charles-p-pierce-idiot-america.thumbnail.jpgWhether he knows it or not, Charlie Pierce probably understands the Prop 8 trial going on in Judge Walker’s courtroom in California better than anyone else.

Reading through the liveblog threads of the trial, and then pondering the bigger picture posts, I found myself going back to Charlie’s book Idiot America again and again and again — as well as his FDL Book Salon chat.

With a few name changes, Charlie’s description of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial could be used to describe the action in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. For instance . . .

Like so much of the blasted landscape of Idiot America, the Dover trial was a war on expertise, and Judge Jones was the last expert standing. Pastor Mummert had laid out the shape of the battlefield early on, when he described Dover as besieged by its intelligent and educated elements. The people to be most distrusted were those who actually knew what they were talking about. (p. 153)

You know, like scientific researchers who understand statistics being questioned by lawyers who don’t. Like gays and lesbians who understand what it is actually like to be gay or lesbian being questioned by lawyers who don’t.

Teddy is absolutely on target about the anti-science viewpoint of the Defense-Intervenors, and we’ll no doubt see more of this down the road.

There’s just one problem for the DIs with this approach. “Be afraid!” is not a constitutionally powerful argument that will carry much weight with a judge.

The parallels between Dover and Perry are stunning, and if you’ve got Idiot America already, it’s worth digging out and re-reading that chapter. After the passage quoted above, he continued like this:

This is how people get elected while claiming not to be politicians. This is how, through the new mass media technologies best exemplified by the successful know-nothingism of talk radio, everyone is an expert, if they can move units or budge the needle. Everyone is a historian, or a preacher, or a scientist, or a political sage. Why should anyone pay Sean Hannity, an NYU dropout, a dime to talk about stem cell research?

Why not ask the guy who fixes your car?

Why not the guy on the next bar stool?

Why not you?

Of course, if everyone is an expert, then nobody is. The worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.

Hmmm . . . “This is how people get elected” you say?

Why am I not surprised to learn that Andy Pugno, the chief counsel for the DIs, is running for the CA state assembly? Maybe Judge Walker is not Pugno’s primary audience.

Charlie, if you’re around and reading this, I’m really looking forward to Idiot America II.



I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.