Dumbass nation

I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance.  Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.

–Lady Bracknell, in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest

Many observers have long commented on the anti-intellectualism that pervades American politics, but given the events of the past several months, I’m loath to use such a mild term to describe it.  What plagues us, and will continue to do so as long as the Republican party can’t think of a single policy it might promote honestly, is the Tyranny of the Stupid.  Nothing says American like an IQ of 85.  While this development is a godsend for the likes of “Joe the Plumber,” who gushed to a conservative audience recently that the phenomenon, literally, made him “horny,” I fail to see anything, uh, stimulating about it.  While appealing to the cognitively challenged among us is primarily a Republican strategy, far too many Democrats are afraid to call stupidity by its proper name, and of course the media solemnly report the most plainly idiotic notions with nodding, pancaked seriousness, giving aid and comfort to “the folks” out there, whom they obviously assume can neither tell time nor tie their own shoes.  While they’re probably right about that, is it wise or even ethical to treat the opinions of addlepated cretins as legitimate discourse?

In Texas, Rep Leo Berman has proposed a bill that would exempt private institutions from state-mandated curricular requirements, thereby enabling creationists to, in Texas, obtain Master’s degrees in “science.”  Naturally, aside from promoting stupidity, which Texas does with more than usual fervor, the bill is also tainted with the predictable Lone Star brand of corruption and cronyism, having  long been on the wish list of an outfit calling itself  ”The Institute for Creation Research Graduate School,” apparently since the name, “Dumb and Dumber” was copyrighted.  This “Institute” teaches, undoubtedly using a lot of visual aids, the “Young Earth” brand of Creationism, rather than that hoity-toity “Intelligent Design,” which is much less popular in Texas because of that bad word in the title, and Young Earth, which is dedicated to the idea that the real Adam and Eve roamed the earth with the dinosaurs, has a more punchy, Flintstones feel.  One begins to believe that “Don’t Mess with Texas” was adopted as a motto only because the others offered were too difficult to spell.

Of course, most Americans, particularly those who understand the difference between “your” and “you’re,” don’t live in Texas, and certainly would avoid attempting to obtain something so risibly contradictory as an “education” there.  But the stupid stretches from sea to shining sea, bestriding the earth like a slack-jawed Colossus.   There are setbacks, of course, notably when just a month after the Bozo of the Bayous, Gov. Bobby (named for Bobby Brady, natch) Jindal sneeringly berated smarty-pants “volcano monitoring” in a widely panned speech, a danged volcano blew in Alaska, endangering us all by temporarily blocking Gov. Palin’s view of Russia.  Apparently there’s only so much stupid God can put up with.

Worse, some of the most heinous and unconscionable practices of the Bush administration, namely torture, were adopted because no one in the room was aware that FOX’s “24″ is fiction.  Michael Chertoff, John Yoo, and others in the administration lapped up the cartoonish exploits of Jack Bauer, and literally built a policy and legal framework around it.  Thus, people were subjected to some of the vilest behavior known to man based on the delusions of a bunch of nincompoops who are no doubt also convinced that there are two Hayley Mills.  Heck, Supreme Court Justice (!) Antonin Scalia argued, in court, that “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles.”  Yeah, and  Godzilla ate Tokyo, too.

For all the laughably mispelled signs held up by the “teabaggers,” this willing, even passionate embrace of utter nonsense does have consequences, and the reassuring presence of a President capable of pronouncing the word “nuclear” has done little to curb it.

President Bush once asked, “is our children learning?”  No, they isn’t.


  1. Karrsic says:

    I can’t decide whether the vestige of the Republican elite is crying or laughing.

  2. cocktailhag says:

    Crying, but mostly because their scam has run out. They don’t care about being stupid, as long as the old “coffers” are full. But the educated ones, like my mother, were deeply embarrassed and quietly begun voting Democratic in the 90′s. We certainly saw that in the last election. The Republicans can only reliably carry places with gators, tumbleweed, and trailers.

    • Karrsic says:

      Right, but the wealthy right, whose only issues are “no to against” and “yes to self-sustaining law,” must love the working class carrying their water. Uh, figuratively and literally, I suppose.

  3. cocktailhag says:

    Ah, the irony of “What’s the Matter with Kansas.” And people “protesting” money given to the non-rich. Everyone knows only the rich can handle money.

  4. Jim White says:

    What I find frustrating in this whole process is that we are not allowed to just laugh outright in the face of the idiocy thrown at us. Why did it take Tina Fey for us to laugh at Sarah Palin? Why wasn’t Joe the Plumber laughed off the national stage? These people are the worst sort of buffoon and yet our society is forced by the M$M to consider them sources of wisdom.

    • cocktailhag says:

      You should have seen my 15 and 12-year old nephews explode in Beavis and Butthead sniggers when they first heard about the “teabaggers.” They could do John King’s job, much better.
      It’s not that they’re stupid, which they’re not despite their many other flaws, but they think everyone else is. Insulting, is what it is.

  5. bystander says:

    Apparently there’s only so much stupid God can put up with.

    LOL. What a wonderful essay. If there was a newspaper anywhere read by sentient people, I’d urge you to submit it. But, those with the IQ of 85 would think you were talking about someone else.

    Ya know, I can sort of deal with those who have an IQ of 85 regardless of political affiliation. I got the chops with the special needs folk of the world. You really just have to recognize that you need to take care of ‘em, as best you can, without running roughshod over their choices.

    What makes me crazy are the folks with an IQ over 85 who refuse to think, because it’s easier not to. I swear, they all must have had inadequate parenting because they’re all looking for Daddy. They just know he’s out there somewhere. And, they’ll adopt an IQ of 85 if they think it will help them find him. And, this group comes in both red and blue flavors. I have a lot more trouble dealing with cognitive resistances than I do dealing with cognitive deficiencies.

    I’m sure there is a thesis in evolution can explain both. I suspect my problem is, evolutionarily speaking, the process is just too slow. The issue for me is, Who can adapt? The cognitively challenged seem to adapt better than the cognitively resistant. There are two parts; willing and able. Even if you don’t have a large endowment of ability, being willing can help one compensate for a lot.

    I figure I’m a walking example.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Well, I think that’s it. Dorothy Parker said, “you can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.” The pure, proud insistence on not EVER thinking is what makes righties special. Don’t confuse them with the facts, and all.
      Dumbness is a choice, a “lifestyle,” not an inherent trait… Wait a minute, that sounds familiar.
      People with 85 IQ’s can learn. People who pretend to have 85 IQ’s won’t.
      The rest of Lady Bracknell…. “The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, it has no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.

  6. OSR says:

    And, there it is. The ultimate, end-all, biggest daddy of them all, root cause of this catastrophe: Public stupidity. For all the rhetoric about how our representative republic was stolen by the corporatocracy, the truth of the matter is that we gave it away.

    Unrelatedly, I had a lot more respect for Thomas Frank before I visited Kansas. After 20 minutes of Wichita, it was readily apparent what was the matter; they were fucking stupid. If you find yourself in KS and require proof, I can strongly recommend loitering near the revolving door at the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. It’s like Street Theater of the Retarded.

  7. cocktailhag says:

    Every day is stupid pride day, although the parade was cancelled because so many people bumped into lamp posts.

  8. Arren says:

    Brilliantly written, and gruesomely true.

    Got to go, think I just heard a gator burp…..

  9. 23skidoo says:

    Cocktailhag, I just migrated over from Salon. Glad I did. You are a very witty writer. One point: No doubt you’ve been to Texas and have seen the capital of stupid up close and personal. And if so, you might have realized something about this kind of stupid — and that is that it will kick the ass of the person who dares point this out. it’s dangerous to even let on that you’re thinking it, or, for that matter, simply thinking at all. Violence, after all, is stupidity’s inbred brother.

    I thought this small point was left out of your otherwise entertaining analysis.

    • cocktailhag says:

      You’re right of course… the right is given so much deference because, frankly, they’re scary. They have more guns than they have teeth. One quick perusal of any MSM comment board makes this starkly clear. If you were, say Charles Gibson, would you be more afraid of Code Pink, or a new Timothy McVeigh? The question answers itself.

  10. presumptuous insect says:

    Hilarious, cocktailhag!

    Another maddening mistake made by the American Idiot is the confusion between “then” and “than.”

    I see it every day. E.g.,

    Dick Cheney made us safer then Obama!

  11. cocktailhag says:

    There are dozens of those, stanch and staunch, founder and flounder, and many more which escape me but would make a Tolstoy-like tome, if I were only ambitious enough to compile them. Don’t get me started on apostrophes and the letter “s.”…….

  12. Gwen says:

    Dear Cocktailhag,

    I, too, just came over from Salon. They’re making me laugh and now you are too. I must remember the “horticulture” line.

    Several years ago I used to wonder how it is that so many people could see the world in black and white, never shades of gray. I used to think, maybe life would be simpler if I could train myself to think in either/or terms. Sort of like meditation. You know, try and concentrate on one thing but then your mind sort of wanders again. That’s how it worked out with the training. You try and think black/white but then pesky little facts and questions and injustices come up and you’ve lost your concentration.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Call me crazy, but I like to learn new things. As an accident of birth and history, that led me from being an Oregon Republican (socially liberal and environmentally conscious) to these days, when I’ve become practically a commie. (European center-left, that is, but we pronounce things differently here.) Mostly, I’m in favor of broad discourse, no pun intended… Ron Paul, for instance, added a lot of substance to the primary season.

      • Ditto on your Ron Paul comment. The media did its best to silence/ridicule the Good Doctor and failed. Dr. Paul spoke the truth and woke up a lot of people to the scam two our fric-and-frack, Punch ‘n Judy two-party political system. Good on him for being the perfect CONSERVATIVE LIBERAL (not an oxymoron!). Ron Paul is a modern day Jefferson. I loved his “Leave Us ALONE!” politics. Many progressives actually registered as Republicans for the primaries, just to get the man on the ballot.

        Bottom line: Both the Democratic and Republican parties have been co-opted by statists who use Orwell’s 1984 as an instruction manual, rather than the cautionary tale it was meant to be.

    • JoeMommaSan says:

      You try and think black/white but then pesky little facts and questions and injustices come up and you’ve lost your concentration.

      You’re not doing it right. Here’s the Official Guide To Thinking Like A Conservative.

      1) go to local hardware store2) buy hammer

      Now, try your black and white thinking again. When all that pesky stuff shows its ugly mug, hit yourself squarely in the forehead with the hammer, as hard as you can. Repeat as needed.

      Before you know it, you’ll be listening to Hannity and Rush just like the rest of the dittoheads.

      Make sure you buy the biggest, heaviest hammer you can find for the best results.

      • cocktailhag says:

        So that’s how they do it. It’s necessary, of course, because only an injured brain could keep believing, when the garment that covers the nakedness has so many threads hanging that could lead to a full unravelling. That’s why righty beliefs have that hook, line, and sinker quality. They have no choice.

  13. This is really good, clever, and nifty writing, imo.

    But I’d suggest that the low-brow, brainstem thinking of the GOP (and modern conservatism generally) is beautifully counterbalanced by the equally ludicrous condescension and elitism shown by the Left.

    So there is a price tag attached to your merriment here.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Well, I suppose it’s elitist to believe in science, realize that torture doesn’t “work,” and not cheer for ludicrous wars which serve no purpose. I see much less evidence of the fabled, snotty, left, who anyway haven’t gotten a thing they wanted for ten years, than I do a few Democrats standing up for reason. Is Russ Feingold an elitist? Bernie Sanders? As they say in Texas, “It ain’t braggin’ if ya done it.” Just because the last refuge of the Right is to call everybody “elitist,” doesn’t make it so.

      • Casual Observer says:

        imo, it’s not elitist to believe in science, be against torture and anti-war. But it is my observation that there is a core of elitism, or perhaps “counter-elitism” in the left. In that they (we) are in opposition to the elite who currently hold sway and power.

        It may be that elites are necessary. But in a country where we hold that all men are created equal (women not so much, note), some of the utterances of the Left–like “Americans are so Stoopid”, aren’t a way to win friends or influence people.

        the stoopid people I mean. Your fellow citizens.

        • Casual Observer says:

          btw, it’s not “It ain’t bragging if ya done it”. The correct saying is “It ain’t bragging if it’s true”. Please use our sacred phrases accurately.

        • cocktailhag says:

          Well, reading Bob Altemeyer, John Dean, Richard Hofstadter, and others, I tend to agree with them that there’s a little over a quarter of the population that are, basically, fascist rubes unreachable with facts. The problem is when the right tries to push that up to enough to (almost) win elections, by glorifying it.
          I agree, and I’ve had this discussion with many people, that at least to their faces, no “S” word allowed. But what’s the point? They think what they think and will forevermore. It’s a willful stupidity, encouraged by Republicans and the media. They’re now talking New World Order, no doubt working their way toward the sinister post office and fluoride in the water… as they obsess about commies like my crazy grandmother did 30 years ago, and no one calls the white-coated men.
          The right relentlessly polices the margins of left discourse, while lunatics like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, and retards like Sean Hannity are literally trying to foment violence amongst the disaffected dumb. There’s a qualitative difference, in my mind.
          I’m very embarrassed about muffing the “braggin” quote.

  14. sysprog says:

    Statistically, voting for the 21st century (*) GOP has a positive correlation coefficient with wealth, and a negative correlation coefficient with education. So the 21 century GOP could gain political power by making the general public wealthier and/or less educated.

    So, here’s the plan for GOP victory.

    1. Cut education

    That’s it.

    (*) I know the phrase “21st century GOP” is clumsy . . .
    . . . but the less clumsy phrase, “modern GOP” is an oxymoron.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Sadly, this plan was implemented, all too successfully, beginning with California Reaganism, long before the 21st century, so even though “modern” obviously doesn’t work, what about “current?”
      Such an “achievement” as making a whole country dumber is an ongoing process…..

    • sysprog says:

      Education (continued)

      The future belongs to . . .

      (click here for answer)

      • cocktailhag says:

        Well, it’s already happened in India, why not China, too? It seems there’s nothing we won’t give away for cheap labor a a little cost savings in the short term. Funny that other countries still associate education with power and prosperity….

    • Casual Observer says:


      But doesn’t wealth also have a high positive correlation with level of education? Sounds like it is time to drop pair-wise pearson’s r and go for the factor analysis.

  15. sysprog says:

    Another statistical note.

    Tim Geithner’s about ten times richer than your average American.

    Hank Paulson’s about a thousand times richer than Tim Geithner.

    There’s elite, and there’s eliter.

    • cocktailhag says:

      And Paulson’s son, Merritt Paulson, is currently trying to get a free soccer stadium from Portland. (The last refuge of the rich’s worthless offspring… sports teams….) Unsurprisingly, Hizonner Sam Adams, although Merritt is a bit old for him, is giving Paulson Junior some “service” anyway, in cheering for the giveaway.

  16. mikeinportc says:

    “I see much less evidence of the fabled, snotty,left ..”

    Yeah, I’ve said for a long time, that I hear a lot more whining about “whiny liberals” , than whining by “whiny liberals”. (after all, there’s only so many Henry Waxmans to go around,eh?;)

    As for the willful stupidity, here in the Rusty Bible Belt, it’s alive and well. Thankfully , there is one local columnist that’s more than willing to skewer it . The online commenters that hate him, yet hang on his every word, are about as expected . ( In response to his mention of war crimes, I laid out the case for prosecution . I was told, by one of the usuals,with others concurring , to jump off a bridge and kill myself, to spare them “that drivel”.)

    “It’s not that they’re stupid, which they’re not despite their many other flaws, but they think everyone else is. Insulting, is what it is.”

    I’m not so sure . In my dealings with local media, print and electronic, I’ve run into a fair number that I pitied for their mental handicaps.:) ( while also being exasperated by misquotes that make me look like a horticultural dumbass*)That’s the original source of the much of the national media, so don’t doubt that some are a dumb as they seem .

    * For ex, in a 10 min conversation, for the obligatory first-frost-of-the season-story , I mention the following facts, separated by several minutes and ideas , :1) Cabbage family crops, such as broccoli, aren’t damaged by frost, and in fact, flavor may be improved by it. 2)Some things(examples given) can be potted up and brought inside for the winter. 3) The frost won’t be all-encompassing. Just some days, and then just for a few hours. Either cover, or pot up, and put under cover for those occasions, and things can be stretched into October, and maybe into Nov.
    The end result : ” MYLASTNAME(no previous reference to tell who that is) says to pot up your broccoli and bring it indoors to protect it from a killing frost.”

    lol! Every frickin’ time.No matter the subject, or the “reporter” ( except one) it’d end up like that.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Alas, the few representatives that I’ve ever met from my local rag were, sadly, a bit stupid, but they did work for “Homes and Gardens”, not the now-defunct Washington Bureau. (One asked me what I had “formed” an archway out of. Dumbfounded, I said, “2 x 4′s and drywall.” The subsequent article said, “Using 2 x 4′s and drywall….” ) But I didn’t think it possible that they all were. I mean, they find 1320 SW Broadway each day, somehow. BTW… I’m putting in a garden in Brooklyn, NY next month, and all my garden books are for western climates. Got an Idea of a Sunset equivalent for me?

    • cocktailhag says:

      As a matter of fact, the couple I’m working for there were married in the old Palm House at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden….. I’ll check it out. Thanks.

  17. Meremark says:

    And there’s the forest-for-the-trees thing. Sure marches by an unending series of no-wits who shoulda coulda been each laughed off to oblivion. There must come an eventual ultimate doofus fuss-do after which television totally itself is laughed off as idiocy.

    In the first step, (canned laughter), is the last, (canned sensibility). The replacement for dead TV is live TV by video cell phone.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I would have liked there to have been a studio audience for, say, the Couric/Palin interview. No canned laughter would have been required. Have one for all the gasbags…. Then Chris Matthews and Gordon Liddy would be too embarrassed to wax lyrical about Bush’s basket.

  18. Bill says:

    “you can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.”

    That’s enouth of the Aggie jokes for now.

    I wonder if it’s just a coincidence that the State Flower of Texas is a rock.

  19. Jack is fantastic, I really think they should hurry up with the final film if they’re going to product it!