Why are Americans so Stupid?

  Disbelief, dismay, anger, depression, numbness.  I felt the same as many of you.  And wondered what possessed so many Americans to vote for Bush against the better interests of the rest of the planet, the United States, and even of the Republicans in the bottom 98% income bracket.  Aside from all questions of software manipulation, discarded ballots, challenged registrations, and divinely wrought chad hanging, quite a few voters did choose the Cowboy.  Why?

  There’s been no shortage of explanations in these posts and elsewhere—fundamentalist Christians, biased media, appeals to fear and xenophobia, simplicity of message—probably all of these are true to some extent, along with other factors, but they beg the question:  Why are Americans so stupid?  Why do they fall for these transparent ploys?

  Now, don’t get me wrong:  First of all, everyone’s stupid when it comes to politics and Americans are in good company there.  And I don’t think Americans are genetically stupider than Europeans, or Africans, or anyone else.  Jared Diamond does make a good case in Guns, Germs, and Steel for the superior intellect of the few surviving hunter-gatherers (he has worked for years in Papua New Guinea) who have been rigorously selected up to the present, unlike us well fed agriculturalist/couch potatoes, but probably the important differences are environmental.

  Most Americans today do seem different from most Europeans, broadly speaking, Americans are more isolationist, less well-informed about politics and science, less interested in the fate of other nations, and more likely to hold absurd beliefs (astrology, alien abduction, virgin birth, Uri Geller…).  The difference is not pronounced—people here (I live in Vienna) swallow all kinds of nonsense too—but no one I know here, from the Greens through the Socialist to the Freedom Party (sort of a neonazi neocon group), likes Bush and everyone (not just my Muslim friend) thinks the war in Iraq is an unmitigated disaster.  Why the difference?

  My suspicions:  First of all, European countries are small, the US is big.  Europeans have had to cope with many different neighbors, languages, and cultures for centuries.  It’s easier for Americans to think that their nation is the whole world.  Second, television.  The average American watches more than four hours of TV a day, the average European about an hour less.  Television sucks out your brain, especially the simplistic pap that passes for entertainment in the States.  Third, Europeans walk more. Many of my friends, like myself, don’t even have cars.  Driving around in a metal box and seeing the world through safety glass can lead one to think that it’s all just another TV program.

  On the other hand, maybe the main difference is that the US is a major military power, and power corrupts. Americans are manipulated to support stupid wars because the powers that be need the oil, and can get it, through force of arms.

  My comparison, anecdotal and undocumented as it is, is between the US and Europe because the standards of living and access to information are comparable—who can blame the Kokovoko Islanders for being superstitious?

  Anyway, I’d like to hear your opinions on this.

329 comments

  1. I lived in Canada for almost three years. The news was filled with the goings-on of nearly every country. CNN was routinely international in coverage.

    When I came back to the US after my work visa expired and was not renewed, I was shocked at the contrast. CNN International is available for four hours a day. The news rarely talks about what’s going on inside other countries.

    Part of it might be the geography. European countries have each other as neighbors, and have for centuries. There’s always been awareness of ‘that other group, who’s not part of our country, but lives just over those hills’. We have Canadians and Mexicans, and in between we’ve got a truly ginormous landmass that’s all more Americans. I don’t think that there’s been the widespread awareness of other countries’ events as touching on American lives. That lack-of-immediacy feeds a contented myopia that can’t really be blamed on any one generation, and likewise can’t be quickly and easily changed.

    I do know that posting a blanket statement like ‘why are Americans so stupid’ is not going to make people more aware of the world outside the US borders.

  2. Well, to agree with the post. Americans are stupid. Not all- but SOME Americans are stupid.  I do not think because a person votes for a certain candidate its necessarily makes them a stupid person. Stupidity comes from being uninformed, regardless of which side that you are for, as long as our countries current situation is an interest of yours(for it should be for all) I give you all the credit you deserve.

      And to comment on the way that the media runs over 85% of the media (Television Based) is slanted towards the left wing* example: CNN, ABC, MSNBC, some worse than others Fox is the only network on TV that is targeted for the conservative.  If you look at talk radio (AM) it is dominated by the right wing, example: Rush, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly.

    I guess it all depends on your methods of obtaining news coverage on the spin that you are going to recieve.

    *as soon as I get home I will post the site that I got that statistic from but for now I have gotta go to class.(possibly “media watchdog”) but not too sure grin

  3. Hmm. I think I’ll have to say I strongly disagree. Saying that Americans are stupid, while fun to say, is an oversimplification. I really don’t like Bush, but it isn’t the end of the world. I am thinking you may have fallen into a sloppy way of thinking that I myself have fallen victim to recently. It is possible for people to have a different viewpoint and (*shudder*) actually think that Bush is what is right for America and not be an idiot.

    Ok, so why is there such a big difference in appeal of Bush in America vs abroad? I think I can take a stab at it.

    TARGET AUDIENCE

    The Republican Party and Bush supporters will try to appeal to a subsection of America. That means knowing what is important to their constituatants and focusing on that. Wander too much from the GOP’s target audience and people’s reactions can become quite negative. I think with the amendments for banning gay marriage on the ballot in 11 states and other issues important to the religious/conservative right, the voter turnout for Bush was higher that would have otherwise.

    FOCUS ON THE DOMESTIC AGENDA

    Bush and company have demonstrated that they don’t interact with other nations all that well. I’m sure B&C probably view Iraq and Afganistan as being a problem for America and therefore not really the business of other nations. With the 9/11 attacks, most people in the USA were pretty pissed. With Bush attacking Afganistan and Iraq, people saw something being done and I doubt most would have thought critically about whether it was the right decision or not. Sadly, many people still believe that WMD have been found in Iraq even though they haven’t.

    IGNORE THE NEGATIVE

    We all do it. When you are in love with a game, person, or ideology, you tend to ignore things that you find distastful. With the people who voted Bush into office, he appealed to them enough that they were able to overlook things that they may not have liked about him. Hmm, or, it could be that they also didn’t like Kerry enough.

    SLOPPY THINKING

    I think saying that the bulk of Americans are morons is a cheap way out. It is a sloppy way of thinking because if you allow yourself to believe that, it can come back to bite you when you find out people aren’t always as dumb as you think.

    In the last few months I had been getting pretty depressed being around all the religious types. I allowed myself to think that since religion = superstition (IMHO), that people who believed that way were less smart and were dumb. It started affecting the way I interacted with people and became more and more cynical. Recently, my brother confronted me about it and I realized I was being a jerk (subtle mind you) and was getting pissed off. Since then I have been a bit more laid back and come to realize that just because people think differently, it doesn’t make them stupid.

    Sorry if this comment wanders. I wrote it up quickly while at work.

  4. Fascinating post. Perhaps my reaction, as an American (one of the 48% that *didn’t* vote for Bush) might lend you some insight.

    Let’s just start with the title, as my defense mechanisms have just kicked in because some fruity foreigner has just called me stupid.  :0)

    The irony of reading this on the American made and designed internet (Tim Berners-Lee), on what I’m sure you have typed on an American made computer has not escaped me. (btw, how are things in your country? Perfect, I suppose… I mean, why else would you feel free and arrogant enough to criticize the U.S.?)

    I can go on with further innovations that came from America to make your life easier (cars, telephones, planes, all things electrical)… but we’re soooooo stupid, right?

    Why stop there. Why not ask other poignant questions like:
    1) Why are the French such fucking snobs?
    2) Why do the British have such lousy teeth?
    3) Why do the Germans still think they’re “all that”, even after every ass kicking?

    Not much fun lumping individuals into a broad sterotype, is it?  That’s the American way.  I have successfully avoided all your charges by becoming defensive, returning the zingers right back, and proving that Ad Hominem attacks just don’t work.

    Thus ends today’s sociology lesson.  :0)
    (Not that I think a retarded Euro-PEE-an will get it.)

  5. The irony of reading this on the American made and designed internet (Tim Berners-Lee), on what I’m sure you have typed on an American made computer has not escaped me.

    Tim Berners-Lee is BRITISH! The Internet as a whole may have started with ARPANET but the World Wide Web was developed at CERN a EUROPEAN organisation. Were you actually trying to prove that Americans are completely mis-informed about a great many things!?

  6. Thanks for the feedback, all.  I didn’t mean to ruffle any feathers- I was just overreacting a bit to the bad news, which will have consequences here too.

    To respond to -=e=-: I do like fruit- does that make me fruity?  And I feel at least partially qualified to claim Americans are stupid, being one myself.  True, I’ve lived in Austria for a long time now, so maybe some of that Euro-pee-an retardedness has rubbed off on me.  And I love America and Americans (well at least Californians), and the snooty Viennese often drive me up the wall.  And things are far from perfect here- there are 23 Burger Kings in Vienna alone, and now there’s a Starbucks too, not to mention reruns of Sabrina.

    Yes, many wonderful inventions came from America, but not cars or computers or all things electrical- the first cars were European (unclear which particular invention should take the prize, probably one of the Germans), the first programmable electronic computer was built in England, designed by Alan Turing (English), and capacitors (one of many things electrical) by a Dutchman, Pieter van Musschenbroek.

      Of course, this is all beside the point, and could be quibbled with (Ford cars, IBM computers, and electric swizzle sticks are truly Americn innovations).  Nor do I believe the famed Yankee ingenuity has died out, although as my brother remarked upon reading (at least twenty years ago) that there were, for the first time, more lawyers than engineers in the US: “we’re in deep shit now”.

    Just keep those zingers coming.

  7. A funny discussion! For me, it’s not about stupid or clever americans or europeans. Correct me, but I think the average american lives too isolated in America. I’m living as a german in Italy, in a town with a big port. I have friends from Africa, from France, Russia and Ucraine, I met seafarers every day, we speak german, english, spanish and italian – so it’s normal that you can “wide” your view about the world around you. I like the american way to solve problems, I hate the burocratism here in Europe, but I enjoy the live here in Europe, because moving half a day by car I’m in another country with different attitudes, which make live interesting.

  8. being that i’m both american and voted for bush, i must be really stupid, so i’d better comment on this one.

    we’ve had a sociology lesson, so now it’s time for our psychology lesson.  welcome to psy 3711: intro to individual differences.  there are two factors, as i am sure you are all aware, that influence i.q.  the first of which is genetics.  the second of which is environment.  it is generally accepted that they have about an equal effect on the trait i.q.  being that we are all from roughly the same gene pool, we’re going to have to ignore this first variable, genetics.  now we are left only with environment.

    europe has significantly less land mass than american.  countries have existed sardine-style for hundreds of years.  it is true that europeans think on a broader scale.  they’ve been trying to live in close proximity with each other for centries and have only managed to spawn two world wars and a myriad of other wars that have created countless numbers of dead bodies.  i guess they’re successful, since they haven’t turned the whole continent into one very large glass parking lot.

    on the other hand, here in the states, we only have two close neighbors to deal with.  canada -which many consider to be another state- and mexico.  neither one of these countries has a major impact on most americans lives, not to mention countries that are thouseands of miles away.  so why should they care?  the average joe is trying to provide for his wife and screaming kids and doesn’t want to take the time to concern himself with what is going on half a world away.  for him, it just isn’t that important.  now, maybe he’s narrow-minded, but i’m sure he really doesn’t care if you feel that way.

    anyway, i’m getting off track and don’t care to go back and fix it.  i do wish to leave you with one question to ask yourself:

    -if we’re so stupid, why is it that half the world wants to be like us?

  9. Now that the election is over and I’m having the opportunity to talk with republicans about other issues than the election, I’m finding that many of them have views that are in line with Kerry’s platform.

    Obviously there were a few polarizing issues, such as abortion, but they weren’t considered to deal breakers in the election process.

    Now, these people aren’t stupid by any definition of the word so I began to wonder how we can have such similar views and fall on opposite sides.

    The reason, I believe, is that people were entrenched in one party early on in the electoral process and all Bush really needed to do to win was to ensure that wedge remained firmly in place.  A vast majority of Americans fell to either Bush or Kerry only by a slight margin and remained there because of chasm that was established before Kerry was ever the democratic front-runner.

  10. I’ll be damned… Mr. Berners-Lee IS British. I just figured he was so smart he was American.  smile

    Nah, No feathers were ruffled here.  I was trying (badly) to demonstrate the American mentality. How we get defensive when an outside party criticizes us. The problem here in America (and really the whole world) is that people do a lot of talking and very little listening.  Here in America people were painted with broad strokes based on their choices (if you were for Kerry you were a “leftist immoral traitor” for Bush you were a “religious kook nazi”).  In my opnion, Bush put out a simpler message, and the public responds better with 30 second soundbites. And in the end, he (barely) won.

    Fact is Americans don’t think like Europeans. Europeans don’t think like Arabs… ad infinitum. And I definitely think the group is right about how our isolationism plays a very large part in that.

    When 9/11 hit, I heard for the first time the very harsh world view of Americans on MetaFilter. It was hard to listen to all that.  We have Network news that has thrown objective reporting out the window in favor of corporate interest and ratings.

    Since then, the internet has made me wiser to world views… I hope other Americans will turn off Fox one day and get their news from intenational sources.

    Hopefully one day, we will listen more than we speak.

  11. Well it would have help if Bush supporters would have correctly identify Bush’s positions on issues.

    In particular, majorities or Bush supporters incorrectly assumed that he supports multilateral approaches to various international issues, including the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) (69 percent), the land mine treaty (72 percent), and the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming (51 percent).

    In August, two thirds of Bush supporters also said they believed that Bush supported the International Criminal Court (ICC), although in the latest poll, that figure dropped to a 53 percent majority, even though Bush explicitly denounced the ICC in the most widely watched nationally televised debate of the campaign in late September.

    Source: Three of Four Bush Supporters Still Believe in Iraqi WMD, al Qaeda Ties

    Of course more Fox News watchers were likely to be wrong about facts concernig the war in Iraq. Those of us who watch the supposed “liberal” stations or that supposed “mouthpiece for Marxist/Leninist ideology,” NPR, had opinions that were actually based in reality. Fox watchers were conviced that things that could easily be proven false were, in fact, true.

    Source: PIPA Media Report (PDF)

    P.S. It isn’t Mr. Berners-Lee. It is SIR Berners-Lee. He was knighted by the Queen of England.

  12. I’ve hear’d tell of ther bein’ other countries but I reckon they don’t relly eggzist nary way. Not in any way that matters t’nohow.

    Come to tell again, I’ve hear’d mention of Vienna (is that there spelt good?) cause they make them canned sausage thingies. Yep, that Vi’een’a Sausage is might good on a cracker. Thank ya muchly, Mr. furiner for them. I’ve had me more than a few in my day. Yes sir and howdy!

    They law, it’s done cloudin’ up agin! We’s a fixin to have a real drenchin’ of a downpoor.

    Well, I gotta git! Ya’ all stop in when ya kin and stay a spell, ya hear?

  13. being that i’m both american and voted for bush

    That’s redundant. How could you have voted at all if you weren’t an American citizen?

    -if we’re so stupid, why is it that half the world wants to be like us?

    That’s a joke, right? Or do you honestly believe that?

    Yanks aren’t stupid per se. They just lack subtlety and a sense of irony, particularly in large groups.

  14. Brock,

    ROFL.  That’s a damn good accent.  Those are sometimes pretty hard to render in written language, but you do a pretty good job.

    ‘Furiner.’  LOL.  grin

  15. Geekmom tried to prod me into tossing my 0.02 Euro into the fray, with partial success.

    Upon reflection and some soul-searching, I am forced to conclude that people are stupid and easily seduced. The only differences are the individual and collective blind spots.

    The one remaining question I have is whether it takes a larger mob of Americans or Europeans to achieve that peculiar critical mass where the resulting group is denser than its dumbest member.

  16. Grey, looks like you and I are the lone conservatives on this site.oh oh

    Actually there are many people that are trying to get into our country everyday. The blanket statement of “everyone” was a bit broad, but there are actually some people that would like to be a part of “the American way” To escape from the worse situations in other countries. And you have to refrain from using the statement “Americans are stupid” because it is simply not true, you are going to run into ignorance in every country.

    Let me tell you all, why I voted for Bush. I do not claim to be Einstein and I know that since I did not vote for Kerry all of you think I am dumb, but I consider myself to be sufficiently informed.

    I think that the terrorist attacks were a big part of my decision.  I looked at the fact that since 9/11 there have been no more attacks here in the United States. I believe in tax breaks for everyone, not just the rich. I think that Bush is a religious man, and think he is of good morals, better morals than Kerry anyway. I also think that we can trust Bush, he always does exactly what he says he is going to do. 

    I also believe in stronger states rights. Lets take some of the power out of Washington DC, because we all know how hard it is to make the federal government smaller. How often do you hear of a federal program being cut?

    Liberal’s idea of helping people is by making them dependent on Federal government programs. The more people they have dependent on federal programs the larger their constituency grows. Then they frighten the voters into thinking that the big-bad-scary-cowboy-crazy-republicans are going to cut these people’s hand-outs. Wean is the word that I choose to use.

    I did agree with some of Kerry standings, I am not pro-life, I am pro-choice. I hated the fact that Kerry was such a flip-flopper, and no one could deny that! I think that if there was a better candidate and the Iraqi war was not such a pressing issue I could possibly be swayed.

    I stand libertarian on some issues also, like legalizing marijuana.

  17. Yep, Bush is stopping post 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    Homer Simpson: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
    Lisa Simpson: That’s specious reasoning, Dad.
    Homer: Thank you, dear.
    Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
    Homer: Oh, how does it work?
    Lisa: It doesn’t work.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Lisa: It’s just a stupid rock.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Lisa: But I don’t see any tigers around, do you?
    [Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money]
    Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
    [Lisa refuses at first, then takes the exchange]

  18. Well Nicki, I think you are the first Person that has described in simple decent manner why you have voted for Bush.

    I am not american and therefore I am not a democrat or a republican. I believe most of the shit discussed here that has happened in the world…Has happenned While Bush was president. And that cannot be good.

    He’s all talk.

    The second you engage combat, You are no longer religious. Regardless of what anybody says.

    And attacking a country to “liberate it” is not an act of self defense.

    He lost the 3 debates prior to the election. Surely the president should have done better.

    He was SURE about WMD…now he blames it on bad information.

    Has ties with the family of public ennemy #1.

    What more do you need?

    It looks like the united states is creating its future ennemies.

    Oh! and I remember when I was a kid, The U.S. were selling weapons to the ennemy. WOW…

    How about bombing yourself to get support from the population. That’s when hollywood becomes reality !!!! Ha !

    No but seriously, The world is going back to medieval crusade conflict mode and he is not helping.

    The U.S. is not liberating Iraq….

    It is setting up command for the next fight. Every 10 years there is a fight.

    The world is starting to know that little routine and doesn’t fall for it anymore.

    That is why a lot of people think some americans are stupid.

  19. Then they frighten the voters into thinking that the big-bad-scary-cowboy-crazy-republicans are going to cut these people’s hand-outs.

    While those same cowboy republicans frighten people by saying the terrorists will do something worse if a liberal is in office. 

    That is why a lot of people think some americans are stupid.

      Think?  Hell, I KNOW some Americans are stupid.  And still alive only b/c it’s illegal to kill them.  Then there are some Americans who are intelligent and wise.  It takes longer to educate a person than it does for Cheney to say the terrorists are going to kill us if Kerry gets elected.

    You just have to realize that the news is going to show whoever was more entertaining while they described the sound the tornado made when it hit the trailer park.

  20. Its not that most of the world wants to BE America, they just like American movies. Bush is a better actor than Kerry (according to Norman Mailer).
    Americans, indeed everybody, falls for a good line.
    Kerry wasn’t convincing. OBL was fairly convincing as an opponent.  (Turns tall buildings to bad smelling smoke in a trice) Obviously the USA has to go and bomb the shit out of someone. Not enough targets in Afghan. Bad Luck Fallujah. 
    As an educated,non USA, person, I deplored GW’s dyslexia. I sided with the 40 Nobel Scientists who said GW was perverting science. I sided with Kennedy Jnr who said that GW had the worst environmental record.
    These are not deciding issues for un-educated voters.

  21. ben -it’s not redundant.  i could have voted for kerrry.  they may not want to be like us, but they sure do love our movies, tv shows, zippos, levi jeans, cowboy boots, etc.

    nicki -glad i’m not alone on this weblog.

  22. Very funny GB.  Seriously, it’s not that everyone wants to be American, they want the American comfy lifestyle and money and walmart and such.  Keep in mind, the people who want this have a far lower standard of living than Americans—you’ll rarely find people in so-called developed countries waxing wistful on Americans’ standard of living.

    Bush said he would do a lot of things he hasn’t done.  What about putting democracy in Iraq?  Catching OBL?  What about the WMD lie?

    As for terrorist attacks, what do you mean?  There have been many attempts since 9/11 by Al Qaeda groupies.  I don’t think Bush can really prevent terrorism.  I don’t think anyone can.

  23. Y’all gotta check out the Kurt Vonnegut book Bluebeard.  In it an older man tries to explain the realities of the world to the young narrator as he is about to depart for New York and possibly later Paris.  He explains that the europeans just got through with killing each other not to long ago and what they are really waiting for is the opportunity to get back to killing each other. 

    Just because America has been the largest factor in many of the most public recent wars we are far from gaining the award for national all time high score in butchery, chaos and mayhem.

    I also voted for Kerry buy smug europeans making outrageous statements make me a little crazy.

  24. Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking replies, everyone.  Maybe the world is not going to hell in a handbasket after all, at least not without a fight.  I can’t respond to everyone personally- have to start a fire in the (quaint European) woodstove before my butt freezes.

    Brock- very nice.  But I must take issue with you about that “Vi’een’a sausage”- never seen canned ones here; they must be “murrican”.  We do have Mozart Balls, however…

    elwedriddsche- good point- we’re all easily seduced.  Perhaps part of the difference between Europe and America is simply mass of like thinkers- the relative isolation of Americans (geographically and self-inflicted) makes it easier for stupid ideas to reach critical density.

      Which brings me to grey-  yes, Europe is responsible for countless numbers of dead bodies.  Humans are a rather violent species, Europeans no less so than anyone else.  Obviously, we need to learn how to live in peace with one another.  All I’m saying is that America (still the most powerful nation on earth) is not doing as well right now as could be imagined in this regard, and part of the reason is that Americans have been duped- my question was, why are so many of us so easily duped?  My I’m not exculpating anyone, but I stand by my point that Americans today seem relatively susceptible to wacky ideas and self-deception, inexcusably so IMHO given their advantages.

    shana- what you said.  Half the world doesn’t want to be like Americans, they just want to eat.  And not just American food- Europe is flooded with refugees- hell, the North Koreans are streaming into China, and they don’t even have Walmart there.

    -=e=- Amen.

    Nicki- I’m afraid we’ll have to disagree-  Bush is a liar and a nitwit, and Iraq did not attack us.  This has been gone over ad nauseum, and I’m sure I won’t be able to convince you otherwise.  But I do commend you for your pro-choice and marihuana stance.  Maybe you’ll vote Clinton/Obama in 2008- I know I will.

    Thanks again, all.  Gotta get back to the salt mines.

  25. Rich-  We don’t substantially disagree.  I did like “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, but I think he went downhill from there, so I’ll pass on “Bluebeard”.  Your point about the Americans not being the champs in butchery is certainly true.  All I’m saying is that we should be able to do better.

      And as for: “smug Europeans making outrageous statements make me a little crazy”-
    a) I don’t mean to be smug.  Smugness is a vice and not even as fun as being cynical.
    b) I’m not European- just live here.
    c) yes, I’m being outrageous, because I’m outraged.
    d) making people a little crazy is often useful to get a point across, or just to catalyze things.  Don’t want to make anyone really crazy though (especially if they are carrying a big stick).

  26. shana-  Thanks for the correction, although you’ve blown one of my sacred bulls out of the water.  Walmarts in China?  What next- ads on PBS? Oh, yeah…

  27. ben -it’s not redundant.  i could have voted for kerrry.

    Sorry to split hairs, but yes it IS redundant. All you had to say was that you voted for Bush. The fact that you’re American is thereby automatically implied.

  28. What zilch said.

    One trap I’d like to avoid is the rationalistic fallacy. You’d think that people will ‘get it’ if you explain it to them repeatedly, using short sentences and simple words. Well, guess again.

    Just one example – did Bush make America safer? The answer is a resounding NO, but for many of his voters you contradict dogma and you will never get your point across.

  29. Well, zilch, i’m not so sure now…
    But damn is walmart SO not sexy.  I hate hate hate walmart.  Just thinking about the cowboy smiley face man gives me a two minutes’ hate. 

    True dat, elwedriddsche.  That is what we always run into: dogma.

    it is a battle between emotion and reason, which are so divorced thanks to Kant and other enlightenment thinkers…not such a bad thing…but it makes it hard to mediate.

  30. I feel I should finally comment here because, in all honesty, even though I didn’t write this entry it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that I could have. I am known for making statements about how the average American is an idiot usually when I’m marveling over yet another dumbass law or policy that’s been put into place by popular vote. The tagline for SEB could be read as implying that I think most folks out there are friggin’ morons who can’t tie their own shoes without detailed directions and end up with soaking them in drool while attempting and failing to do so. I have a whole category devoted to ranting about and mocking stupid people.

    Yet I don’t think I’ve ever taken as much heat for that viewpoint as Zilch here got and I find it interesting that a number of folks took exception to the idea of someone they thought was a foreigner calling us stupid. Granted I can often put across an insulting statement in a manner that doesn’t seem quite so insulting and I’ve been told that I have a pretty well-developed writing style, but I’m pretty sure I’ve said things that aren’t too far off from what Zilch said in his entry here many times in the past.

    Indeed, my first reaction looking at the election results is to wonder how half the nation could be so stupid. On a deeper level I realize and admit it’s not really an issue of 51% of the population being literal idiots, but I can be as prone to knee-jerk reactions as the next guy so I can’t help but think the thought anyway. Which is why I often take so much time to get around to writing entries on some topics or leaving comments. I need time to move beyond my initial reaction to really consider what it is I truly think about the subject at hand.

    I think some of what Zilch proposes as reasons why things turned out they way they did are valid and I think others are invalid and I thought it would generate a decent discussion. I’m kinda surprised at the number of folks who took exception at thinking they were being criticized by a European. Yes, they’ve made just as many idiotic decisions in their time as we have, if not many more. Consider the idea that that could mean they’d have the benefit of experience to offer us.

    Again I raise the point that America is the single most powerful nation on the planet. The decisions we as a populace make have implications and repercussions well beyond our borders and ourselves and as such we are valid targets for criticism by people of other nations. Hopefully that criticism will be more of the constructive sort, but we would be wise to consider any criticism we may get. We don’t have to agree with all of it, but sometimes even the worst criticism can provide us with insights we might not have considered.

  31. As an American who has lived in five other countries around the world for varying lengths of time, I have been subject to nearly endless criticism of the US by the people around me.  And you know what?  Pretty much all of it was valid criticism.  That doesn’t change the fact that it was pretty rude of them to insult my native country, but many Europeans in particular really relish a blunt political discussion.

    Americans ARE isolated, and they have one of the highest standards of living in the world.  They have never had their country devastated by war in living memory, whereas Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America, and Africa are all very, very familiar with the total destruction it brings.  Can you blame the French and Germans for not wanting to go to war when they have had too much of it already?  When you are still living with ruins from previous wars in your homeland, when you are still digging up unexploded bombs in your cities, you do NOT want to go marching off unless it’s absolutely necessary.  And even then, you put it off, and you discuss it, and you hope against hope that the problem can be solved another way before anyone else has to be killed.

    Most Americans are not stupid, but the ones who have never lived outside the US are often naive and ignorant.  When you are living a relatively cushy life, you tend to think that you must have done something to earn it (as indeed, that is one of our cultural myths:  that anyone can become rich by working hard enough), so you think that your way is the right way. 

    And of course there are plenty of people all over the world who don’t get that when 8 out of 10 people in a room tell you you’re wrong, maybe you’d better listen to them.  It’s obvious that our current Administration is chock full of these types.  Which is the whole problem.

    Zilch, thank you for bringing this up.  I probably wouldn’t have put it as bluntly as you did, but it’s a discussion worth having from time to time.

  32. Ok, after much deliberation, I am posting this.
    It is also viewable on my site, linked to my name above.  Sadly, I have no trackback as I don’t know how to write the code for that sort of thing, or even what it is exactly.smile

    I would like to share a little bit of my barely used speech with y’all. Constructive, well-reasoned criticism is totally welcome. The title refers to the internal struggle undertaken by Americans of all persuasions during this campaign to mediate their fear with reason and factuality. I am not posting it all since I am not really happy with all of it, but this is the second half. The first part of the speech attempts to create empathy with Americans of various political views, and with the experience of 9/11. Keep in mind that I am trying to describe the context of this recent election to people who may have never been to America. The two sides I refer to at the beginning are very generally the strong liberal and the strong conservative viewpoints. I want to thank everyone who contributed to this discussion, both actively and without ever knowing.

    ———————————
    Terror vs. Reason in America

    While most Americans were some variable combination of these two sides, as with many arguments in America, the huge variety of opinions was unfortunately condensed in the public arena quite sloppily into 2 large sides: the emotional and the rational. The problem is that there’s no way to truly mediate the two. Thus, the two sides argued and accused and failed to find a middle ground and the result was another very close, exhausting election that has left everyone feeling uncertain.

    I experienced this estrangement myself. In addition to my absentee ballot, I received 4 fliers from Republican candidates, including a message from the whole party encouraging me to vote Republican and a pseudo-personal letter from Deborah Pryce. I received nothing from the Democratic candidates, and that is how most of the election went.

    This campaign brought with it a difficult challenge for the Democrats. Their candidate faced not only an opposing political platform, but also an ingrained fear and a very subconscious sense of comfort and protection. Unfortunately for them, the Democrats failed to build a sufficiently better structure of comfort and protection, they failed to address many of their supporters’ concerns, they failed to provide a charismatic banner under which liberals and moderates from both parties could rally, and thus they failed to win the election.

    Despite being what I perceived as a strong, moderate candidate, Kerry appeared to constantly change his mind throughout the campaign. To be fair, he had to hover in the middle—the Democrats chose a wimpy candidate because they were too afraid that a real liberal wouldn’t protect them. They were also afraid that most other Americans would feel the same way and thus not vote Democratic.

    From the other side, Bush made several moves to gain the vote of the religious right. The moderate Republicans went along with him because it promised to keep them in office and because they were just as afraid that a true liberal wouldn’t protect them. Far from seeing Kerry as a shining savior, Americans from all political associations felt that neither choice was a good one and that they were left to choose between the lesser of two evils.

    Thus, the campaigning continued, Bush pandering to the religious right with promises of ultra-conservative legislation, Kerry playing as many sides as possible to try and win them all. Then something completely unrelated to Iraq and Osama bin Laden and all the international issues appeared: gay marriage. While it seemed to be an obscure and unimportant issue from the foreign perspective, gay marriage was another violently divisive issue inside America. Whether their states presented legislation on it or not, many people felt so strongly against gay marriage that they voted for anti-gay Bush even if they disagreed with his actions in Iraq—many of them voted for Bush even though they wouldn’t normally have voted at all. Others were so strongly for gay marriage that it eclipsed their feelings on Iraq and terrorism and led them to vote for Kerry. Throw in the complete ignorance regarding 9/11 and Iraq of half of the American public and you have a toss up.

    So Bush is now the President of the United States of America, and this time it’s not contested. I can’t and won’t apologize for my country—I voted my vote and in the end, that’s all any of us can do. While I fear that we may see a nastier side of Bush in the coming four years, I still believe strongly that enough Americans will try their best to make the government do what is necessary to protect both our civil liberties and those of everyone around the world. As Americans, all we can do is look forward with conscience and determination and work for a better government. I want to implore the international community to support us in this difficult task ahead—to support us with criticism, understanding, and faith. Now, more than ever, is the test of our democracy, and it is a trial by fire.

  33. ben- that’s right. i was thinkin of the fact that being american doesn’t necessarily mean you voted for bush.  my point was that i’m doubly stupid, since i had voted for bush.

    while i found my time in blown-the-fuck-up europe a good experience, i wouldn’t say it was enlightening.  i don’t agree that to be an ‘enlightened american’ you have to have had lived in europe or overseas for any length of time.  what about the millions of americans that go overseas for weeks on end for vacation or university trips?  what about everyone that hasn’t -do they not have the ability to learn from speaking with others, textbooks or their own critical thinking? 

    i’m sure i’m opening myself up to all sorts of flaming by saying this, but the basic assumption of this whole thread is that americans are stupid for voting bush into office.  i find the idea to be rediculous.  that would be like saying someone is an idiot for eating an apple over an orange.  they each have their characteristics, some good, some bad, most different.  the people were presented with two different candidates, and they made their choice based off what information the media could provide.

  34. Okay, I thought we could benefit from another conservative opinion here.  I voted Bush in this election.  Whilst I understand that I am now a Satanist (or worse, Christian Coalition…yikes) in everyone’s eyes here, I did have what I thought were some good reasons for voting the way I did, as misinformed as I may be. 
    1)  I was not impressed with Kerry.  The man did not have a strong opinion on any issues.  We heard a few idle comments implying that a healthcare ‘plan’ had been developed, but we received no details, just a few random statements about ‘rights’ and that he wouldn’t have done it the way Bush did.  What was his economic ‘plan’?  Granted I don’t watch CNN every day (and I owe my sanity to that), but with an estimated $1.5 billion dollars spent on the presidential race, maybe Kerry could have spared enough to put an ad into the Baltimore Sun.  I don’t feel as though watching CNN would have helped the situation just the same (see number 3).
    2)  Basically the same as #1.  Kerry’s entire platform can be summed up in one sentence – ‘We need a president that’s not like George Bush’.  That secures the vote of the people that vote emotionally and hate Bush, but what does it do for someone that wants to see some difference made, whoever it is that causes it?  Why should I vote for Kerry instead of Nader, my boss, or Apu at the Quickie-Mart?  He didn’t make a case to me why he’d be a good president.
    3)  The unabashed and deliberate manipulation of public opinion by conservative-slanted big media.  Granted, if you want to do a political talk show, go to town and support your candidate.  Please don’t on the nightly news.  For instance, I watched the debates, and in my opinion at the end of them (except one I’ll concede) it appeared quite close to myself, but that’s not my point.  Directly after the debates when ‘expert’ opinions are taken, their opinions seem very balanced for the rest of that night.  All of a sudden, the next morning it is a landslide win for Kerry..  That ‘win’ is an arbitrary decision by the producers, not any type of unbiased opnion.
    4)  I live im Maryland, a solid Democratic state..  If you are not voting in a swing state, every vote is a non-vote (to parody bi-partisan claims for why you shouldn’t vote for a third party).  All I could affect was the popular vote.  I wanted Bush to win the popular vote (regardless of who won the electoral college) just to shut up those that whined about last election.

    take it easy.

  35. Correction:
    Whoops… I meant to say ‘The unabashed and deliberate manipulation of public opinion by liberal-slanted big media.’  Conservatives don’t own the news, even on radio..just a bunch of political talk shows there.

  36. Les- Some of my ideas were pretty off-the-wall, I agree- I was just throwing them out there.  Thanks for providing such a great forum.  I don’t mind the heat- helps keep me from freezing into apathy.

    GeekMom-  what you said.  I put it bluntly, not because I think Americans are irredeemably stupid, but because we’re all redeemably stupid- does that make sense?

    elwedriddsche and shana both make points which, to me, seem similar, and I agree: part of our problem (not just in America, not just in politics) is the comforting appeal of dogma and simplistic worldviews.  The Democrats can’t help but seem undecided and hesitant, because they have a more complex (i.e. better informed) worldview than the Republicans (on the average).

    and grey- based on what Bush has done so far (many examples come to mind, but I’ll limit myself to the most egregious, already mentioned here: making enemies faster than we can kill them), I can’t accept your “apples and oranges” comparison.  If you think “stupid” an unfair characterization of Bush voters, how about “inexcusably negligent”?  OK, this is ranting not reasoning.  Some of my best friends… used to be Republicans.  No hard feelings, I hope.

  37. Wow, who knew Rupert Murdoch was a liberal?

    Grey, unless you have years of contact with foreigners *on their own turf, not yours*, and better yet, can speak their language, you have no hope of being able to understand where they’re coming from.  Not really.  It doesn’t count if you just go over on a nice tour and have one beer with a token local.  It doesn’t count if you’re living on a military base or if you’re buffered by a group of your own countrymen.  It doesn’t count if you still hold on to all the assumptions you don’t even KNOW you have, until you get them handed to you gutted on a platter.

    Grey, if you think you can figure out the whole world just on the power of “your own critical thinking,” that explains what’s wrong with it, right there.  It’s exactly what’s wrong with Bush and Cheney.  The assumption that there’s nothing outside your own experience that could matter is what gets us in trouble in places like Iraq.

  38. No offense there Kamikaze but you say you weren’t impressed by Kerry and I can understand that. What would have been cool to read is what you thought Bush did right……..some facts.
    And don’t say he is tough on terrorism, that is not a fact….all presidents would say they are tough on terror.

    There are truck loads of documented facts about what Bush did or didn’t do while he was in office.

    That is what is reffered to when people put down Bush.

  39. kamikaze_rider- thanks for showing up.  Yes, it’s good to have another conservative opinion here, lest we devolve into one of those forums where everyone pats each other on the back, agreeing about how stupid the liberals, conservatives, Christians, Atheists, Meta-agnostics, etc. are.  Welcome!

    I can’t really respond to your points about the media, as I was not in the country and missed a lot of it.  From what I did see, you do have a point about Kerry not presenting his plans as clearly and forcefully as he could have.

    That said, I must diagree with your point #2- given what Bush has done, I think almost anyone would be preferable.  Kerry would not have been my first choice, but Bush comes in just ahead of Cheney and Rush Limbaugh on my list.  He’s the worst president in my lifetime (he even makes Reagan look good, not to mention Eisenhower).

    You take it easy too.

  40. Hey, Americans are’nt stupid. Stupidity denotes the INABILITY to learn. American are just dumb and lazy. I believe the primary reason Americans are dumb is because we, for the most part, are well fed and employed. I’m no anthropologist but it seems to me that when Americans are not immeadiatly in fear of losing their livlihoods or shelter they are susceptable to every snake oil salesman that comes along. Once it was said that Americans were known, perhaps mythically, as pragmatists that were good at exercising thier common sense when it came to matters that were important or of concern to them. All of that is out the window now. 10 years ago political organizations began engaging modern marketing firms that use proven scientific methods such as push-pull marketing as well as couching unassailable subjects in catchy phrases in order to advance a particular clients agenda( estate tax=death tax—thank you Frank Luntz). Many Americans, who are not really paying attention to the whole impact of such cleverly “packaged” topics fall for the catchy phrases. Marketing firms understand that most Americans are fair-minded and root for the underdog or want to beleive that some “higher power” is watching out for thier interests because they don’t have the time or inclination to do so. An example is here in the south, we are constantly being advertised to by the Southern Company which owns electric utilities throughout the south. Their commercials are incessantly pushing how large they are and how much they are doing to protect the air we breath and the environment we live in. All of this while at the same time lobbying the federal government to loosen the EPA standards for coal fired power plants, and stressing the size of their company in order to cow any potential activists who might smell their load of BS.
    This creates a very tricky and contradictory landscape for the naive trusting neophyte American voter, be he conservative or liberal.
    Think about the loads of crap coming out of TV and newspapers. Rush Limbaugh says this can’t be trusted, the New York Times says it can, CNN says they don’t know. What’s they lazy, time pressed American to do. Well that American will graviate towards something he/she understands—moral issues. If you don’t like gays, well Bush is your man. If you don’t like abortion then Bush is your man. See how it works,clearly defined and cogent points even a drolling rural pig farmer could understand, never mind that if gay marriage and abortion were made illegal tomorrow it would’nt help you pay your bills or lead a richer life. If the dems or a another populist type political party does’nt come up with a platform that focuses exclusivly on the middle class while coupling it with a center right social agenda( a la the GOP), then I fear when people eventually wake-up it may be because of another world wide depression inspired by America’s out of control corporate/political elite.

  41. GeekMom: unless you have years of contact with foreigners *on their own turf, not yours*, and better yet, can speak their language, you have no hope of being able to understand where they’re coming from.  Not really.

    GeekMom has decided that only people who’ve lived overseas for several years have any insight into how the world works.  Ok, why don’t you “enlightened Americans” get your cabal together, and just let us know when you’ve decided what’s best.  We’ll be over here grunting and hitting each other with our simple bone tools.

    Here’s a though most liberals haven’t bothered to consider: what if the United States is actually better off with Bush as President?  What if Americans voted for Bush not because they’re stupid or ignorant, but because it’s in their best interest?

    In fact let’s go one better: Europe is better off with Bush as President.

    Hell, why not go all the way: Les Jenkins is, in a personal sense, better off with Bush as President.

    For all Bush’s many, many faults (*cough* economic malaise…), he does understand something which both Europe and John Kerry don’t seem to: that the fight against Islamic Extremism is a fight to the death.  Radical Islam is absolutely willing to take advantage of the West’s secular society and individual rights while in the minority.  Once it’s achieved majority status, however, you can forget about rights, secularism, or the separation of Church and State.  Next stop: Sharia law, and proselytizing Christianity (or Bhuddism or Atheism for that matter) will be a capital crime.

    Christopher Hitchens is one of the few liberal, atheist columnists who “gets it”.. Read his take on Bush as the Secularist President in this Slate article.

    There’s a widely-held view amongst liberals that Europe is more “enlightened” than the US.  On the private board I run (Les never stops by anymore *sniff*), we’ve been discussing Europe a lot lately, and the outlook for them is pretty grim.  If they don’t get their act together in the next 20 or 30 years, European culture will simply cease to exist.  Consider:

    1. Europe is poor.  If the EU were ranked alongside US states, it would be 47th in terms of per-capita GDP.  High marginal tax rates to support a huge social safety net aren’t going to help anything.  That’s just the 15 EU countries; it doesn’t count Eastern Europe which is even poorer.

    2. Europe is dying.  Literally, dying off.  No fooling.  In Italy there are 9 deaths for every 8 births.  In Germany there are 5 deaths for every 4 births.  In Russia there are a whopping 11 deaths for every 7 births.  Those numbers are scary, but they don’t even tell the whole story.  Lifespan has been increasing in Western Europe for the past several decades, but that increase is ending.  The longer lifespans have masked Europe’s lousy fertility rate since the seventies.  In the next decade, the shrinkage of Europe’s native population will accelerate to levels never seen before.

    3. European culture is disappearing.  In order to compensate for their own lack of fertility and keep their population stable, Europe makes up the difference using immigration.  Unlike the United States, however, Europe doesn’t have a long history or assimilating new immigrants.  They don’t insist immigrants learn their language.  Instead, they’ve bought into liberal, multicultural hogwash.  This allows anti-secular elements to insulate themselves from the culture at large.  Is it any wonder that Al-Queda uses countries like Germany as “staging grounds” for US terrorist cells?

    Here, read about what it’s like to live in Sweden’s third-largest city, Malmø.  Violent gangs of Muslim thugs effectively control much of the city, and the local Police have recently admitted as much.  These people don’t even speak Swedish and will gang-rape a woman for going outside without wearing a burka (because, you know, she’s a whore..).

    What’s the “enlightened” Swedish government doing about it?  Why, they’re making it easier for Muslims to immigrate, of course.  Even if they’ve never set foot in the country and don’t know anyone there.  It will soon be government policy to allow immigration of Muslims involved in arranged marriages—even sight-unseen arrrangements where the couple has never met.

    Which brings us back on-topic: Les, if the US were run the way Europe is being run, that line on your webpage where it says “Religion: None” would be gone in the next 50 years or so.  I submit that Atheists like yourself should be the first in line to vote for a hard-liner like Bush.

    zilch: Americans are more isolationist… less interested in the fate of other nations

    Quite the contrary, if Americans were isolationist and uninterested in the fate of other nations, we could have had a bake sale instead of invading Afghanistan and Iraq.

  42. <

    crawls under a table and waits for all hell to break loose>

    Way to go, Zilch!

    <

    playful poke>

    Since I didn’t sign in to comment, I had a submission word which must have been borrowed from a boy band: girl I sure hope they can do without it for a day or two.

  43. GeekMom has decided that only people who’ve lived overseas for several years have any insight into how the world works.

    I’ve said that you need to live with people and speak their language in order to understand their point of view.  Are you really going to try to contradict that?  Let’s see you try.  This ought to be very entertaining. 

    Here’s a though most liberals haven’t bothered to consider: what if the United States is actually better off with Bush as President?  What if Americans voted for Bush not because they’re stupid or ignorant, but because it’s in their best interest?

    I thought about it once.  In the same way I think about questions like:  “What if Jerry Falwell really is best for women’s rights?” and “What if you can read a few books and a couple of websites and know more about a country than the people who actually live there?”  After I stopped laughing, I got back to reality.

    Speaking of laughing, it’s hilarious how you try to talk about “liberal multicultural hogwash” in a continent that is home to hundreds of languages.  You have no idea how ridiculous you would sound in one of those countries trying to enforce one spoken language.  One of the most damning facts about non-immigrant Americans is that most of them only speak one language.  That’s pretty sad in the eyes of the rest of the world.  Only here in the isolationist backwaters of America could you talk about the ideal of a monolithic, monolingual culture without getting laughed out of the bar.

    Bush is not better for America because he doesn’t care to learn about others. He doesn’t even care about half of his constituency or anyone who has an opinion different from his. America’s lucky ascendancy as a superpower won’t last forever, and when the world turns against this country, it’ll be the blind, arrogant, chauvinistic right-wingers who will be left wondering what the hell happened.

    And I’ll go even further and say that Christian fanatics are claiming that Islamic extremism is a “fight to the death” because they can’t imagine it any other way.  Coming from the religion that brought us the Inquisition and the Crusades, it’s not surprising that to their hammer, everything looks like a nail. 

    What you don’t understand is that extremism is an idea, a response to certain conditions, and those conditions can be changed, and that idea can be fought.  And I’ll give you a hint:  you’re not going to stamp out extremists by killing them.  You can only make extremism less attractive by offering a better alternative.  But Bush and his merry men (and, it seems, you as well) have no clue how to do anything except kill.

    Kerry had already been working on the techniques for fighting this kind of enemy.  He had more experience in fighting stateless criminals than most people know.  He certainly knew a hell of a lot more about war than our Dodger-in-Chief.  He had the imagination, vision and willingness to be flexible that would have given us a way out of this headlong plunge into endless war.  But sadly enough, he won’t have the chance to save us.  We’re stuck with the grunting and hitting with the bone tools.

  44. I just want to comment that all of these posts are great and much better than turning on TV to get both sides of the debates.

    Rufus- ACTUALLY, Kerry did not even take a stand on Gay marraige rights, (He was going to leave it up to the states) he said he was against it, I believe he was really for it; afraid he was going to lose the religious liberal vote (is that an oxy-moron)?.

    I totally agree with the liberal bias comment that Kamikaze made.  That’s just the facts.  Conservatives do not get a chance on television, I flipped between CNN, MSNBC, and FOX news the night of the election, and FOX was the only network to call Ohio for Bush that night when it was inevitable that he was to win the election.

    Yes, I have traveled outside the country, but do not have any close friends there. This doesn’t mean that I am nieve or live the “cushy” lifestyle. There are many well educated people that live the “nieve” lifestyle, and it does not make them any more stupid than anyone else.

    AND NO! you do not just fall into MONEY! you work for your money, and the harder you work the better off you will be, that is one of the fundamentals that this country was founded on, if you work harder you WILL get ahead, it may take you awhile, but you will get ahead. 
     
    Daryl- your last comment was wonderful *tear* and is very true… PREACH ON! wink

  45. I’d like to respond to some points geek mom made. First it is true that the EU is considerably poorer than the US overall, but keep in mind that half of Europe was COMMUNIST until 1991, so relativly speaking they are doing pretty well, and judging by how the euro is doing agianst the indebted dollar I think they are doing quite well( maybe not spending 45o billion on defense allows them to help their people more efficiently).
    A second point I’d like to make is that I firmly believe that our esteemed leader has trouble telling the truth to the American public. I don’t know about ya’ll but I REALLY HATE being bullshitted. Now if you are talking about how great a lover you are or how fast your car goes thats excusible. But when the defacto leader of the free world can’t seem to tell the truth and then when he is caught in a untruth refuses to take any real responsibility for his lies consquences then yes I have a major problem with him. I do not trust what this president or his minions say about anything, because they have proven over and over again they will say ANYTHING in order to get what they want.
    If President Bush’s goals are so good for the country then why is this secrecy so neseccary, are we afraid that some terrorist living in a cave in Pakistan is going to find out?
    By the way I spent seven years in the army, lived in 5 foreign countries, and fought in a combat unit during the first gulf war. Until you see and smell war up close or lose something precious to you because of war you have no idea what you are talking about.

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