I DO BELIEVE THAT it was during the 2004 presidential election that some organizations conducted an exit poll that was a mini-test. The test consisted of a single sheet of paper or a card with four (4) true-or-false statements. Each statement concerned the most pressing topic of the day: Saddam Hussein. The statements were simple things like, “Weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq” and “Saddam was responsible for 9/11.” All four were false statements.
At the bottom of the paper was a list of media news sources, ranging from left to right literally and figuratively: the first name on the left was supposedly liberal while the last name on the supposedly conservative. The last name on the right was Fox News.
After answering the four ‘questions,’ participants were asked to circle their primary source of news from among those listed at the bottom.
Those who circled the media on the left side of the card usually got all four correct. Many who selected Fox News got all four incorrect!
So. should those people who haven’t a clue as to what is really happening in the world in which they live—those that got three or four statements incorrect—be entrusted with a ballot?
We didn’t finish last in anything!
The following paragraphs were lifted from the article “America’s problem: We’re too dumb” by LZ Granderson for the CNN Opinion website (October 14, 2013). Granderson notes that US adults ranked 16 out of 21 countries in a recent literacy proficiency study—which is higher than I would have guessed.
“I’m a sucker for all of those man-on-the-street interviews that late-night shows do to reveal just how dumb Americans are. It’s fun to laugh at the people who struggle with simple math problems or are unable to find any country we’re at war with on a map. More than a few even get tripped up trying to name the branches of government.
If you think government dysfunction is the country’s #1 problem—and according to a recent Gallup poll, a third of the nation does—then maybe we should take those hilarious late-night interviews a little more seriously.
A Gallup study found that US adults ranked 16 out of 21 countries in literacy proficiency.
You see, while we were busy waving our angry finger at Washington, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its findings from the Survey of Adult Skills.
The group’s research measured the literacy, math, and computer skills of 5,000 adults from 16 to 65 and compared those numbers with that of 21 other countries. The good news is that we didn’t finish last in anything.
When Gallup asked Americans what was the country’s top problem, after dysfunctional government, the top-listed items were the economy, unemployment, the deficit, and health care. Sadly education didn’t crack the top five, despite being the one area that really links them all.”
Should voters know they are voting for?
I have long advocated for an ‘informed voter test’ for voters to take prior to being allowed to cast a ballot. A simple true-or-false with a mere ten (10) statements regarding the current events that are shaping the election. Five each from the Rep*blicans and Democrats would work.
• All ten must be factual statements—opinions not allowed. 1
• All statements must be verified by a third party.
• A voter must get six (6) correct to cast a ballot.
Of course, this will never happen for two reasons: first, any such test, no matter how fair and balanced, would be hideously tainted with the stench of the so-called “literacy tests” devised by several states to keep blacks disenfranchised for several generations after the 15th Amendment went into effect. 2
This lasted until The Voting Rights Act of 1965. 3
And second, with such a test the Rep*blicans would probably never win a national or state election again, so of course having a functionally, politically, and historically literate citizenry is just a personal fantasy of mine.
But what’s life without a few fantasies?
Mah fellow Americans
The first three words of the title of this piece were my attempt at recalling the ghost of Lyndon Baines Johnson, hence the attempt to capture his down-home Texas accent. Johnson could have kept his nose to the domestic grindstone and left that itty-bitty, insignificant, no-threat-to-us country of Vietnam to work out its problems by itself.
If he had, LBJ might be ranked among the best presidents in our history!
It was also the title of one of Ron Cobb’s collections of his brilliant political and social cartoons of The Sixties. Cobb was a pivotal player in the underground newspaper movement, although he receives little attention these days from those revising the past.
The last three words in the title are a reference to the almost unwatchable Dumb And Dumber, the 1994 movie with Jim Carrey doing his wretched Jerry Lewis impression. The presence of the usually excellent Jeff Daniels does not help the film in any appreciable manner. 4
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) in the television series The Newsroom. As I really don’t ever want to think about Daniels with Carrey again, I found this with him opposite the extraordinary and apparently under-appreciated Mortimer. And this ties in with the gist of this article: the opening scene of the first episode of The Newsroom addresses the ignorance of the masses in these here United States.
1 This is important, as there are many people who believe that reading the editorial columns of their favorite pundits (with whom they always agree) is the same as reading the news in the rest of the paper.
2 The 15th Amendment (Amendment XV) to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” It was ratified on February 3, 1870, as the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments. (Wikipedia)
3 “The Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African-Americans from exercising their right to vote as guaranteed under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Voting Rights Act is considered one of the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.” (History)
4 Yeah, I know it’s all a matter of taste and millions and millions of people paid to see it and rented or bought the video but the same can be said for countless other wretched movies and this is my blog so I get to say what I want. Hah!