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

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Editorial Reviews

The culture wars are over and the idiots have won. This is a veteran journalist's caustically funny, righteously angry lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States.

The three Great Premises of Idiot America: · Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units; anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough; "fact" is that which enough people believe. And "truth" is determined by how fervently they believe it.

Charles Pierce has led a career-long quest to separate the smart from the pap, and now it's time to try and salvage the Land of the Enlightened, buried somewhere in this new Home of the Uninformed. With his razor-sharp wit and erudite reasoning, Pierce delivers a gut-wrenching, side-splitting lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States and how a country founded on intellectual curiosity has deteriorated into a nation of simpletons more apt to vote for an American Idol contestant than a presidential candidate.

With Idiot America, Pierce's thunderous denunciation is also a secret call to action, as he hopes that, somehow, being intelligent will stop being a stigma and that pinheads will once again be pitied, not celebrated.

©2009 Charles P. Pierce (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

859 of 918 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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660 of 715 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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498 of 561 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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77 of 85 people found the following review helpful By "Channels Vonnegut" on August 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Pastor Ray Mummert, very early in Pierce's book, sums up most of the one-star reviews of "Idiot America". He's quoted as saying, "We've been attacked by the educated, intelligent segment of the culture". Rather than trying to learn from those Mummert recognizes as intelligent and educated, one-star reviewers mostly seem to be proud that they can't or won't learn from them, that they're quite satisfied to be unaware idiots. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote 50 years ago: "The trouble with dumb bastards is that they're too dumb to realize there's such a thing as smart."

Our country was founded during the Age of Enlightenment by the likes of James Madison, to whom Pierce pays repeated attention. He discusses events and issues that show clearly how the Enlightment's premise, that democratic self-government requires an educated citizenry, no longer holds sway in America. Pierce demonstrates how scorn for expertise, intelligence and education has led to recent myths such as the Dover, PA court case over "intelligent design", the lies about weapons of mass destruction, and Terri Schiavo's ability to recover from her vegetative state.

Pierce lays out three great premises that have overtaken respect for facts and truth. Those are listed in other reviews; I won't repeat them. Where the book falls short, in my opinion, is in offering a prescription for how the "intelligent and educated segment" may reach out effectively to the "other America" to restore a more universal respect for actual facts and how to determine whether a proposition is true. But Pierce is certainly provocative. Perhaps those younger and wiser than I, e.g., Rachel Maddow or Jon Stewart, will hear him and bring forth the imagination, drive and reasonableness to counter America's descent into idiocy. Otherwise, the future looks frightening, and the Age of Enlightenment is truly history.
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