this text '5 Stars'. My reasoning is that this is a book that all Americans should digest and more fully understand. This book is a classic primer about what is going wrong in America. The most obvious fault behind her demise is the dumbing-down of her citizenry. People are more interested in listening to the charlatans like Glenn Beck or being led through a Creationist Museum so that their ignorant and baseless thoughts can be not only reinforced but applauded by the 'experts'. Any country that will have people taking to the streets displaying pictures from the Halocaust because an existing administration is attempting to reduce health care costs while improving services, needs to take its pulse to see if it is still has one. Charles Dickens once wrote that the ires of a society are solely based on two factors; ignorance and want. And while we should fear want, the greatest threat to a society is ignorance. Charles Pierce does an admirable job of showing how ignorance has spread throughout the US like a plague of locus. For those readers who do not realize the magnitude of the problems that our ignorant culture has created, the reading of "Idiot America" is a good place to start.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2010
the title says it all...a well written witty but erudite look at america in the 21st century as it races to a national dumb down. Pierce's take on current US politics juxtaposed against Madison's treatise on the role of government is a wake up call to anyone who sees the tea party as anything more than kranks to re-think.
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on November 29, 2011
I can imagine how this book would sit with many Americans. In fact, I think I'd pay to watch them read it.

Pierce is just so...smart. And I'm not being sarcastic here. He nails so much so well about 'What's Going On in The Land of The Free' that as much as I enjoyed his handiwork, there were moments when I wondered if it was overkill.

And then I took in the coverage of 'Black Friday' recently a whole pile of stuff besides and realized that 'there's no such thing as 'overkill' in this situation.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a great addition to the others I've been reading lately about the general state of affairs. I'd recommend it to anyone wanting an intellectual kick-start.
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on July 29, 2012
We who live outside the USA seldom see much of the beliefs not in the mainstream. Here's a chance to get broad coverage of the kind of 'thinking' behind the demand for Obama's birth certificate, and even more bizarre theories, plus analysis of why they're wrong. Prepare to have your jaw drop more than once.
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on May 14, 2015
Interesting read. A little over the top occasionally. But it does discuss a disturbing trend of a seeming intellectual race to the bottom in our western culture.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2009
There are very good stories and amusing antidotes, but I was left feeling cut off from the full conclusion of the stories at times. The attempt to tie in each section as it relates to past presidents sometimes misses. Overall some very good points but it never really came together.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2010
Witty and well written, this book accurately describes the sorry condition of the modern day U.S. (and applies in large part to my nation of Canada.)
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