Thursday, October 02, 2008

Six of Dumb, Half Dozen of Dumber

Remember back in early 2001, when perpetual intellectual underachiever George W. Bush told the graduating class at Yale -- his alma mater -- that he was proof that even a "C" student could become president? Although he was aiming for self-deprecation, it was the subtext of that simple statement which made it so patently offensive. Bush wasn't the everyman hick he pretended to be -- a down-home interloper among the silver spoon-fed rich kids of the Ivy League; far from it. Not only was he a legacy while at Yale -- a predestined Skull and Bones oligarch -- but he in fact came from one of the wealthiest and most politically powerful families in the country. And that's what made his comments at the school's commencement so goddamned obnoxious: it's not as if he squeaked by with a "C" average because he had to work his way through college or because he faced some other obstacle that stood as an impediment to his education; it's not as if he scratched and clawed to earn that very average average. Bush didn't get better grades because he knew he didn't have to. He fucked around and didn't give a damn about actually being the best student he could be because his family, and his family's status, all but guaranteed that he'd eventually inherit the keys to the kingdom regardless. Why work for it when you don't have to?

What Bush was basically telling the Yale kids is, "You can be a lazy fuck-up and still get ahead -- as long as your last name is Bush. Heh heh."

No wonder they protested his appearance; it was an insult to everyone who actually worked to earn a degree.

At first glance, it may not seem like the dynastic Junior Bush has anything in common with an undereducated rube like Sarah Palin -- and really he doesn't.

Unless you consider this: they both believe that there's nothing wrong with ascending to the most important offices in our government without actually doing the work and learning the skills necessary to do the job well.

But whereas Bush seems slyly proud to have been able to work the system and stand on the shoulders of giants to get where he is, Palin's a True Believer -- she genuinely thinks that anyone, any "Joe Six-Pack," should have access to the presidency and vice presidency of this country without ever having made the effort or undertaken the course of self-betterment which would assure that he or she is more than just adequately qualified for the position.

I'd once again run down how this inane ethos highlights half of America's ongoing hate-affair with intellectualism -- how it once again casts elitism as a bad thing -- but Bob Cesca's latest piece in the Huffington Post says it better and with more righteous fury than I ever could.

"Of course Sarah Palin probably doesn't realize that in suggesting that just any ignorant hoople can be vice president, she's not only suggesting that she herself is an ignorant hoople but, most importantly, that she can be easily replaced by any ignorant hoople plucked by the mullet out of any random monster truck rally. In other words, it's a frivolous position open to anyone who can read a teleprompter without choking on his or her own tongue. I mean, is she seriously advocating for equal job opportunities for Joe Six-pack? It's about time, she seems to have said, that normal Joe Six-pack Americans were in control of our most important and most complicated jobs. Joe Six-pack presidents. Joe Six-pack astronauts. Joe Six-pack police detectives. Joe Six-pack surgeons. Imagine being wheeled into surgery for a triple bypass and just before they push the anesthesia, you see Sarah Palin walk into the operating theater with a hatchet. A nurse offers her some sterile gloves and she blurts out, 'Thanks, but no thanks! Oh I love doin' amputations!' Scary. But it's about time, right?"

What's more, the particular brand of Joe Six-Pack that Palin is ham handedly attempting to ingratiate and compare herself to is really, no bullshit, the last guy you want having an inequitable advantage at the very top of our government. He's the guy who robotically chants "USA! USA!" when confronted with a delicate international situation that requires not simply stern action but thoughtful nuance as well; who likewise extolls that this is "the greatest country on earth" without ever having tested that premise by traveling beyond its borders (or even wanting to); who believes that the rest of the world will invariably fall in line with whatever the good ole U-S-of-A says, dammit; who wants leaders he can drink with rather than ones he can look up to.

At the top of Cesca's piece in HuffPost, he recounts a story that Mike Judge -- creator of Beavis and Butthead, Office Space and King of the Hill -- told during an appearance on David Letterman's show a while back. It provides a pretty good example of what "Joe Six-Pack" looks like. What's worth noting is that Mike Judge is also the creator of the hilariously depressing satire Idiocracy, which paints a picture of a future America in which the lowest common denominator has claimed absolute control over every facet of our culture, media and government -- a future where Joe Six-Pack really has become president (and vice president, and a doctor, and a lawyer, and everything else).

I used to think that George W. Bush was pushing us slowly in this direction -- that the fate of our country as depicted in Idiocracy was assured because of who Bush and his cronies prostrated themselves before in an effort to hold onto power. But Bush was just a pretender to the throne -- as incompetent as he was and is, he's never been just your average guy, even if for no other reason than that he accidentally hit the socio-economic lotto at birth.

Sarah Palin though, she really is just your basic unimpressive doofus -- living proof of affirmative action for the ambitious-but-stupid.

And she doesn't simply think of Joe Six-Pack as a campaign slogan or a means to an end -- she thinks of him as the future.

Which, especially if you've seen Idiocracy, should scare the living hell out of you.


tania said...

I fuckin' love that 'hooplehead' has become (fairly) common usage!

He's right. McCain needs to tell Palin to get her coat & go, before single-cell organisms hold high office. But he won't, will he?

Incidentally, an observant contributor to my local freebie newsrag has pointed out that Palin's lenses don't seem to be prescription, because her face doesn't appear at all distorted through them. Is she wearing fake spectacles in order to look smarter? I would not put it past her.

maxpurr9 said...

I love the movie 'idiocracy' and reference it often. It was a few weeks ago I mentioned to my husband that "if mcCalin wins, it will be an irreversible step down the path to idiocracy."

After watching the movie I would ponder how a world could get to that stage (had similar thoughts regarding Wall-E); now with the introduction of palin to the equation, I now see the path.

I used to ask people if they had seen the movie. Most said no, mainly due to the fact that it just wasn’t promoted and most people didn’t know it existed. So I would loan it to them or convince them to get it from Netflix. After having watched it, two groups of people would emerge: those who laughed their asses off and those who were offended. My husband and I came to the conclusion that those who were offended were the “ones” the movie was taking issue with. And now it is those same people that are supporting palin and many of the situations so humorously represented in the film.

Not too many things “scare” me, but the idea of mcCalin winning this election really upsets me and has me questioning where I would go in my life. Do we move to a cave and hope for the best? Do I pick up a heroin addiction and just ride it out? Do I join the inevitable and most likely, bloody, revolution? What the fuck?

So sad.

Steve said...

I can handle less-than-optimal intelligence. But ambition without integrity is dangerous. And rampant.

If she had integrity, she would have said "thanks, but no, thanks" to the Veep nomination. Imagine the respect she would have gotten had she made that kind of speech, citing a lack of experience.

But then she'd probably run in 2012 on the "integrity" platform.

votar said...

I get that Idiocracy illustrates this frightening trend in our culture, but dude seriously I hated that movie. That makes two godawful movie endorsements.

After you recommended I watch Napoleon Dynamite I wanted to stab you to death in the face with something rusty and jagged. After enduring Idiocracy I want to take what's left of your corpse, feed it to my cat, collect the droppings, sew it back together into a mannequin of you, set that on fire, and throw it off a cliff into a lake of battery acid.

Chez said...

I see your girlfriend hasn't blown you lately.

Deacon Blue said...

Man,'ve known Chez for an awfully long time, haven't you. If that's only two godawful movie endorsements in that span of time I think you can cut him a little slack. At least save the violence for the THIRD ill-fated endorsement.

And if Chez is right about the BJ thing, give Sarah Palin a call. She's an accomplished flautist.

drater said...

I don't have a problem with a C student becoming president. Jeez, Bill Gates is a college dropout and he's done pretty well for himself. He did get some lucky breaks, but he was smart enough to make the most of them.

The problem I have with Bush is that after skating through college, he then skated through his National Guard "service", and started a couple businesses that only survived because his dad's buddies were willing to keep pouring money in to them. Before he became a governor, he just didn't have any accomplishments to speak of. But boy did he have connections.

Palin, on the other hand, really is living proof that any rube can become president. And a great example of why they shouldn't.

My prediction for tonight's debate:
Palin will answer every question with canned talking points. If Ifill calls her on it and tries to get a real answer from her, she'll be crucified for being in Obama's camp. If she doesn't, Palin scores a win for getting her "message" across.

Lucky for me Oregon State is playing Utah tonight so I have an excuse not to watch this train wreck.

LaRoach said...


You may already have heard about a paper written a while back called "Unskilled and Unaware", but if not google it. You'll probably find it interesting. Here's the abstract from the paper:

People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.

Sound like a certain Veep candidate?

drater said...


I found Napoleon Dynamite a lot more enjoyable on the second viewing. And I'm guessing that a couple bong hits might not hurt either, although I don't indulge any more personally.

Chez said...

Laroach --

In other words, you're too stupid to know you're stupid.

Jeremy said...

Wow Votar... I didn't care for Napoleon on my first viewing (drater's right, a second viewing and bong rips help), and I thought the acting in Idiocracy could have been better, but I appreciated the premise enough not to quibble.
But the last time I felt as strongly as you do about a waste of time movie is when my girlfriend made me go to the theatre to see "Snakes on a Plane" (a movie that I usually refer to as "Waste of my Time" when we talk about it now).

votar said...

I'm pretty sure she was blowing me about halfway through Idiocracy.

Deacon Blue said...

@ jeremy,

I got Snakes on a Plane from the library, so it was free.

And I still wanted my money back.

...After watching only the first 15 or 20 minutes and then skipping through scenes thereafter to confirm it would continue to suck.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only movie Samuel L. Jackson couldn't make watchable just by his presence.

Anonymous said...

Laroach, that paper sounds like confirmation of something I've believed for a long time: 95% of the American people think they are smarter than 95% of the American people. But Chez, maybe Palin has a point. Test scores are down in this country compared to many other nations, there appears to be less scholastic achievement than there used to be, and there is just less general effort to be smart. We're running out of our elite reserves to run the country. Do you suggest that we go elsewhere and depend on foreign nations' elite surplus? Why, Palin is doing nothing less than proposing a bold new initiative for alternative sources of leadership. If we can't drill, baby, drill when it comes to exam time, then by god something must be done! And if Palin has the bold leadership and innovative know-how to find ways to fill our leadership roles with non-traditional resources, then I say go for it!

Anonymous said...

Idiocracy brings up important points in a half-entertaining way. The movie wasn't put together as well as it could have been, but it stresses the importance of not bending over for every mother that says, "MY CHILD IS JUST AS SMRT AS YOU!"

"No Child Left Behind"? Hell, leave 'em behind. If parents don't get involved in their children's education, then their children can learn the hard way when they grow into adulthood. I don't believe a society should handhold its self-inflicted idiots and bring everyone else down to their level.

My parents got involved in my education and gave me a thirst for reading. Now I'm a 4 year college graduate with two years of industry experience at 21. In the entirety of my college and high school education, I learned NOTHING except when I grasped for learning instead of mindlessly zoning out at my desk.

We've forgotten how to teach kids to learn and only taught them how to test, how to fill out circles with number 2 pencils, how to reiterate textbook junk that has little real world application, and most importantly, we've taught them that thinking isn't necessary to succeed, that all you have to do is game the learning system to succeed, and when you get that high paying job, all you have to do there is what you've done your entire life: Game the system to get the most for the least effort.

We've forgotten what America was based on, perspiration and inspiration, and replaced it with procrastination and justification (for our inadequacies).

It's little wonder America is sinking further into international irrelevancy by the day.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I must say this: Idiocracy is a crappy, crappy film. The acting is horrible, the script was horrible, the story was bizarre and the production values were in the toilet. I have no idea why so many people like that movie, or SAY they like it. I think it is to look more intelligent or they just liked it, in which case, they should get their heads examined.

Chez said...

Okay, maybe I should've made myself clearer -- but this piece isn't a movie review so I saw no reason to get too deeply into the goddamned movie.

For the record, Idiocracy is not a great movie. It's not even a very good movie. It's a fantastic idea that was badly executed. Why it sticks with me though is the basic theme of it, which, as I said, is hilarious and depressing at the same time.

Everybody satisfied now?

drater said...

Anonymous said "We've forgotten what America was based on, perspiration and inspiration, and replaced it with procrastination and justification "

Holy crap! When did Jesse Jackson start posting here?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Chez! Didn't mean for that to sound extraordinarily bitchy, but I totally got in an argument yesterday with this chick who "totally dug 'Crouching' and 'Daggers'" (she used those exact words) and wanted to know if I totally "dug" Idiocracy. I told her what I just posted and I thought her head was going to spin off her neck.

Anyway, I apologize for assuming you were anything like a Cinema Douche.

Wednesday said...

Why is Palin an example of the success of affirmative action?

Affirmative action didn't reward her over more accomplished men. The Alaskan electorate and the party system did.

If she was a moderate, non-Bible-thumping, Republican, it wouldn't matter how many vaginas she added to the ticket.

Deacon Blue said...

So, we should stop using this comment thread as Jr. ?


Elessa said...

A friend had this posted in their blog. Its original attribution I have no idea.

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75-year old Texas rancher whose hand was caught in a gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Sarah Palin and her bid to be a heartbeat away from being President.

The old rancher said, "Well, ya know, Palin is a post turtle." Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a post turtle was. The old rancher said, 'When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle.'

The old rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain. 'You know she didn't get up there by herself, she doesn't belong up there, she doesn't know what to do while she is up there, and you just wonder what kind of dumbass put her up there to begin with.'

Kinda sums it up, for me.

Lucas said...

Palin: she's got what plants crave.

Luke Weiss said...

"The inferior man's reasons for hating knowledge are not hard to discern. He hates it because it is complex-because it puts an unbearable burden upon his meager capacity for taking in ideas."

-H.L. Mencken

Luke Weiss said...


"the cosmogony of Genesis {biblical} is so simple that even a yokel can grasp it. It is set forth in a few phrases. It offers, to an ignorant man, the iressistible reasonableness of the nonsensical. So he accepts it with loud hosannas, and has one more excuse for hating his betters."

-H.L. Mencken

Anonymous said...

I think you said it best in a previous post in that this election comes down to Smart vs Stupid. You're absolutely right though, I seriously doubt Bush (or McCain) are as religious as they come off but they pander to that crowd because they're easier to swing. Its easier to prey on a dumb person's fears than someone who will actually analyze what you're saying. If you come out and say you're an environmentalist a stupid person will take your word for it, whereas someone smarter might go and check and find that you have a long history of easing restrictions on logging companies for example and then call you on it.

I'm going to guess the majority of the people who are swayed by the idea of a "common man" or someone like them running the country have some issues with feeling inferior. No one likes feeling dumb or talked down to even if that someone is trying to help you. You say that people shouldn't want a "common man" President and Vice President as they wouldn't want an "average man" scientist or astronaut. I should point out though that its not uncommon among the religious right to have an outright disdain for science and education. You say they wouldn't want "average" scientists and doctors and astronauts and such, I'm saying they don't want them at all.

Kurgan said...


I have been vexed as to why Obama is not up by at least 15 points by now.

And then it hit me.

I don’t think you actually understand that the majority of the voting population falls into the condescendingly “ambitious-but-stupid” category you so eloquently alienate.

Ridicule if you will, but there is many more of them than there is of you.

And they vote and procreate at will.

Anonymous said...

It should have been an interactive movie review - at the end of which Cher should pop out, slap you and scream "Snap out of it."

This post craps all over Thomas Jefferson and his Declaration of Independence, not to mention Andrew Jackson who threw the doors of the White House open so the common men could ride their horses in. And those historic accomplishments like demolishing lIteracy tests and poll taxes so illiterate slaves could vote. And passing the Voters' Rights Act - don't forget that shining accomplishment of the Democratic Party. All that was pretty stupid, huh.

On the other hand just how many above average Ivy Leaguers does it take to destroy Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros., Merrill Lynch, AIG, JP Morgan and Washington Mutual all at once?

Blade said...

shiat, Chez.. if anyone can be President and Vice President... let's you and me run in 2012.