Sadness, illustrated.
A sigh-worthy British read.

Well, I'm with you in theory, but that's about it.

I was amused by the jacket copy on Charles Pierce's Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free:

Idiot "The culture wars are over. The idiots have won. This pisses Pierce off immensely. Like all cynics, he's secretly a romantic at heart, and his disbelieving anger is fueled by the knowledge that America doesn't have to be this way. Like an Old Testament prophet (albeit an agnostic, funny one), Pierce lets loose on the foibles of society in the secret hope that, somehow, being smart will stop being a stigma and idiots will once again be pitied and not celebrated. But don't get your hopes up."

Pierce is a journalist and appears regularly on NPR; he can write and his prose is reasonably entertaining. But I'll admit I never got past the first chapter, in which his chief evidence that idiots are taking over is a line from a New York Times article about intelligent design, in which the reporter wrote that the ID movement "have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin's defenders firmly on the defensive."*

Really. That's the sentence he holds up as the shining example of the ridiculousness of the idiocy in our society.

Nothing against Pierce, but if that's the best he can do, I'm not impressed. I might suggest that a greater break with reality is evident in the phrase "keep government out of my Medicare," which I actually saw people say on the news last week. I think a bigger problem is that very few people could probably tell you what the theory of evolution actually is, or how it differs from intelligent design; and that another large chunk of the population simply hates the New York Times on principle because they think it is elitist or too smart. But that's just me.

In all, don't bother with this book. Pick up Joe Bageant's Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War instead--it's a million times more interesting and provides a nice mix of empathy and frustration, which Pierce's book totally misses.

*Authors always lose me when they start pointing out that only idiots would ever have any questions about evolution. I find the entire debate deeply uninteresting (I've never really understood why it's even a debate, frankly, since one of the major religious tenets seems to be that if you believe in God, you believe God can do anything, so why couldn't God set evolution in motion?), but I always think it's hilarious when anybody holds up a belief in evolution as the gold standard of intelligence. Richard Dawkins falls firmly into that camp too, and you know what? He's boring too. Maybe boringness and the tendency to sound like an asshole evolved along with the need to make everyone accept evolution as gospel** truth in writers of this sort.

**Pun intended.