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Monday, August 18, 2008

Book: 'Just How Stupid Are We?'

On the heels of the media's absurd near-verdict with respect to the candidates' Saddleback appearances over the weekend, I thought it would be topical to encourage everyone to pick up a book I just ordered from Amazon:

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


Shenkman 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.

Michael Beschloss
“At a moment when Americans are choosing leaders, Rick Shenkman’s brisk, provocative and vigorously argued book implores us to rethink our roles as citizens and improve our political environment. There could not be a better time for this important message.”

Bernard A. Weisberger, author of America Afire
“With wit, passion and devastating evidence, Shenkman compels us, the praised and petted ‘American people,’ to look in the mirror for an explanation of why our elections are travesties of informed, intelligent debate. Lively and crucial, the book reminds us, however we vote, that there's no such animal as ‘democracy for dummies.’”

Rick Perlstein, author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of American Consensus
“A smart, stylish, and witty wrestling match with the most difficult problem a democracy can face.”

Jon Wiener, Professor of History at University of California at Irvine and author of Historians in Trouble
“The bad news is that Americans are ignorant, shortsighted, and swayed by meaningless phrases; the good news is that things could get better—if we start speaking honestly about the problem. Rick Shenkman's book is a crucial starting point in that process.”

Ruth Rosen, Professor Emerita of History, University of California, Davis
"Are manipulative politicians and an intimidated media the only reasons we've had to suffer through the Bush years? What about the American people? Why don't they stop, pay attention, and think for themselves? In his candid and hard-hitting history of American political culture, Shenkman offers a compelling and disturbing analysis of the American people and why we get the government we deserve."

New York Observer
"Slender, lively and highly accessible ....it tackles one of the weightiest problems troubling American public life"