Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter [NOOK Book]

Overview


Fifty percent of Americans can name four characters from “The Simpsons,” but only two out of five can name all three branches of the federal government. No more than one in seven can find Iraq on a map. Just how stupid are we? Pretty stupid.

In Just How Stupid Are We?, best-selling author Rick Shenkman takes aim at our great national piety: the wisdom of the American people. American democracy is as direct as it’s ever been—but voters are misusing, abusing, and abdicating their...

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Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter

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Overview


Fifty percent of Americans can name four characters from “The Simpsons,” but only two out of five can name all three branches of the federal government. No more than one in seven can find Iraq on a map. Just how stupid are we? Pretty stupid.

In Just How Stupid Are We?, best-selling author Rick Shenkman takes aim at our great national piety: the wisdom of the American people. American democracy is as direct as it’s ever been—but voters are misusing, abusing, and abdicating their political power. At once a powerful indictment of voter apathy and political indifference, Just How Stupid Are We? also provides concrete proposals for reforming our institutions—the government, the media, civic organizations, political parties—to make them work better for the American people. But first, Shenkman argues, we must reform ourselves.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Shenkman (Presidential Ambition) makes the provocative argument that as American voters have gained political power in the last 50 years, they have become increasingly ignorant of politics and world affairs-and dangerously susceptible to manipulation. The book provides a litany of depressing statistics-most Americans cannot name their representatives in Congress, only 20% hold a passport, 30% cannot identify the Holocaust-as Shenkman inquires whether Americans are capable of voting in the nation's or even their own best interests. Although Shenkman clearly derives some pleasure in pointing out the stupidity and irrationality of the American public, his concern is genuine and heartfelt. In lucid, playful prose, he illustrates how politicians have repeatedly misled voters and analyzes the dumbing down of American politics via marketing, spin machines and misinformation. Shenkman initiates an important conversation in this book and makes welcome suggestions to reinvigorate civic responsibility and provide people with the knowledge and tools necessary to efficaciously participate in the political process. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Shenkman (history, George Mason Univ.; Presidential Ambition) combines his talents as a reporter and a historian to assess why the American voter can be rational and yet so capable of "being played like a fiddle" by politicians. The vaunted "People" (a misconceived American notion, he says) fail sufficiently to understand the issues or the nuances of debate. While more Americans have college degrees, presidential speeches are now pitched to the seventh-grade level. Providing fascinating background and current observations, Shenkman is ultimately optimistic. Highly recommended for public libraries.


—Donna L. Davey, Margaret Heilbrun
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465012572
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 5/12/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 651,157
  • File size: 260 KB

Meet the Author


Rick Shenkman is the editor and founder of the History News Network and Associate Professor of History at George Mason University. New York Times best-selling author of five history books, including Legends, Lies & Cherished Myths of American History, he appears regularly as a commentator on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. Educated at Vassar and Harvard, Shenkman is an award-winning investigative reporter and the former managing editor of KIRO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Seattle. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

howstupidblog.com

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Table of Contents

1 The Problem 1

2 Gross Ignorance 13

3 Are the Voters Irrational? 37

4 The Importance of Myths 53

5 Giving Control to the People 67

6 The Power of Television 81

7 Our Dumb Politics: The Big Picture 117

8 Our Mindless Debate About 9/11 129

9 We Can't Even Talk About How Stupid We Are 141

Coda: Hope 171

Sources 187

Index 197

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2008

    The answer to 'what's the matter with with Kansas'

    Reading this book cover to cover was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I always wondered who 'The People' and 'You People' and 'Those People' were. Now I know. As Pogo once said, 'We have met the enemy and they are us'. I hope understanding 'The People' will help us choose our next president.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Calling ignorance out, yeah it hurts

    Many of the attacks on this book stem from the fact that it prods people out of easily accepted partisan boxes. This work highlights the culture wars between the right and the left, and within the right and the left. Many conservatives are probably uncomfortable with this book because it highlights that many poor people vote on "value" issues which have been wedded in an economic platform that benefits the rich. The evangelical base has been promised prayer in school for nearly 30 years. What do preserving tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% have to do with abortion? Nothing except these have become touchstones of right, and questioning them is tantamount to "not being a real American." Overall Shenkman highlights that most Americans are confused of basic issues, and ignorant of the basic information needed to make democracy to work. (Like the fact that "Palestinia" is not a country or occupied territory) How can one even begin to talk Keynesian economics versus Trickle Down economics when they have no idea what federal spending really looks like? Why are most people ignorant of the origins of the current deficit? Or that the party in power has really nothing to do with the state of laws concerning abortion, gun possession, etc. I think some people would like this book to disappear because it looks like more "intellectual elitism." God help a country where thinking and being informed are considered "anti-American."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2008

    I was hoping for more

    I became concerned about the knowledge of the American voter several years ago after overhearing a conversation on the subway in which someone said 'If Clinton was still President he'd have gone over there and cleaned up this mess in Palestinia by now'. I thought this book would expound on my concerns, which it did to some extent. I was disappointed, however, by the highly partisan slant surrounding the legitamate statistics and facts laid out. It seems as though anyone who draws a different conclusion than the author when viewing a set of facts is judged to be unknowledgeable.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2011

    Straightforward analysis. Eye-opening. Every American should read and heed.

    Rick Shenckman states plainly in this book what has needed to be said for quite a long time. It will make you want to improve your own civics knowledge and make yourself truly knowledgable about current events and to be extremely cautious about who you are getting your information from.

    Frankly speaking, if you even try and argue with the undeniable reality in these pages (you'd have to be quite dense), you're the citizen he's talking about. There's no disagreeing with the facts that he has laid out because he doesn't take sides, just points out the problems and finally what we could do to solve them. Read this book and you'll understand how most voters need serious help to learn about our government and the issues being debated. I read a couple negative reviews above from people deluding themselves or perhaps living in their own fantasy world.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    No, Mr. Shenkman, how stupid are YOU?

    What a load! This guys is so full of himself and drips with such condescension and arrogance that it strikes me as unfortunate that this George Mason University fruitcake has found his way onto the bookshelves of our great nation.
    The annoying and insulting tone of this book, and his obvious BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) makes anything he says sound hollow and stupid.
    Save your money for a book of substance.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2008

    A reviewer

    How stupid am I? I bought the damn book and read it from cover to cover, a waste of time and money. On page 175, near the book's end, Shenkman says that S. I. Hayakawa 'argues that demagogues succeed in persuading people to support one thing or another through the use of meaningless abstractions, words like freedom and liberty.' Well, Shenkman constantly refers to 'The People' without ever defining just who is included in this group. He further refers to 'The People Myth.' This is never clearly identified either. And yet his whole book is based on it. The book is full of sweeping generalizations and seems to be a platform from which he can criticize everyone and everything.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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