mah fellow americans just keep on gettin’ dumb and dumberer

Es­ti­mated reading time is 5 min­utes.

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?


Fellow Americans: photo of Jeff Daniels from THE NEWSROOM.

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.”


Fellow Americans: photo of Emily Mortimer from THE NEWSROOM.

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?


Cover of Ron Cobb's book MAH FELLOW AMERICANS.

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

Mah fellow Amer­i­cans keep get­ting dumb and dumb­erer and it gets worse and worserer. Click To Tweet

Fellow Americans: photo of Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer from THE NEWSROOM.

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!


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