My Gawd, We’re Stoopid

Avedon Carol links to a Pew Research current events quiz that is mind-blowing. You can take it here (I expect everyone who reads Witness and/or Trenches to get 100%) and be amazed yourself before you read the rest of this.


Get them all, did you? Of course you did. Or most, I’m sure. There’s only one tricky question in the quiz. The rest are pretty much 6th-grade level. You would have to be living in a cave in Iceland not to know this stuff. Or that’s what you’d think after taking it. I mean, come on: “Is Hillary a candidate?” Give moi une break.

But look at the results. Only 3/4 of the respondents knew that. A full quarter of the people who took that quiz do NOT know that Hillary is running for president.

I mean, I’ve long since given up on thinking that the citizens of this country will ever know who their Reps and Sens are, even on a national level, forget locally. Thanks to FoxNews, I’ve just about given up on the idea that more than 10% of the people who watch the news on tv will actually have a clue what’s really happening in their govt. It doesn’t surprise me when more people know who Sanjaya is than know who al-Maliki is, and I don’t shake my head in despair any more when somebody says something like, “Democrats want to take away my hunting rifle and keep Christians from going to church.”

But when a quarter of us don’t know that the highest-profile candidate in either field is running, that’s cause for some concern. Isn’t it? I mean, even if you don’t read newspapers or watch tv news, you’d get that much through social osmosis, wouldn’t you?

Apparently not.

Not surprising were the results of the two questions on the minimum wage. Only a third knew the answers. A third. That’s about what I would have expected.

But the real surprise for me came at the upper level. I graduated high school and took some college courses, though not long enough to actually pass them, and I got all 9. College graduates averaged only 6, and people in my age group even less: 5.

So much for the uses of education and the wisdom of age.

It’s stuff like this that answers the question troubling many today: how could enough of us have ever voted for George Bush to make the election close enough to steal? Not once but twice?!

We could do it because the vast majority of us are as ignorant as road tar. We don’t know anything, even the basics. At this level all the excuses about our busy lives, the plethora of demands on us, the stress we’re subjected to, etc etc etc is what my mother would call “hogwash”. We don’t have half an hour free to read a paper?

Oh, yes, we do but I’ve seen it and so have you: straight to the sports page, do not pass go, do not glance at that depressing front page, or else straight to the local news (what the high school is serving for lunch this week, who’s announcing a marriage or divorce, what day is that baked bean supper, when does hunting/fishing/trapping/football/baseball/basketball/soccer/hacky-sack season start, who had a baby and what gender and how tall and how fat and did s/he have hair), screw that crap about FBI spying and torture in Cuba and some stoopid election.

Not even a war can make us wonder what our so-called leaders are doing? Our kids are dying and we still can’t be bothered? Only half of us knew how many soldiers have been killed in Iraq so far. Half.

Jesus. I quit. It’s hopeless. It’s fucking hopeless. We are fucking hopeless.

6 responses to “My Gawd, We’re Stoopid

  1. Of course, you can’t quit, Mick. Part of the reason the stupid burns is because the Rightists have deliberately destroyed public education and adult literacy training. Places like Louisiana have literacy rates under 50%.

    When you’re poor and illiterate survival means focusing on rudimentary stuff relevant to eking out a living. And Hillary’s run bears no relevance to affording dried beans and electricity.

    It’s telling that the question with the lowest correct answers was the minimum wage one. People don’t know Congress has passed increases because they either haven’t experienced the increase or already make more than the minimum wage so they think it doesn’t affect them and don’t care about the issue.

    To be fair, that’s not all of it. There’s a smaller group that simply is stupid, and that may be genetic or a product of massive family and societal dysfunction.

    Stupidity can’t be fought by despair nor typical activism. It takes the dedicated work of educators and a society dedicated to ending stupidity by proper funding and proper emphasis on knowledge over religious superstition and other similar socially corrupting thought strictures. (News as entertainment is an example of such social corruption).

    As much of the literacy problems occur in inner cities and poor rural areas, poverty is another social contributing factor. As is immigration.

    But I’d also bet that the majority of those who can’t answer the Pew questions also don’t vote at all.

    So we just keep plugging away. And occasionally people create popular entertainment that helps against ignorance, such as Sesame Street. It takes dedication and innovation to overcome stupidity. And cognizance of the fact that some powerful people prefer to keep stupidity around because it’s easier to manipulate the stupid… which helps to keep us motivated to fight that status quo.

  2. Hi, Kevin.

    I was in a mood last night but all the same it does sometimes feel like it isn’t just an uphill battle, it’s a doomed effort. I wrote “stoopid” in the title but what this is really about isn’t stupidity but ignorance. And what got to me – and still does is – we like being ignorant.

    The people who took that test have computers, most likely know what Pew is, have access to the internet and use it, and would presumably be better informed than average, yet a quarter of them didn’t know fundamental shit like whether or not Hillary is running for president. If we’re going to be honest, it’s highly doubtful that that ignorance is a function of hunger. People who are starving don’t have cars, much less computers, and they don’t pay for internet connections.

    If the kind of people who would take that test don’t know this stuff, then a huge swath of the public doesn’t know it either, and we both know it’s by choice. It has to be. The information is all around them. Even the folks who aren’t wired watch tv – it’s considered a necessity, not a luxury, and we probably both know a lot of people who will go without food to pay the cable bill – this shit is all over the tube. In order to get half of those questions wrong as college graduates did, you have to be actively avoiding anything even remotely connected to “news”.

    The min wage thing was predictable, in fact, I might even call it encouraging, because a full third knew something about it despite the confusing way it was done, attaching it to the supplemental bill for funding the war. It just got buried. But 2/3 didn’t know John Roberts was a conservative, and I’d be willing to bet that half of the people who answered that question were guessing because they don’t know who he is.

    I know as well as you do that this kind of ignorance has been encouraged by the Right, fed by it, celebrated by it, but we need to face the fact that we made it awful easy for them. They preached ignorance and we cheered.

    “Hip hip hooray!
    “I don’t have to learn anything today!”

    I know a guy who has an 8th grade education, no computer, no tv, and doesn’t read newspapers who knows more than those respondents did. He knows because he wants to know, and it’s all around him. He listens to the radio when he’s in the car, and he talks – and listens – to other people, and they all want to know. He knows Hillary is running – and McCain and Rudy and Mitt and Barack and Edwards (tho probably not the rest) – and he knows that the WMD excuse was a lie, that the oil companies inflated the price of gas, that torture is wrong and we’re doing it, that Bush has stacked the Supreme Court with wingnut conservatives, and lots of other things even supposedly well-informed people like the ones who took the test don’t know.

    If most of us – or even a significant proportion of us – are choosing ignorance, the battle is already lost. You can’t make somebody know what s/he doesn’t want to know.

    I’m doing a series on why media reporting sucks so bad, and as I get deeper into it, there’s an element that’s becoming clearer and clearer to me: when the press told us the truth about the Viet Nam War and Richard Nixon, a healthy chunk of us began to hate them for doing it.

    Hate them.

    We didn’t want to know and they told us, we didn’t want to believe and they forced us to. We’ve never forgiven them for that and ever since then we’ve been making them pay. That’s an enormous part of the reason they don’t do it any more. We punished them for telling us the truth.

    You can’t save a society when the over-whelming majority of it is in denial and has every intention of remaining in denial. Can’t be done.

  3. [ahem]

    Avedon Carol

  4. O Krist.


    I do know your name. Mr Carol. I don’t know why I did that or how I overlooked it in the editing. I’ve been reading your damn blog for 4 years. It was truly inexcusable.

  5. Um…the PEW research was a telephone survey, not an internet survey.

  6. What I linked to and was talking about is an internet news quiz, Neo. Clink the link and take it yourself.

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