Tomgram: Rick Shenkman, American Stupidity

[Note to TomDispatch readers: With this post, TomDispatch is shutting down for a few days. Expect the next piece on July 7th or 8th. With the sunny days of summer ahead, what could be better — consider this a last holiday hint — than picking up a copy of this site’s new book, The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire, before you head for… wherever it is you’re heading, including the backyard. Tom]

The buck stops… well, where does it stop? And who popularized that phrase, anyway? Herbert Hoover, J. Edgar Hoover, Harry S. Truman, George Washington, or none of the above?

Wait, don’t answer! The odds are — as Rick Shenkman, award-winning investigative journalist and founder of the always provocative website History News Network, tells us in his new book Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter — you’ll be wrong. And when you realize the depths of the ignorance so many Americans take into the voting booth, you may indeed wonder, as Shenkman does to great effect in his new book, where indeed the buck stops.

So here we are heading toward another July 4th, that glorious day when American independence was declared and the Liberty Bell rang out to the world — the first of which didn’t happen on July 4th, the second of which was made up “out of whole cloth” in the nineteenth century in a book for children (but you knew that!). Think of today’s post as a bit of counter-programming to our yearly summer celebration of history, a way to ponder what exactly, in the 8th year of the reign of our latest King George, any of us have to celebrate. Consider instead the state of our national brain, preview Shenkman’s new book (which should set anyone’s mind spinning), and, while you’re at it, watch his recent interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show by clicking here. Tom

How Ignorant Are We?

The Voters Choose… but on the Basis of What?
By Rick Shenkman

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” — Thomas Jefferson

Just how stupid are we? Pretty stupid, it would seem, when we come across headlines like this: “Homer Simpson, Yes — 1st Amendment ‘Doh,’ Survey Finds” (Associated Press 3/1/06).

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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