Americans, eyes wide shut

Dumb it down for the People

So how do the policy makers, military leaders, corporate heads, pollsters, pundits and campaign managers see the American public?

Consider Michael Glennon, Tufts University Fletcher School, and author of Double Government, on the intellectual ability of the American public. Turns out the American public mind is one giant mass of Silly Putty! “…the economic and educational realities remain stark [in the USA]. Nearly fifty million Americans-more than 16% of the population and almost 20% of American children-live in poverty. A 2009 federal study estimated that thirty-two million American adults, about one in seven, are unable to read anything more challenging than a children’s picture book and are unable to understand the side effects of medication listed on a pill bottle. The Council on Foreign Relations reported that the United States has ‘slipped ten spots in both high school and college graduation rates over the past three decades.’ One poll found that nearly 25% of Americans do not know that the United States declared its independence from Great Britain. A 2011 Newsweek survey disclosed that 80% did not know who was president during World War I; 40% did not know who the United States fought in World War II; 29% could not identify the current Vice President of the United States; 70% did not know that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land; 65% did not know what happened at the constitutional convention; 88% could not identify any of the writers of the Federalist Papers; 27% did not know that the President is in charge of the Executive Branch; 61% did not know the length of a Senate term; 81% could not name one power conferred on the federal government by the Constitution; 59% could not name the Speaker of the House; and 63% did not know how many justices are on the Supreme Court.

Far more Americans can name the Three Stooges than any member of the Supreme Court. Other polls have found that 71% of Americans believe that Iran already has nuclear weapons and that 33% believed in 2007 that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks. In 2006, at the height of U.S. military involvement in the region, 88% of American 18- to 24- year-olds could not find Afghanistan on a map of Asia, and 63% could not find Iraq or Saudi Arabia on a map of the Middle East. Three quarters could not find Iran or Israel, and 70% could not find North Korea. The ‘over-vote’ ballots of several thousand voters-greater in number than the margin of difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore-were rejected in Florida in the 2000 presidential election because voters did not understand that they could vote for only one candidate. There is, accordingly, little need for purposeful deception to induce generalized deference…in contemporary America…President Harry Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson, not renowned for bluntness, let slip his own similar assessment of America’s electorate. ‘If you truly had a democracy and did what the people wanted,’ he said, ‘you’d go wrong every time.’ Acheson’s views were shared by other influential foreign policy experts, as well as government officials; thus emerged America’s ‘efficient’ national security institution.”

Oh well. Who cares? That’s the way it is. It is what it is. It has always been this way. Nothing you can do about it.

“People don’t see clearly unless they want to. Nowadays everyone quietly accepts the inevitable. Newspapers are no help, they censored themselves little by little until they perfected the art of saying absolutely nothing. Television is monitored by official censors. Even if it weren’t monitored there is nothing on of interest. The news bulletins are completely innocuous…How can anyone believe a word these officials say?” (And Still the Earth, Ignacio De Loyola Brandao, 1985)

The United States is surely becoming a “continent of sorrow.”

John Stanton is a writer living in Virginia. His latest book is Media Trolls, Technology Shamans and Diabolical Political, Economic and Military Leaders available at Amazon. Reach him at


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