24 November 2009

Are we really that stupid?

It's a simple question and one I ask because I never cease to be amazed at how dumb people can be.

But, more importantly, I ask it because there are times when I am absolutely appalled when the actions of our so-called leaders (or those who would seek to become one) do nothing but mock our intelligence.

Case in point, in 2006, the Democratic National Committee ran on a one-issue platform: Stop the War! That was it. Almost no focus was given to things like the economy, health care, energy costs, or education; it was all about "the War". As such, every Democratic candidate in an election for a federal office ran on that platform. This made sense, as Congress are the ones who control the budget.

Unfortunately, just about every Democratic candidate for a state office here in New Hampshire made that part of their platform as well. Ask them about their platform and they'd eventually mention the war (in Iraq, they couldn't have cared less about Afghanistan).
This stunned me. The New Hampshire state legislature has no control over the United States Military. None, zero, zip, zilch, nada. Why were these candidates making this an issue?

Well, I guess I overestimated the general public because the Democrats won a historic victory, taking the control of both houses of the New Hampshire state legislature.

This brings me to something I saw today. It was an ad for Steve Pagliuca. Pagliuca is a candidate in the Massachusetts special election for US Senate. In his ad, Pagliuca explains that "Massachusetts is hurting" and he talks about how his plan will help turn around the economy in the state.

Again, I'm confused. Can someone please tell me how electing this clown to a federal office is going to directly help the economy in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? The short answer is that it can't. It's meaningless grandstanding. If he really wanted to help redevelop the Bay State's economy, he'd be better served running for a state-wide office in Massachusetts and not running for US Senate.

But there I go again, overestimating the intelligence of the general public.


Mark said...

What you're missing is that most voters, while not stupid, put little energy into news gathering. They are all too well trained by the major networks and urban dailies to do any of their own work.
The end result is what you saw in 2006, and again in 2008. They knew what the major outlets told them, and nothing more. When they were bombarded by the "war (in Iraq) is bad" meme, they voted for anyone who articulated the conventional wisdom.
Now that some of the issues are hitting them pretty hard in the wallet, some portion of people are starting to realize that The Chosen One and his archangels Nancy and Harry do not have their best interest at heart. Whether it is too little, too late is yet to be seen.

Frank Moore said...

Mark, I see your point. However, I would say that letting someone else do the thinking for you, especially in an election, is stupid. It is exacerbated when those voting do not know the scope of the office for which they are electing someone.

Mark said...

At an objective level, it is not stupid - it is what society expects. Personally I agree with you that it is bad behavior, but that doesn't make it any less the expected behavior.
So the question then is, is it stupid to engage in the behavior that society at large considers to be normal? It will almost certainly lead to a bad outcome[1] so perhaps yes, but at what point do we define societal norms as being stupid?
Secondarily, at what point do the media types who are pushing the memes[2] that cause these actions responsible for the actions? Or do we stay with the proximate cause - that people follow the normal behavior patterns of the society in which they live?
It's getting pretty deep in here, so I'm going to eat lunch now...

[1] Witness the "bailout", TARP, the current health-care debacle, cap-and-trade, etc; all of which caused by people following the memes of the cultural leaders at the NYT et al and electing the people who are writing these laws.
[2] Starting with the myth of "objective journalism", but don't get me started on that...

Frank Moore said...

Two thoughts come to mind.

The first is a George Carlin quote: "Just think how stupid the average person is and then realize that half of them are dumber than that!"

The second is a timeless parental axiom: "Just because everyone else jumps off a bridge doesn't mean you do to, too."

Having said both of those, I see your point but the purpose of the post was to criticize society, not to rationalize bad behavior.

Mark said...

So the point at which we define societal norms as stupid would be now. No problem. As mentioned, I do agree with you that the behavior leads to bad results. It's why I read a half-dozen political blogs every day, along with following the on-line headlines. I skip right over newspapers and TV (if it bleeds, it leads) news coverage as worthless.
Sadly, that takes actual time and energy. The conventional wisdom these days is that Cronkite and Brinkley were somehow magically objective back in the day, and that whoever is on the air today is "continuing the tradition". With that as a basis, there is no need to do any more research because what the evening news and the morning front page tell you can be depended on as TRUTH.
It's all a load of crap, sadly.