America: Why R Your Peeps So Dum?

Adbusters Corporate FlagJoe Bageant writes at via Alternet:

If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.

One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? That wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?

But a more reasonable explanation is that, (A) we don’t even know we are doing it, and (B) we cling to institutions dedicated to making sure we never find out.

As William Edwards Deming famously demonstrated, no system can understand itself, and why it does what it does, including the American social system. Not knowing shit about why your society does what it makes for a pretty nasty case of existential unease. So we create institutions whose function is to pretend to know, which makes everyone feel better. Unfortunately, it also makes the savviest among us — those elites who run the institutions — very rich, or safe from the vicissitudes that buffet the rest of us.

Directly or indirectly, they understand that the real function of American social institutions is to justify, rationalize and hide the true purpose of cultural behavior from the lumpenproletariat, and to shape that behavior to the benefit of the institution’s members. “Hey, they’re a lump. Whaddya expect us to do?”

Read the full post at Alternet or Joe Bagent’s site

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  • Hadrian999

    I think it’s because stepping outside of our comfort zones or expanding our understandings is usually branded
    as unamerican(why would you wana learn Spanish damn foreigners should all learn english) any attempt to understand the complex cause and effect relationships that make the world the way it is is branded appeasement to terrorists or the nwo and we are conditioned to want 100% correct answers that can be summed up in 1 sentence or less. were doomed if this trend continues. recently in my city a public school had a teacher from china on some kind of exchange program and local residents protested him teaching chinese because it was unamerican to be bilingual.

  • Hadrian999

    I think it’s because stepping outside of our comfort zones or expanding our understandings is usually branded
    as unamerican(why would you wana learn Spanish damn foreigners should all learn english) any attempt to understand the complex cause and effect relationships that make the world the way it is is branded appeasement to terrorists or the nwo and we are conditioned to want 100% correct answers that can be summed up in 1 sentence or less. were doomed if this trend continues. recently in my city a public school had a teacher from china on some kind of exchange program and local residents protested him teaching chinese because it was unamerican to be bilingual.

  • Hadrian999

    I think it’s because stepping outside of our comfort zones or expanding our understandings is usually branded
    as unamerican(why would you wana learn Spanish damn foreigners should all learn english) any attempt to understand the complex cause and effect relationships that make the world the way it is is branded appeasement to terrorists or the nwo and we are conditioned to want 100% correct answers that can be summed up in 1 sentence or less. were doomed if this trend continues. recently in my city a public school had a teacher from china on some kind of exchange program and local residents protested him teaching chinese because it was unamerican to be bilingual.

  • Hadrian999

    I think it’s because stepping outside of our comfort zones or expanding our understandings is usually branded
    as unamerican(why would you wana learn Spanish damn foreigners should all learn english) any attempt to understand the complex cause and effect relationships that make the world the way it is is branded appeasement to terrorists or the nwo and we are conditioned to want 100% correct answers that can be summed up in 1 sentence or less. were doomed if this trend continues. recently in my city a public school had a teacher from china on some kind of exchange program and local residents protested him teaching chinese because it was unamerican to be bilingual.

  • dumbsaint

    I can assure you Americans don’t have a monopoly on stupidity.

    • Hadrian999

      we do have talent for it though

      • dumbsaint

        You definitely have a lot of prominent idiots. If Palin runs for presidency you can have the title.

    • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

      We bring to stupidity the same vigor and ingenuity that we once brought to other trends…like mass production of the automobile. Tragically, we now mass produce ignorance with far greater skill and efficiency than we ever displayed in our manufacturing sector.

  • Anonymous

    I can assure you Americans don’t have a monopoly on stupidity.

  • Hadrian999

    we do have talent for it though

  • Anonymous

    You definitely have a lot of prominent idiots. If Palin runs for presidency you can have the title.

  • Haystack

    Another masturbatory article where the author denigrates the people around him as mindless “commuter monkeys,” and applies pseudo-intellectual reasoning to the problem of why they are not as enlightened as he supposes himself to be.

    • DrDavidKelly

      Mudslinging and one upmanship aside … I think Joe makes a few valid points.

  • Haystack

    Another masturbatory article where the author denigrates the people around him as mindless “commuter monkeys,” and applies pseudo-intellectual reasoning to the problem of why they are not as enlightened as he supposes himself to be.

  • rtb61

    Two words “College Football”. Think about US ‘Higher Institutes of Learning’ reduced to celebrating jockstraps on scholarships and their cheerleader bimbettes all funded by mass media marketing targeted at children, no where else in the world would this make the slightest bit of sense, ‘Higher Institutes of Learning’ and ball games and the sexual offerings to make them play ‘harder’, WTF.
    What are the cheerleaders really meant to represent, the schools virgin sacrifice to the best scoring douches on the football team, score more and they will offer more.
    A shallow society where it’s only goal has become to buy more than anyone else, where values are defined by the next 60 second commercial and ignorance is not only bliss but it is publicly celebrated as bliss.

    • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

      Thats cynical enough that I actually feel frighteningly comfortable with it…although endless countries celebrate sports with equal idiocy…they just don’t have the same level of disposable income to waste on it.

      • Gimboid

        But not college sports. Nowhere else in the world are college sports a big money operation, if they exist at all.

    • Ironaddict06

      I understand your complaint, but college sports are not to blame. You could argue that a majority of the college football players are able to attend college because of their physical gifts. How many of the inner city kids would be in college if it were not for sports? I’d also argue that sports is the one profession that talent and hard work can lead to success. You can be dirt poor, but a gifted athlete willing to work hard and prevail.

  • Anonymous

    Two words “College Football”. Think about US ‘Higher Institutes of Learning’ reduced to celebrating jockstraps on scholarships and their cheerleader bimbettes all funded by mass media marketing targeted at children, no where else in the world would this make the slightest bit of sense, ‘Higher Institutes of Learning’ and ball games and the sexual offerings to make them play ‘harder’, WTF.
    What are the cheerleaders really meant to represent, the schools virgin sacrifice to the best scoring douches on the football team, score more and they will offer more.
    A shallow society where it’s only goal has become to buy more than anyone else, where values are defined by the next 60 second commercial and ignorance is not only bliss but it is publicly celebrated as bliss.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Thats cynical enough that I actually feel frighteningly comfortable with it…although endless countries celebrate sports with equal idiocy…they just don’t have the same level of disposable income to waste on it.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    We bring to stupidity the same vigor and ingenuity that we once brought to other trends…like mass production of the automobile. Tragically, we now mass produce ignorance with far greater skill and efficiency than we ever displayed in our manufacturing sector.

  • Dust

    i agree with hadrian that the media promotes our narrow reality tunnels and makes us proud of them, which just reinforces the human instinct to fear change or things outside their worldview.

    I think that it starts with the school system, though. I don’t remember learning any actual history like the history of revolutions and conspiracies (which is a pretty big chunk to leave out), and the history I do remember learning was such a task of boring fact memorization that you forget most of it.

    So you have kids that don’t know the history or the meaning of political terms that grow up and start watching a media discourse which uses the opposite meaning of the actual historic and/or scientific precedents for these words, and you end up where everyone has the logical understanding of these political models backwards, so like chomsky says, you can’t talk to anyone in america about political ideas without a lot of confusion, thus you can’t inform anyone about what’s actually going on at the political level.

  • Dust

    i agree with hadrian that the media promotes our narrow reality tunnels and makes us proud of them, which just reinforces the human instinct to fear change or things outside their worldview.

    I think that it starts with the school system, though. I don’t remember learning any actual history like the history of revolutions and conspiracies (which is a pretty big chunk to leave out), and the history I do remember learning was such a task of boring fact memorization that you forget most of it.

    So you have kids that don’t know the history or the meaning of political terms that grow up and start watching a media discourse which uses the opposite meaning of the actual historic and/or scientific precedents for these words, and you end up where everyone has the logical understanding of these political models backwards, so like chomsky says, you can’t talk to anyone in america about political ideas without a lot of confusion, thus you can’t inform anyone about what’s actually going on at the political level.

  • Gimboid

    But not college sports. Nowhere else in the world are college sports a big money operation, if they exist at all.

  • David

    Mudslinging and one upmanship aside … I think Joe makes a few valid points.

  • Untitled-01

    Adobe is on that flag. What did Adobe do that is SO BAD really? Yes some large corporations (WalMart) can be corrupt, but just because a company is big and famous doesn’t mean it’s automatically evil. and Starbucks, what is wrong with Starbucks??

    • that1guy

      Starbucks used to(the time I saw this flag first come around) buy coffee from brokers and owners who leveraged workers out of fair prices. I know they now offer fair trade roasts, but the fact remains that they made their name by trading a psychoactive chemical interntionally at a 200% mark-up without giving 2 shits about whether it was sourced ethically by environmental or fair labor standards. Also people hate them for the typical reasons people hate chains. Mom and pop places can’t sompete in terms of branding or cost, and Starbucks exploits this by saturating markets and sometimes intentionally operating at a loss to put local shops out of business.
      They also fucked with the modern IWW a few years back, but I’m sure at least part of those organizing within SB franchises were doing so as a provocation to open the corp. up again for criticism. Not that they haven’t fucked over workers stateside before, but really, who hasn’t?
      On the up-side, I remember them being one of the first companies to extend employee benefits to domestic partners of any gender, so there’s gotta be a few good people working inside the org. I have no clue about adobe.

    • Bronwyn

      Apart from anything else – the coffee. It’s horrible.

  • Untitled-01

    Adobe is on that flag. What did Adobe do that is SO BAD really? Yes some large corporations (WalMart) can be corrupt, but just because a company is big and famous doesn’t mean it’s automatically evil. and Starbucks, what is wrong with Starbucks??

  • Marklar_Prime

    FLouride in the water supply is one culprit.

    Another is the school system which was designed from day one not to educate but to instill blind subservience to authority under dehumanizing factory like conditions, in other words to school you. Look up John Taylor Gatto sometime, he’ll tell you.

    Finally the media that repeats verbatim whatever the government and corporations tell them to and no more. Journalism is dead in the MSM, having been pushed aside to make room for propaganda.

    None of these weak forms of social control would work without our own inherent intellectual laziness paving the way however. They can lead you to stupidity but they can’t make you drink the kool-aide.

  • http://twitter.com/Marklar_Prime Marklar Kronkite

    FLouride in the water supply is one culprit.

    Another is the school system which was designed from day one not to educate but to instill blind subservience to authority under dehumanizing factory like conditions, in other words to school you. Look up John Taylor Gatto sometime, he’ll tell you.

    Finally the media that repeats verbatim whatever the government and corporations tell them to and no more. Journalism is dead in the MSM, having been pushed aside to make room for propaganda.

    None of these weak forms of social control would work without our own inherent intellectual laziness paving the way however. They can lead you to stupidity but they can’t make you drink the kool-aide.

  • that1guy

    Starbucks used to(the time I saw this flag first come around) buy coffee from brokers and owners who leveraged workers out of fair prices. I know they now offer fair trade roasts, but the fact remains that they made their name by trading a psychoactive chemical interntionally at a 200% mark-up without giving 2 shits about whether it was sourced ethically by environmental or fair labor standards. Also people hate them for the typical reasons people hate chains. Mom and pop places can’t sompete in terms of branding or cost, and Starbucks exploits this by saturating markets and sometimes intentionally operating at a loss to put local shops out of business.
    They also fucked with the modern IWW a few years back, but I’m sure at least part of those organizing within SB franchises were doing so as a provocation to open the corp. up again for criticism. Not that they haven’t fucked over workers stateside before, but really, who hasn’t?
    On the up-side, I remember them being one of the first companies to extend employee benefits to domestic partners of any gender, so there’s gotta be a few good people working inside the org. I have no clue about adobe.

  • that1guy

    It was kind of amazing that this article stopped short of explicitly invoking the master/slave dialectic. Came close:
    “Purposeful ignorance allows us to enjoy cheaper commodities produced through slave labor, both foreign, and increasingly, domestic, and yet “thank god for his bounty” in the nation’s churches without a trace of guilt or irony.”
    But didn’t link willful ignorance of our situation with the less-willful ignorance that comes from personally being so far removed from every aspect of the production process.
    Decent article, although a bit rambling, impractical, and self-indulgent in some respects.

  • that1guy

    It was kind of amazing that this article stopped short of explicitly invoking the master/slave dialectic. Came close:
    “Purposeful ignorance allows us to enjoy cheaper commodities produced through slave labor, both foreign, and increasingly, domestic, and yet “thank god for his bounty” in the nation’s churches without a trace of guilt or irony.”
    But didn’t link willful ignorance of our situation with the less-willful ignorance that comes from personally being so far removed from every aspect of the production process.
    Decent article, although a bit rambling, impractical, and self-indulgent in some respects.

  • Jan

    An uneducated person beliefs everything what is perpetuated by biased media and the doesn´t challenge the authorities. He is only concerned about gossip and consumption. Gossip and Consumption is a big business.

  • Jan

    An uneducated person beliefs everything what is perpetuated by biased media and the doesn´t challenge the authorities. He is only concerned about gossip and consumption. Gossip and Consumption is a big business.

  • Larry Christopher

    Articles like this remind me why I decided not to go to graduate school. It sounds high brow and thoughtful on the surface, but if you consider all the vague, undefined assumptions and generalizations, it’s not really saying much of anything. “American culture,” “American social system,” “American social institutions,” “elites,” “we,” “us,” wtf does any of that actually mean? I’m not a huge fan of American culture (whatever that really is), but another question that might be posed is, who’s so much smarter and superior today?

    • H8mail23

      My experience with grad school and grad students differs greatly from your perceptions. I found this article particularly annoying for many of the reasons you have sighted. However, my immediate disgust was with what undergraduate, generalist, sophmoric sentiments it entertains. Academic discipline involves a weeding out of direct name-calling and simple value judgements. Distinctions are instead to be made based on differing knowledge foundations. In a genuine academic setting the phrases which you have placed in quotes would be interrogated for validity and relevance. The class of academics in contemporary first world countries may be detestable for myriad reasons, but the discipline of academia has a long and varied history. It is unfortunate that it is so often confused with verbose, amateur bullshit. It is also unfortunate that so few individuals with academic interests and inclinations pursue those paths to any critical or substantive end.
      Who is so much smarter and superior? Not merely someone with an interest in esoteric or “rarified” subjects. Not merely someone with a vocabulary and an unprompted vengence. Someone who has put in the time, sweat and WORK that academic discipline requires. They are out there. Don’t mistake them for these bloggers and op ed ranters.
      Everyone hates to feel inferior. But the truth remains… Who is so much smarter and superior? Most anyone who has worked and thought harder than you about a thing.

      • http://twitter.com/JoViKe John V. Keogh

        knowledge foundation?

  • Larry Christopher

    Articles like this remind me why I decided not to go to graduate school. It sounds high brow and thoughtful on the surface, but if you consider all the vague, undefined assumptions and generalizations, it’s not really saying much of anything. “American culture,” “American social system,” “American social institutions,” “elites,” “we,” “us,” wtf does any of that actually mean? I’m not a huge fan of American culture (whatever that really is), but another question that might be posed is, who’s so much smarter and superior today?

  • Bronwyn

    Apart from anything else – the coffee. It’s horrible.

  • Ironaddict06

    I understand your complaint, but college sports are not to blame. You could argue that a majority of the college football players are able to attend college because of their physical gifts. How many of the inner city kids would be in college if it were not for sports? I’d also argue that sports is the one profession that talent and hard work can lead to success. You can be dirt poor, but a gifted athlete willing to work hard and prevail.

  • H8mail23

    My experience with grad school and grad students differs greatly from your perceptions. I found this article particularly annoying for many of the reasons you have sighted. However, my immediate disgust was with what undergraduate, generalist, sophmoric sentiments it entertains. Academic discipline involves a weeding out of direct name-calling and simple value judgements. Distinctions are instead to be made based on differing knowledge foundations. In a genuine academic setting the phrases which you have placed in quotes would be interrogated for validity and relevance. The class of academics in contemporary first world countries may be detestable for myriad reasons, but the discipline of academia has a long and varied history. It is unfortunate that it is so often confused with verbose, amateur bullshit. It is also unfortunate that so few individuals with academic interests and inclinations pursue those paths to any critical or substantive end.
    Who is so much smarter and superior? Not merely someone with an interest in esoteric or “rarified” subjects. Not merely someone with a vocabulary and an unprompted vengence. Someone who has put in the time, sweat and WORK that academic discipline requires. They are out there. Don’t mistake them for these bloggers and op ed ranters.
    Everyone hates to feel inferior. But the truth remains… Who is so much smarter and superior? Most anyone who has worked and thought harder than you about a thing.

  • H8mail23

    Midwesterners and Republicans are so dumb. If they would just die we could all have free health care, go on vision quests and rewind to the days of dot com startups. Am I getting this right?

    All you sheeple and commuter monkeys beware… There is one true and factual, right and moral, free and accepted masonic epistemology out there. It is UNIVERSAL and ESSENTIAL. Once the corporate lies are unmasked we will not merely be free from economic and cultural tyranny; we will be united through innate rational communion. All who oppose material humanism will be revealed as apologists for oligarchy. All you tan to brownish homo sapiens hiding behind victimhood will be given the choice to step into the white light of New-Agey-Ahistorical-Psuedo-Enlightenment-Syncretism or be revealed as Provincial-Essentialist-Chauvinistic-Masters-Masquerading-As-Slaves!
    Ha-Ha! Nobody expects the Blogger Inquisition…

  • H8mail23

    Midwesterners and Republicans are so dumb. If they would just die we could all have free health care, go on vision quests and rewind to the days of dot com startups. Am I getting this right?

    All you sheeple and commuter monkeys beware… There is one true and factual, right and moral, free and accepted masonic epistemology out there. It is UNIVERSAL and ESSENTIAL. Once the corporate lies are unmasked we will not merely be free from economic and cultural tyranny; we will be united through innate rational communion. All who oppose material humanism will be revealed as apologists for oligarchy. All you tan to brownish homo sapiens hiding behind victimhood will be given the choice to step into the white light of New-Agey-Ahistorical-Psuedo-Enlightenment-Syncretism or be revealed as Provincial-Essentialist-Chauvinistic-Masters-Masquerading-As-Slaves!
    Ha-Ha! Nobody expects the Blogger Inquisition…

  • http://twitter.com/JoViKe John V. Keogh

    knowledge foundation?

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