How America became so profoundly stupid over the past decade

Originally published at: How America became so profoundly stupid over the past decade | Boing Boing


Meh. He kind of “both sides” things. As if demanding equal rights for all of us is the exact same thing as being an authoritarian shithead. I just reject that idea out of hand. It’s bullshit that helps the right wing win.


This here is the real problem…


Yeah, no. We have been pitted against each other for centuries and deliberately kept apart. I’m calling bullshit too.




Obnoxious both-sidesing. Comparing Occupy Wall Street with right-wing conspiracy protests, and saying they both fizzle because they are products of foolish social-media ephemera and aimless “confusion” is highly disingenuous. Right-wing conspiracy protests have a tail-wind of money and power backing them in libertarian business leaders, right-wing politicians and a media machine. Occupy wall street had a very deliberate media head-wind, constantly calling it disorganized and pointless and undermining any messaging. This very article is an example of it, and the author either doesn’t see it, or is actively engaging in it.

Also, calling the pre-social media era a shared “mirror” that clearly reflects society back to us is a bizarre rewriting of history. When has the unified media that we all consumed ever been an unadulterated “mirror” of society. Propaganda and media agendas didn’t exist before social media? WTF?

Another really gross equivalence. That Matt Yglesias article he cites is a piece of work. A subtle/not-subtle attempt to paint White Liberals increase in support for racial justice legislation as irrational, counter-productive and responsible for the rise of white racial resentment i.e. Trump. He says over and over that white liberals are “to the left of” people of color on racial justice and immigration, but his method is to not disambiguate POC liberals from POC conservatives, except in a small aside acknowledging that white people as a whole are far to the right of POC if you do. He’s been pretty off the rails lately though. Parker Molloy has been pretty effectively sniping his bizarreness.


((as a crabby old academic)) i tend to blame the education system, that is, the lacking of it. The republicans have always whispered into their brandy: “keep 'em stupid… keep 'em scared”. While i think they’ve been quite successful at both, (the internet helping mostly with the latter), i think that de-funding and balkanization of a comprehensive public education system, stressing critical thought, has served their …Eloi’ing of the populace the best. Too much tendency toward the acceptance of any trending nonsensical notion. We need much more Sagan and far less alex-jones


No, it’s Fox News, Fox News, Fox News.


It’s not that the mirror is shattered, it’s that it became painfully obvious that the vast majority of the population in this country is shamefully uneducated over the decades of defunding schools. Social media just gave us bigger mirror to put this into view.


Yeah that linked article about how “The Great Awokening” drove all the so-called racially moderate Democrats into the arms of Trump is especially hard to swallow.


Oh, Mark “Move fast and break things” Zuckerberg, that guy? Yeah ok.


Sure, social media sped things up but folks … America was well on its way to Idiocracy long before social media was a thing.


There also seems to be a very strong strain of (conveniently only implied, so it needn’t be fleshed out or defended) willingness to just ignore elite failure.

Something like OWS only looks ‘nihilistic’ if you think nobody has the right to be angry about the fact that the ‘masters of the universe’ fucked up more badly than the peons inhabiting the real economy would have even believed possible and all the serious respectable people immediately responded by tut-tutting about how important it was to save them from the consequences unless they also show up with enough economic policy papers to ballast a midsize think tank.

If you drop that deeply blinkered requirement being mad as hell when a giant chunk of society is revealed to be mired in a surprising amount of incompetence and a less surprising amount of blatant self dealing is a fairly obvious implicit request that it be fixed; even if the spokesman doesn’t have several thousand pages of financial market model legislation on hand.


Social media has acted as a powerful force multiplier in the war on reason and facts waged by American conservatives and right-wingers, but they were waging that war decades before 2011.

For better, less bothsidesist analyses of the larger problem, I recommend these two books:


“The most recent Edelman Trust Barometer (an international measure of citizens’ trust in government, business, media, and nongovernmental organizations) showed stable and competent autocracies (China and the United Arab Emirates) at the top of the list, while contentious democracies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, and South Korea scored near the bottom (albeit above Russia).”

So, the US, which has billions in dark money to pit one side against another, while also coming out of literally one of the worst administrations in its history, the UK, which had how much money being thrown at Brexit, and a government that was breaking its own COVID protocol, South Korea, which has had a recent president imprisoned for corruption charges, and Spain, which is still going through austerity and is a generally screwed up country, scored worse than heavily censored, but functional, autocratic societies BECAUSE OF SOCIAL MEDIA, GUYS.

It’s definitely not the governments’ faults that their citizens mistrust them! It’s FACEBOOK’S.


This is a pretty poor take, as others upthread have said.

People have always accused protest movements of “not offering better ideas”. Hell there’s a tone-deaf John Lennon song about it, it’s such a common idea.

Most of what people blame social media for is nothing that hasn’t always been happening in human societies. It’s all had gasoline poured on it and everything is amped up to 11, but it’s all the same things we’ve always done and said. The algorithmic nature of the services is new and clearly damaging, but this person’s analysis seems unconcerned with that part.

Also- “everyone is stupid now” is the most Old Man Yelling At Clouds argument in the history of Old Man Yelling At Cloud arguments. The kids are fine.


I am old enough to remember when the internet looked like it was going to usher in a revolution which democratized thought, and freed us from the gatekeepers that choked intellectual discourse. As it turns out, like most revolutions, it has mostly succeeded in putting a different bunch of assholes in charge. We have replaced Katharine Graham with Mark Zuckerberg, Sears with Amazon. Taxi commissions with Uber. “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig again, but already it was impossible to say which was which.”






Thomas the backbiting little shit would make an excellent fascist. Useful engine.


I’m not sure about the study’s methodology, but those two autocracies mentioned are neither stable (especially absent extreme application of the state’s monopoly on violence) nor particularly competent, and their citizens have been conditioned to praise them on threat of dire consequences if they don’t.

This goes beyond a choice between form of government and social media for assigning blame. This is about bad actors (greedpigs, sociopaths, opportunists, grifters, other predators) pushing various systems that exacerbate inequality and – in service to that – using every tool at their disposal (including poorly designed social media platforms but also policies like neoliberal austerity) to make the bulk of citizens more ignorant and less prone to think critically.