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Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free [Paperback] Unknown Binding – 2010

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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B003L0VIDE
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (283 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Charles P. Pierce is a writer at large for Esquire, where he also writea a daily on-line political blog, and is a staff writer for the on-line sports magazine Grantland.

He was born December 28, 1953 in Worcester, MA. Six months earlier, his mother hid in the basement as a massive tornado leveled his future hometown of Shrewsbury, MA The effect of prenatal imprinting is still being debated in medical circles, but a connection does not seem implausible.

He is a 1975 graduate of Marquette University, where he majored in journalism and brewery tours. He was delighted to combine his vocation and his avocation once again when he returned to Milwaukee to cover the trial of Jeffrey Dahmer.

He attended graduate school at Boston College for two days. He is a former forest ranger for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and still ponders the question of what possesses people to go into the woods and throw disposable diapers up into trees.

He began his journalism career writing bowling agate for the Milwaukee papers, and remains justly proud of his ability to spell multi-syllabic, vowel-free Eastern European names. He has written for the alternative press, including Worcester Magazine and the Boston Phoenix, and was a sports columnist for The Boston Herald. He was a feature writer and columnist for the late, lamented sports daily, The National. He has been a writer-at-large for a men's fashion magazine, and his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the LA Times Magazine, the Nation, the Atlantic and The Chicago Tribune, among others. Although he is no longer a contributor, he remains a devoted reader. He is a frequent contributor to to Eric Alterman's Altercation, the American Prospect and Slate. Charlie appears weekly on National Public Radio's sports program Only A Game and The Srephanie Miller Show, and is a regular panelist on NPR's game show, Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me. Since July 1997 he has been a writer at large at Esquire, covering everything from John McCain to the Hubble telescope, with more than a few shooting stars thrown in between. From 2002 to 2011 he was a Boston Globe Sunday Magazine staff writer and columnist, where he wrote political and general interest features as well as "Pierced, a weekly column.

Charles Pierce is the recipient of numerous professional awards and honors. On several occasions, he was named a finalist for the Associated Press Sports Editor's award for best column writing, and it has been suggested that if only he would wear a tie, they might have let him win. He was a 1996 National Magazine Award finalist for his piece on Alzheimer's disease "In the Country of My Disease," and has expanded the piece into a book Hard to Forget: An Alzheimer's Story for Random House. In 2004, he won a National Headliners Award for his Globe Magazine piece, "Deconstructing Ted". Depending on which year this is, Charlie Pierce has appeared in Best American Sportswriting more times than any other writer, or has tied with Roger Angell for most appearances in Best American Sportswriting, or is sulking in second place and plotting to regain the top spot soon, or has fallen plumb off the court. Charlie's sportswriting has been anthologized in Sports Guy: In Search of Corkball, Warroad Hockey, Hooters Golf, Tiger Woods, and the Big, Big Game. He was awarded third place in the PBWAA Dan S. Blumenthal Memorial Writing Contest. When he won Phone Jeopardy, Alex Trebek sent him a plaque.

Charles Pierce lives in metro Boston with at least some of his three children all of the time, the rusted remains of a malfunctioning Toro lawnmower and his extremely long-suffering wife.

Customer Reviews

The book is both entertaining and informative.
Phil Terrana
As "Idiot America" makes clear, we as American citizens need to change this state of affairs if this country is to prosper.
Lars P. Hanson
As for Americans, they do not appear to be much different than human beings in most of the remainder of the world.
M. Hoffman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

830 of 888 people found the following review helpful By K. Johnson VINE VOICE on July 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"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.
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623 of 676 people found the following review helpful By Brian Connors VINE VOICE on June 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well, wouldja look at that. As I write this, six one-star reviews, all saying exactly the same thing and missing the point in the process -- whining about how the book focuses on conservative US politics and whining about bias, while completely failing to understand how they prove the book's point.

There are a few things that irk me about this book -- the near-exclusive focus on US conservatism is necessary to this book's theme, but the author would be well-served to look into things like the alternative medicine movement, which suffers from many of the same problems. (And would it have killed Pierce to include an index? I've said this in other reviews -- political books need indexes because without them it makes them look like they're trying to railroad the reader.) But to someone willing to take the time to read it, this book tells people what practically everyone should know about American politics -- that the American people are being sold a sob story about how experts are an elite that is keeping them from being The Best Damn Nation In The World. (In that regard, one should definitely read "The Paranoid Style In American Politics" by Richard Hofstadter -- it's over four decades old, but saw from the very beginning what has come into full bloom now with the barking lunacy of the American Right.)

Pierce covers much territory -- he starts with the Creation Museum in Kentucky, then moves on into the 19th century crank Ignatius Donnelly and his popularization of Atlantis, and from there it's off to the races. The most painfully harrowing sections are those dealing with the Kitzmiller trial in Dover, PA, where a town drew up sides over good science vs.
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476 of 536 people found the following review helpful By Phoenix Woman on June 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Charles Pierce has long been a target of the same conservative spammers and sockpuppets that make reading the comments sections of most blogs and news websites such a display of witlessess. These same persons are on a drive to wreck sales for his book by downrating it even though they have never read it and never will.

The reason for their enmity is obvious: Much as the late David Postman did with his book Amused to Death, Mr. Pierce draws accurate and deadly aim at the forces that have led to the devaluing of intelligence and learning in America. The main difference is that while Postman didn't explicitly ascribe an ideological cause or specific ideological actors for this general dumbing-down, Pierce does. He lays the blame at the feet of various ideology-driven entities, with special attention given to the same corporate-media war cheerleaders who happily passed on Bush's lies about Iraqi weaponry to a somnolent public, and who, in the name of putting "balance" over reality, treat specious creationist nonsense and hard scientific fact as if both had equal validity. Highly recommended!
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164 of 190 people found the following review helpful By William Flowers on June 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are several excellent observations running around in Idiot America. In particular, the Three Great Premises of Idiot America are an excellent and concise way to refer to the underlying process that legitimizes stupidity in America today. Idiot America is worth reading.

Unfortunately, Idiot America is not without flaws. At several points in the book Pierce discusses what the book "was going to be," and it is mentioned that the book arises from several different pieces of work that Pierce has produced over the years. The organization and flow of the book back those claims up to the hilt: we are presented with a pastiche of ideas and points in history that are not sufficiently stitched together to make a compelling extended argument.

The ideas of Idiot America hold great promise but, like many of the complicated ideas discusses in the book, they simply aren't communicated well enough. The editor of the work should have told Pierce to pick his hypotheses (the Gut, the Premises, crank versus idiot) and state those hypotheses clearly and organize the book around them, using his evidence and research to support his ideas.

Idiot America reads as if Pierce took a bunch of blogs and articles and threw them together, adding Madison musings at random intervals.

Read it, but don't expect too much more than what you can glean from reading the synopses that some have included in their reviews.
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