Dare To Be (Not) Stupid

Some interesing stories drifting past my tiny little mind today, many of them having to do with intelligence and our national news and entertainment media.

First, from today’s craptastic-user-login-required LA Times Business section comes this story: Those flag-waving hits fly with DreamWorks (you can login with cypherpunk98/cypherpunk, at least at the moment). It seems that good liberals Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen have no problem celebrating the major green they’re pulling in from chart-topping patriotic country songs like Darryl Worley’s Have you forgotten? and Toby Keith’s Angry American, both of which are functioning as unifying anthems for the crowd that believes our invasion of Iraq was a logical, appropriate response to the 9/11 attacks.

I’m not saying those songs shouldn’t be recorded, or that people who tend not to think too deeply about international events shouldn’t be free to hoist a few Budweisers and feel a surge of patriotic pride while singing along. The freedom to be stupid is, after all, one of the freedoms we hold dear in this country.

But in order for our country to function properly, there need to be some not-stupids participating in the national debate, too. People who realize that this invasion of Iraq was a huge gift to Osama bin Laden, since it a) distracted the US from pursuing him, b) toppled a secular, Socialist Arab dictator who was a hated, entrenched rival, c) paved the way for the rise of a fundamentalist state in Iraq that will be more sympathetic to him and more hostile to the US, d) united the Arab world in opposition to US imperialism, e) indoctrinated a whole new generation of young Arabs in the glory of martyrdom in opposition to the Great Satan, and f) weakened and isolated the US with virtually all its global allies in terms of pursuing the international law-enforcement effort that is the biggest threat to al Qaeda.

On some level what the folks at Dreamworks are doing is just good business, I know, but on another level they’re helping to dilute the national IQ when they push music like this. I see it having an impact on the debate at every level, and that concerns me.

Another angle on this is the speech that NPR host Bob Edwards gave at the University of Kentucky recently: The press and freedom: some disturbing trends. Among lots of really great comments about the intelligence (or lack thereof) in the messages being delivered by our news media, he had this interesting observation about the flap surrounding Natalie Maines’ remark about being embarrassed Bush was from Texas:

The backlash against the Chicks for making that remark is fine if it comes from ex-fans who say they won’t buy any more records by the Dixie Chicks. The marketplace is a respectable forum for freedom of expression. The Chicks have a right to their opinions. Music fans have a right to tell the chicks to go to hell and to boycott their concerts and refuse to buy their records. Free speech is never really free — it always costs something. But here’s what’s wrong with this picture. The backlash against the Chicks is spearheaded not by fans, but by Clear Channel Radio, owner of 1,250 radio stations. Clear Channel is based in Texas. Clear Channel loves George W. Bush. Clear Channel would like the administration of George W. Bush to remove all remaining restrictions on the ownership of media properties. That is exactly what the Bush administration is considering. The Federal Communications Commission, chaired by Mike Powell, the son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, is reviewing the last remaining rules restricting media ownership. Before he became FCC chairman, Mike Powell was a communications lawyer, making fabulous sums of money lobbying on behalf of the broadcast industry — the industry he’s now supposed to be regulating. When he is finished regulating the broadcasting industry, Mike Powell will return to — the broadcasting industry. Now how tenacious is Mike Powell going to be in regulating the broadcasting industry while he is on this temporary hiatus from the broadcasting industry?

But back to Clear Channel, which daily tells Bush and Powell that it loves them. Is Clear Channel’s move on those Dixie Chicks an expression of patriotism or a business decision? Should Clear Channel have the right to ban the Chicks from its 1,250 stations? I think what individuals do is fine — burn the CDs if you want. What industry does is another matter. Clear Channel can say the Dixie Chicks are tools of Saddam if it wants to, but it should not be allowed to kill the livelihood of any recording artist based on politics.

Oh. Side issue: As previously mentioned, I submitted a letter to the editor of the local weekly paper, griping about people lying in support of the war. They published my letter today. Woo! (It’s about halfway down, under the Coastal View-supplied headline, “Show me the evidence,” which isn’t the emphasis I would have chosen to put on it, but at least they didn’t introduce any spelling errors or anything.) So, my own tiny contribution to the local debate is on the record now; I’ll let you know if anyone mentions it to me when I’m at Vons or picking my kid up at preschool or whatever.

Finally, here’s an excerpt from a nice column by Charley Reese: Poor Sean Hannity.

There is a definitely a whiff of anti-intellectualism — so characteristic of fascist states — in the air. Beware of bully boys who worship the military and scoff at museums and libraries. Beware of people whose limited brains see everyone as either an ally or an enemy. Beware of people who can’t tell the difference between patriotism and military conquest. Beware of people so stupid and ignorant that they accept anything and everything the political and the media demagogues tell them.

Thomas Jefferson, who would have been outraged by the loss of the museum and the library, said, “Those who expect to be ignorant and free expect what never was and never will be.” Amen cubed.

I’m no longer concerned about liberals or conservatives, leftists or rightists. I just pray to God for a non-ideologue with a three-digit IQ. If we don’t elevate the level of intelligence and integrity of our government, we are going to end up floating on the cesspool of history.

5 Responses to “Dare To Be (Not) Stupid”

  1. a_stupid_box Says:

    I have dared to be not stupid for as long as I can remember. It’s a rough path, but one that, as long as it may inspire others, I’ll proudly walk.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Hey man, I know you want to get your opinion across, but, even though I am not going to change your mind, military men and conservatives are not mislead individuals with no mind of there own. I happen to know some very intelligent people with very pertinent views that deal with the war. Anyway, I may not know first hand what goes on in Iraq but, I assume I know about as much as much information as you do and, that is, the troops did not cause the libraries and museums to be stolen from, it was not the militaryís fault for the looters either because they were not there to guard the museum or the libraries and they are not there to be a giant police force or S.W.A.T team. You may excuse my sources as government propaganda, but these sources from the media are the only sources I have and the only real sources you have. Anyway, allot of the information about the war are assumptions which are the following in a nut shell: you think everything that comes out of the media is lies, you think everyone that is on the right wing is stupid, you think and portray George Bush is stupid (From analyzing all the pictures of Bush on this web site, it looks as if you think he’s an idiot. Well, someone who is president and was a Jet fighter is not an idiot), you think the U.S is a fascist empire (Iíve read about evil empires in history books, and the U.S. is not that. All the countries we have taken control of and gained control have been set free such as the Philippines and Japan. Another thing, I might add, is that those countries we did have control of were given back to their people after a very short period of time. The only state we haven’t returned is Hawaii and they aren’t under any bad conditions whatsoever.) You think all pro war people are idiotic Hicks that only listen to country music, and you think the founding fathers would have defended your side. I have a quote for you that you should take hold of and lock up in a small, pretty, little box in the back of your mind and, that is, “assumption is the lowest form of knowledge.”

    Condemn me as an ant- intellectual on your website, make me look like an idiot for making a grammatical error, and call me a fascist because I express my opinions and not yours, but I know where I stand on world politics and, I know that I am not an anti-intellectual and that I am a “not-stupid”.

  3. John Callender Says:

    Yeah, the whole stupidity rant I got into in this item was over the top. My apologies for the broad brush. I sound like a total asshole here, even to me.

    There are lots of smart people on the right, I’m sure. Hell; Newt Gingrich is a smart guy. And there are surely lots of stupid people whose views probably track pretty closely with my own. I can think of more examples than I’d like to of my own stupidity.

    I don’t think George Bush is all that stupid. I don’t think he’s all that smart, either, but I don’t think that disqualifies him for the presidency. What I think disqualifies him for the presidency is his poor judgement.

    A stupid person could be a decent president, I think, as long as he was aware of his limitations, had a solid emotional foundation, and used good judgement in evaluating the advice he received from those around him. He’d have to be able to make his decisions based on the right reasons, rather than letting his emotions and the darker side of his personality push him to do stupid things that “felt” right at the time, but really weren’t.

    That’s what I think Bush is doing, in particular with his reaction to 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. I don’t blame him for being out of his depth; I think any president, no matter how intelligent, would have been out of his depth faced with the events of 9/11. I blame him for picking the wrong people to listen to in deciding what to do about it, for letting himself be manipulated, and for letting his emotions lead him into taking the country down a path that will only make the problem worse in the long run.

    If someone injures you, but doesn’t stick around to let you hit back at them, you’re going to feel a lot of bottled up aggression. You’re going to want to use that aggression on somebody. Whether or not you indulge that desire by beating up on a bunch of people who have no connection with the person who initially injured you has more to do with personality and judgement, I think, than raw intelligence.

    In going after Saddam Hussein, and trying to justify it as a response to 9/11, Bush gave in to an irrational side of his personality. It’s an action that a lot of people (especially people who don’t think too much about these things, either because they’re not too bright or just because they don’t like to think about these things) identify with, and those country songs express it pretty well.

    But it’s wrong, and it’s wrong for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it doesn’t help prevent future 9/11 attacks. Instead, it makes them much more likely. We can debate that point if you want, but to me, at least, that seems pretty obvious.

    So it was a stupid action (even if the person who committed it wasn’t necessarily stupid himself). But worse than that, it was a morally repugnant action. The thousands of innocent people who have been injured and killed as a result didn’t deserve to have those things happen to them. It was George Bush’s bad judgement that made that happen to them.

  4. a_stupid_box Says:

    Nice reply. I respect our mystery poster in general and understand his consternation, but he seems misinformed on a few key points. One is about the media. A seperation was never made between the media types (tv, internet, newspapers) and media sources (countries of origin).

    The reason I like this site is because it’s a conglomoration of news from different types and sources. Something tells me that the anonymous one only gets the American media. Which, ironicly, is one of the things this website champions against. A single source.

    Another is the JBC bashing. I’ll gladly admit that any rant here goes over the top in some way, regardless of who makes it (myself especially). The point is, though, that JBC is rather objective, and if Bush released a press statement tying up all those little loose ends and showing he knows what he’s doing there’ll be a “Bush stuffs Detractors” article. And it would be harsh on those who decried the war. Of course, at this point it would probably be a lie if he did so, but you get the point.

    One of my favorite recent quotes I have is from the series “Futurama” and it goes, “When you’re doing things right everyone will think you’re doing nothing at all.” When you understand that, ask yourself why it seems that Bush is doing so much.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Linking our attack of Iraq to the attacks of 9/11 shows nothing but stupidity on its own accord. As you may recall, Afghanistan was attacked under the assumption that Bin Laden was the root. Iraq was attacked for failure to comply fully with U.N./U.S. arms inspections. Before you rant and rave again, especially concerning the patriotism, or lack thereof, of our country music singers, please step back and take a broader look at the situation at hand. Some of those songs were made in response to 9/11, some just made to express feelings that didn’t come out until a jarring event such as 9/11, and some didn’t come out until O.I.F. Not all are linked but all express appropriate views. Not all persons who find these songs motivating and patriotic are beer guzzling hicks who sing along for the mere enjoyment. Making an assumption like that is also very “stupid”.

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