Don’t want to be an American idiot.
One nation controlled by the media.
Information age of hysteria.
It’s calling out to idiot America.
— Green Day, "American Idiot"
Nearly every day for the past four years, those lyrics have resonated in my head when I’ve scanned the daily headlines or watched the news. America’s cranks, once relegated to park benches and late night public access programming, have hijacked the public discourse, from the junkie bobbleheads on the Sunday talk shows who greedily mainline false equivalencies to the power-hungry politicians who play Calvinball with our constitutionally-protected rights.
Two hundred years ago (give or take), James Madison envisioned this future and tried his best to avert certain disaster. But things have gone all pear-shaped and we now find ourselves in the 21st century, with thinning attention spans and fattening bottoms, and the country appears to have chosen blatant idiocy over reason, no thanks to a medium that puts a premium on intellectual laziness. Science, rationality, facts — anything reality-based, actually — is mocked and shunned in our new era of willful ignorance. To hell with Enlightenment, the television marketing geniuses insist; it’s just easier to embrace the Age of Stupidity. Thinking people need not apply.
Enter Charlie Pierce, whose wickedly funny and incisive observations first wormed their way into my brain when I started listening years ago to NPR’s game show, "Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me." In his new book, Idiot America, Pierce eviscerates this Epoch of “Dignitude” and bemoans the mainstreaming of the American Crank. Taking on the likes of would-be soapbox stars such as Jonah Goldberg (whose Liberal Fascism Pierce describes as having been "written with a paint roller"), the founders of the Creation Museum with its dressage saddle-wearing dinosaur, and the defendants in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Charlie Pierce pulls away the curtain on the selling techniques that have duped the country into its current state of imbecility.
It is simply impossible to read this book without alternating between laughing out loud at Charlie’s scarily precise aim and sighing in quiet desperation at the fact that he needs to draw a bead in the first place.
Please join me in welcoming Charlie Pierce to Firedoglake.