Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Age of Stupidity

What will historians say of this era in which we live? What will our heirs say of us? Assuming that humanity will survive another one hundred years, what will be said of the years between 2000 and, just for the sake of argument, 2009? What will they think when they open up rusty tins of VHS videotape containing, raw, unedited, footage of a typical day's programing on, say, New York's W-PIX? Or E? Or MTV? Or FOX News? What might they discern from the fact that the network we all should have been watching, C-SPAN, actually had the lowest ratings? We're going to look like a nation of assholes.

Are you ready for the dirty little secret? We are a nation of assholes!

I'm just old enough to remember the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite and the NBC Nightly News with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Can you even imagine any of them giving a half/second to Paris Hilton or Brad and what's-her-name or Tom Cruise's baby? Is it a coincidence that the American people were better informed in that bygone era? Is it just a happy accident of history that our parent's generation had a better grasp on affairs of state than ours? If you don't think that they were better informed, I've got a little assignment for you: Go out and purchase yourselves copies of the Kennedy/Nixon debates of 1960 and the Bush/Gore debates of 2000. Videotapes of both series of programs may be obtained through the American Broadcasting Company.

Say what you want about Jack Kennedy and Dick Nixon, both men were possessed of a keen intellect and a strong opinion as to American goals - even though they differed considerably as to the means to achieve the ends. During their televised debates of forty-six years ago next month, both of them, for all of their disingenuousness - and there was a lot of that, politics being what it is - at the very least attempted to "talk up" to their audience. When either of them addressed the TV cameras, you got the definite impression that they believed the average viewer had somewhat of a tangible intellect.

And as for Bush and Gore? Well, let's just say that I labeled that particular videotape, "Dumb and Dumber: The Sequel". And why wouldn't I? They were playing before an atrociously dumbed down American public. In 1960, the candidacy of George W. Bush would have been as pathetic as that of a village idiot, who is the son of the richest man in town, trying to run for mayor. No one would have taken him seriously. He wouldn't have even made it to the primaries!

When the 2000 debates were finally analyzed, it was generally acknowledged that, while Al Gore easily won all three, the public liked George W. Bush better. Gore, the electorate seemed to be saying, came off as a "know it all" policy wonk, whereas Bush seemed like "a regular guy", the kind of person that most people, men in particular, would like to sit down and have a beer with.


Here where I live in Goshen, NY, there used to be a bar called The Orange Inn. It's still there but recently, as a result of a change of ownership, it has gone somewhat "trendy" and has lost all of its much lamented saloon atmosphere. It's now the type of place where one might walk into and order a white wine spritzer instead of a bottle of Bud. Back in its salad days, when I was still drinking, there were a number of regulars who used to throw back serious amounts of brew. As much as I liked - even loved - most of those characters, I can't, in my wildest dreams, imagine handing over the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to any one of them. And yet sending any one of them to the White House would have made at least as much sense (and in a few cases much more sense) than what we eventually did by sending a half-witted, murderous little thug like George W. Bush . It's as if a significant minority (although not most) of the American people were saying, "Al Gore knows too much. But this guy, Bush, from Texas is as incurious and as ill-informed as I am. He's got my vote!

Are you able to detect just a smidgen of pathos here? Ah! I thought as much!

George W. Bush's very real lack of intellectual depth would be disturbing enough if he were your average County Highway Commissioner. That he is sitting at the pinnacle of world power should give every thinking person pause. To paraphrase Bob Herbert in a recent New York Times column, anyone who still thinks that sending this guy to Washington was a good idea is either not reading the newspapers or is in need of therapy. Good one, Bob! Either that or they're taking Stupid Pills.

As the bumper sticker on my truck says, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention".

Pray for peace.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Wilma Lamb said...

I wouldn't dare try to guess what will be said of us on your target date. If things go as they are now, Orwell will look tame and they will be brainwashed to zombies incapable of mouthing anything but what they are told to say.If miracles are still happening, we will get rid of this crowd and go on the way our Founding Fathers envisioned, and will think us as you described. They are welcome, I feel I did all I could to prevent the debacle.

At 6:44 PM, Blogger Fenrir said...

I'm telling ya man... the government put something in our drinking water... we're all ZOMBIES!!!!

At 7:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"......should give you pause...". Give me pause?! It gives me the heebie-jeebies, whenever I think about it.

I've always wondered just how a person could go in this country on money alone. the answer would seem to be: the White House, that's how far.

Mary Eman

At 6:22 AM, Blogger Nancy said...

The dumbing down of the electorate was deliberate. It started with Reagan. Remember when ketchup was a vegetable?
Reagan repealed the Fairness in Broadcasting act, which led to the consolidation of the ownership of the media in the hands of four, or is it six corporations? and the lamentable results that you see here.
Our educational system has been in decline since Reagan's time as well. Don't think it all wasn't planned. Powers that be (and I mean the corporatocracy) don't want an electorate that asks questions.
Things aren't much better even if you are paying attention. Some other countries have a more informed electorate (the best educated voters are in Australia) but people who object to the policies of their government are simply ignored.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger stoney13 said...

More people voted in "American Idol" than the last election! How much more proof do we need! America got President Pork Pie because WE D$ESERVE HIM!!!

There IS such a thing as Karma, and we got a heaping helping in 2000... With ketchup on the side...AS A VEGETABLE!!

At 3:00 PM, Anonymous BullDerm said...

Nancy's on it. The dumbing down of America conincides with the Reagan administration's relaxing of FCC oversight, which gave birth to right-wing radio and likes of Rush and company. However, with the advent of internet and wider availability of news sources (and blogs), maybe the "Dumbo" effect is in retreat.

At 4:00 PM, Anonymous Angie said...

I agree that the US electorate has been dumbed down. However, the process began long before Reagan came on the scene. He did make it cool to be stupid, though. Notice how "ummm" and "like" are now the most used words in the neo-english language of the 21st century US populace.

Yes, we're evolving alright, but it's nothing to be proud of.

At 8:51 AM, Blogger betmo said...

my beef all along is that america has gone mediocre. we are so 'stupid' for lack of a better word pre- morning coffee- that we didn't elect a LEADER who was smarter than us. isn't that the point of electing someone? you want someone who knows more than you about the job you are electing him or her to do. you don't get to have a beer with the president- he apparently does that with putin- so why would you elect a guy that's more folksy than smart? now look at our country.

At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Wilma Lamb said...

Stoney: Enough people WANTED to vote and TRIED to vote and COULDN'T vote to rid us of this poor excuse for a government that you and Tom Degan call by its right name. Probably if more had got off their dead ends and went the polls we wouldn't have this scum. Keep telling it like it is

At 8:01 PM, Anonymous VPKR said...

A long list of journalists who are also members of the Council on Foreign Relations.

At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Wilma Lamb said...

In rereading your rant you said what will people think of us when they open...Do you think all or even a fraction of the stupid, illegal, irrational,unconstitutional acts this bunch of jackals have committed will survive? With the lock on the facts this bunch has on the facts all that will survive will be glowing paens of praise for Bush's "patriotism" and relentless war on terror.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

A couple of items not noted.
Wasn't the US the victim of a coup d'etat in 2000 when Florida votes weren't counted and the Supreme Court was compromised? AND Diebold in Ohio in 2004, anyone?
Of course some say the coup originated with Reagan which set in motion the current events. And the great dumbing down continues, look at the illiteracy rates - worst in the non-third world??
Good blog, Tom, always enjoy you on Alternate.....

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, personally, have been in a state of disbelief and outrage since the 2000 elections. The feeling of political impotence overwhelmed me in 2004 with the re-election of the sage brush shorty. Today I feel confusion and dismay at what may lie ahead of us in November, because as I've said for years (since the re-election of Nixon) " Never underestimate the ignorance of the American People". Today I add "Never underestimate the underhanded actions of the American right wing". Constitution, Statute of Law, code of decency be damned. We face the ultimate evil in November, and voting might make no difference once again. Shout it out to the heavens people...your very freedoms depend on it.

Richard Wagner...Scottsdale

At 8:59 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

Most people are not paying attention.

At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheers from Germany!
There´s not much you can say about it, it leaves most people with brains speechless.
But I am absolutely convinced that, even if people were smarter, they couldn´t have had the control over the "election", which I absolutely doubt is the right word for it.
Most people I know really pity the American people, and nobody takes George"Short-of-Brains"Bush serious here, but everyone sees it for what it is: a desaster.
Wish you more luck for the elections next time...


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