This story was updated Nov. 9, 2016. -Ed.
aNewDomain — Americans are dumb.
That’s what people say. Especially non-American people.
But lots of Americans think that Americans are stupid, too. They don’t think they are the dumb ones, of course. They think other Americans are stupid.
It will not, even if you’re an idiot, come as a shock when I admit here that one of the Americans who think Americans are intellectually challenged is … me.
I know moronitude is ubiquitous, but …
Moronitude exists everywhere, of course.
But what makes stupidity in America stand out is that most Americans — the dumb ones, I mean — don’t even think it’s bad to be dumb. Far from being ashamed, they’re dumb and they’re damned proud of it.
And the dumb ones even make fun of the small and constantly shrinking population of intelligent ones as clueless hopelessly out of touch.
Want to study astrophysics? You’re a nerd. No prom date for you!
Do you know that bogus story going around about Hillary Clinton selling Uranium to China is wrong? Don’t say so on Twitter. Trump fans will tell you you’re just a mindless, brainwashed idiot. Never mind the facts. Maybe you are also a traitor.
For the new wave of stupid Americans, facts aren’t worth more than opinions they come up with or the fake stories they find on the many bogus news sites that target them.
Even dwarf-tossers think Americans are dumb
Now, I haven’t been everywhere, but I have traveled a lot. And what historians have documented as the tradition of anti-intellectualism in America seems to be pretty unique.
Even Australia, land of our cultural Anglo-Saxon brethren, where dwarf-tossing was a thing (and for all I know it may still be), never had an actual political party called the Know Nothing Party.
America did have such a party. It did. And not only that, but when historians reference the Know Nothings, no one ever chortles in derision. Instead they nod knowingly. Maybe.
Flat affect. That’s what we do.
From “The Simpsons” to Green Day’s punk rock opera “American Idiot” to the semi-banned Mike Judge movie “Idiocracy,” our cultural commentators have taken repeated stabs at our “dumb and proud” national attitude.
Yet it doesn’t change anything.
The dumb and the proud just keep hanging on.
The U.S. is a country where smart people have to pretend to be stupid
This, after all, is a country in which smart people have to pretend, in the words of an old 1980s song by Flipper, to “act stupider than you really are” in order to fit in.
Reality TV and televangelists aside, nothing epitomizes the national cult of stultification more clearly than our electoral politics.
On the Republican side, there are well-read men and women of considerable accomplishment and impressive educational credentials who pretend to believe things they obviously know to be untrue — because so many of the voters they need are just that damned stupid.
And that’s how they relate to them.
When US president-elect Donald Trump claims that global warming is a myth China foisted on America in order to destroy our economy, listen, he knows better. His followers don’t, though, and they find such comments refreshing, something they themselves might’ve come up with if they were just a bit more … clever.
Ted Cruz, no dummy he, pretends not to believe that climate change is caused by humans, too. Because that is what he (correctly) thinks his mostly uneducated base of lower middle class Americans and Bible thumpers want to hear.
And he is right. It comforts them.
And forget about that nutty bunch of governors and senators — senators! — who claim to think the Earth is about 6,000 years old because: Bible. Most of them ust pretend to believe that “God” wants them to believe this ridiculous fairy tale.
Why? Because ignorance is good for business. And that’s something even the stupidest Americans can get on board with.
Get this: George W. Bush is actually smart.
Just last week, a friend who hung out with George W. Bush told me something I’ve heard often enough before to believe: the guy is actually smart.
In a way, this comes as a relief, because: launch codes. Also Yale and Harvard.
Even a legacy admit shouldn’t be half as much of the colossal idiot brush-clearing hick Bush pretended to be his entire political life.
All along, there were hints of Bush’s non-stupidity. Every now and then, his aw-shucks cornpone veneer would flake off, and the Connecticut Yankee inflection of a grandson of Prescott Bush would peek out like the cobblestones and streetcar tracks of an old paved-over road after a hard winter.
That stupid accent — all fake!
Which reminded me of something Bush biographer Kitty Kelly reported: After losing a local election in Texas, Dubya swore, Scarlet-like, to never get out-countrified again.
And he didn’t.
And it worked.
Obama and Hillary Clinton purposely downscale their brains, too.
Given how much I used to beat up Generalissimo El Busho while he was bombing and Gitmo-ing and bank-bailing, it’s only fair that I point out: Bush isn’t the exception.
He’s one of many.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton both apply a reverse-classist downscaling filter to their locutions.
And Jesus H. W. Christ, it’s so over-the-top phony, I cannot believe I am the only one who has noticed.
On the power of stupid-sounding accents
Speaking of which, I attribute all of the popularity that Bernie Sanders and Trump enjoy to their unscripted authenticity, part of which derives from both candidates’ unspun, startling, old-school New York accents.
Listen to Bernie. He sounds like a throwback from Welcome Back, Kotter once he gets going.
You see, even for Bernie, platform planks have taken a back seat to reality. Which really says something.
And would you believe Trump is actually smart?
It’s true. Yes, I know Trump often sounds like an idiot in his speeches and especially on Twitter, where he tweets with the grammar and vocabulary of a fourth grader.
But it’s just an act.
This is, after all, an Ivy League graduate whose sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, is a senior circuit court judge. She was appointed by Bill Clinton to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit years ago. And Trump’s uncle is no intellectual slouch either: John G. Trump was a physicist and MIT engineering professor.
Despite “The Apprentice” and the Ivana mess, despite not having much of a grasp on economics, science or world politics, Trump still feels he has to dumb himself down still further.
Case in point: That dorky “Make America Great Again” baseball cap.
His calculated attempt to seem uneducated works wonders with his huge base of seriously uneducated working class supporters. And he knows it.
Trump knows what it took the mainstream media so long to get: That a huge swath of Americans are dumb — stupid, really — and they are happy to stay that way. In fact, they wear their stupidity like a badge of honor. They are proud of it.
So why are Americans so stupid and so proud of it?
Burying the lede as much as I can, what I want to know is: Why? And what went wrong with America that caused generations of kids to grow up stupid? What could possibly have make this okay?
I blame our schools.
Kids no longer learn how to think in schools. They learn facts, that’s it. Rhetoric, debate, logical reasoning are after-school activities.
This explains why so many among Trump’s dedicated base of “deplorables” has so much trouble determining facts from opinion online, and puts real news and Politifact, the Pulitzer-winning fact check site from The Poynter Institute on equal par with the fake news pedaled by so-called “conservative news” sites like Infowars.
They don’t know how to put what they read into perspective — or how to check out the outrageous claims such sites try to feed them. It isn’t that these people are stubborn, it’s that they were never taught any better — and their reasoning skills aren’t sophisticated enough to make them try. That’s a failure of American education.
And so the vast majority of American kids in this country end up as grownups who believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion, each as valid as any other.
Even though this cannot possibly be true — even though you can’t argue a fact with an opinion, no matter how loud, nasty or insulting you get — they believe it nonetheless.
Also, maybe the fragmentation of the media caused by Internet technology, which allows minds unschooled in logic to sit around eating their own crap editorial dog food all day, is responsible, too.
Then again, I could be wrong.
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
For aNewDomain, I’m Ted Rall.
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