05 June 2012

Idiot America, by Charles Pierce

Doubleday 2009  ISBN# 978-0-7679-2614-0

"We've been attacked by the educated, intelligent segment of our culture."

The Three Great Premises 

  1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
  2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
  3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

On Cranks

From p. 36
The barriers that once forced American cranks to adapt or withdraw--or even merely to defend--their ideas all have fallen. It is considered impolite to raise them again, almost un-American, since we are all entitled to our opinions. 

Conspiracy Theories 

From p. 80 - 83
[Daniel Patrick] Moynihan argued that the Warren Commission's capital mistake from the start was the failure to recognize that Americans were not predisposed to believe it.
...70 percent of the American people did not believe the conclusion of the Warren Commission...This percentage has not changed substantially since ... 1964...
...we have kept the Kennedy assassination as a conspiracy theory, rather than accepting it as an actual conspiracy. Once we believe in the latter, it becomes a deadening weight on the conscience. It loses its charm. Accepting it as a reality means we probably are obligated to do something about it, and that we have chosen, en masse, not to.
The revelation of an actual conspiracy--the Iran-Contra matter, say--has come to have a rather deadening effect on American politics and culture. It runs through stages. There is disbelief. Then the whole thing dies in banality. It's too hard to understand, and it's Just One More Damn Thing that proves not that something called "government" is controlled by a secret conspiracy, but that "government" itself is the conspiracy. This is commonplace and boring, and it leads to distrust and to apathy, and not, as it is supposed to do, to public outrage and reform. There is no "Us." There is only a "Them." There's no game if there's only the other team playing.
...the Iran-Contra affair had no ... effect. (Remarkably, several of its architects even returned ... in 2001, eager to reassert their fantastical visions.) ... It is little more than a footnote in history...  
...We entertain ourselves with skepticism or, at worst, cynicism. But we govern ourselves with apathy or, at worst, credulity. 

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