Here’s something I don’t like to hear people say: “America is full of the dumbest people in the world.” The people that say this almost always come to this conclusion by way of watching a group of politically motivated dipshits on television doing something that they disagree with. Your gay cousin says this when he sees some mongo tea party demonstration and your gay cousin’s conservative dad says it when he sees a bunch of dipshit hippies or loud, marginalized group of lefty zealots going nuts for some reason. The response is always the same: “God, we’ve got the stupidest people in the world in this country. This is why we’re [losing the space race/all too fat/stuck in 3 wars/losing 3 wars/etc.].
I’ve pointed out before in this very space that America hardly holds the patent on stupidity. We just have the most cameras. It’s a little bit like the way that everyone sits around and talks about what a bunch of disgusting pigs the kids on the Jersey Shore are. Truthfully, lots and lots of people that are in their 20’s go out to clubs and get drunk and get in fights or wind up randomly boning. Those kids on the Shore just happen to have it broadcast all over the place (and yes, there’s an argument that goes something like “well, yeah, I have random sex and the subsequent hung-over abortions just like JWOWW does, but I wouldn’t do that shit if I was on TV…this argument is, I suppose, technically valid, but the thing is, she’s being encouraged to behave that way AND getting paid to do it, so REALLY, you’re doing what she does but for free. Now who’s stupid?). The kids on the Jersey Shore aren’t any dumber than anyone else, they’ve just got a level of visibility that the rest of us dummys don’t have.
The same can be said about the morons that turn up on TV holding misspelled signs. Firstly, they only get on TV BECAUSE their signs are misspelled. There’s nothing particularly dramatic or entertaining about intelligent people behaving rationally, so that shit doesn’t make the news. The mongos on both sides, however are always doing something that’ll keep people watching, if only to hang their heads in shame and decry America as the home of the moran.
Believe me, go to Bavaria or suburban Tehran or outside Rio or Odessa or Beijing or anywhere and you’ll be blown away by how fucking stupid and shortsighted, how completely heads-up-their-asses the entirety of the world is. It’s not America that’s stupid, it’s humanity.
Now, that sounds a little harsh, but it’s actually true. The vast majority of the people on earth are uninteresting, untalented and completely incapable of any sort of critical thought. Have you ever wondered how come so many terrible books/movies/records/television shows continue to get made? The knee-jerk answer is that people are stupid and stupid people will watch/buy/consume any crap you put in front of them, but that’s not true. People don’t just haphazardly consume things and dumb people have just as much discerning taste as smart people. Think about, for example, this lady. She loves Bret Michaels a lot. She doesn’t probably like the Arcade Fire, but that’s not because she’s dumb, it’s because her tastes skew to something really specific, just because it’s lowbrow (which poison definitely is) doesn’t mean that it’s ‘any old crap.’ It’s, in fact, very specific crap. (and for the record, there are extremely stupid people who love arcade fire and loathe Brett Michaels). So no. There’s no weight to the notion that dumb people will consume anything.
The truth is far more depressing. The reason that so many completely terrible pieces of entertainment get made is because that’s the best that we can do. Sure, there are people out there like Picasso and Coppola and Nick Manning and they’re all absolutely amazing at what they do and they and their peers get a lot of attention and for that reason, we’re tempted to believe that there are lots of extremely smart and talented people making great stuff and that people with a reasonable grasp of how to do something should be able to produce something at least okay if they dedicate time and effort. But no. That’s, again, the fallacy of exposure.
The reason that Coppola is famous is because he’s exceptional. Spielberg also is famous for being exceptional, and you know who else is famous for being exceptional? Michael Bay. The Farrelly Brothers. Kevin Smith. Charlie Sheen. Bret Michaels. John Grisham. And so on and so forth. Once you get past the very, very small peak of real live highly talented people, there’s a precipitous drop off that’s staggeringly sheer and divisive. Consider this: I held a contest a few years ago where I had people send in designs for tshirts. There were 3 submissions that were pretty cool. We used all 3. After that, the fourth best one was completely terrible and it went downhill from there. The reason that crappy books and crappy movies and crappy songs get written is that the actual bar is SO INCREDIBLY LOW, because people at large are SO INCREDIBLY TERRIBLE AT THINGS that even garbage can be exceptional. This is not just true for entertainment, and it’s especially true for nebulous issues like political thought or functioning in society without being a drunken guido with a coathanger sticking out of your panties.
So yeah. There you go. People be dum. I’m going to the Art Institute. I’m pretty dumb too, but I know I’m pretty dumb, so that makes me kind of smart. At least I think it does. I dunno, I’m pretty dumb.