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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"The Ongoing Stupidification of America"

It may not be immediately obvious how this post pertains to basketball, so bear with me. Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts just wrote a column in which he decried what he calls "the ongoing stupidification of America." He is specifically referring to a comic book recently created by Brent Rinehart, the commissioner of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. The comic book is riddled with spelling errors and claims that Satan is trying to sabotage Rinehart's election campaign--but Pitts makes a larger point that is much more important than the shenanigans involved in a small, local political race:

"I am not talking about ignorance. Ignorance is a lack of information; we're all ignorant in one way or another. Nor am I talking about people who are prone to punctuation and spelling errors; we all make mistakes. No, I'm talking about stupidity, which I define as an inability to analyze, draw conclusions from or otherwise 'use' information even when one has it. And stupidity is often characterized by smug indifference. When a CNN anchor drew Rinehart's attention to his spelling errors, his reply was, 'I don't necessarily care.'"

Right after I read that sentence I started to draft this post, because I am quite familiar with the "smug indifference" of which Pitts speaks--that is a perfect description of the guy who I dealt with a while back who tried to cover a SlamBall conference call without tape recording it, got several pieces of information wrong and who responded to my polite corrections by creating an elaborate post to mock me, at one point scoffing that the conference call was "not an interview to save Darfur." In other words, this conference call was not important enough to him to bother to get his information straight or even to make corrections after the fact. "Smug indifference" and "stupidification"--two perfect descriptions of how he conducted himself. It is worth mentioning that after Jim McKay passed away one of the things that was most often said about him was that he made every interview subject of his feel important and he never mocked or disrespected any of the offbeat sports that he covered on "Wide World of Sports."

Pitts closes his column by referring to "Idiocracy," a movie about stupid people inheriting the Earth. Remember when the year 1984 ended and many people gloated that George Orwell's nightmare visions had not come to pass, ironically oblivious to the many ways that modern society in fact does contain many of the ills that Orwell described? I look at the traffic numbers of certain websites and the garbage that passes for "entertainment" in many different media (books, TV, movies and music) and it occurs to me that "Idiocracy" is not about some post-modern society but a pretty apt description of the world today.

The question is what will intelligent people do about this situation? The most important thing, to borrow from Jim Valvano's famous speech, is to never give up. Jeff Sack just took over management of the site that treated me so shabbily and literally within minutes after I called his attention to the offensive post he took it down. I am proud to recommend that basketball fans check out his work at two sites, SlamDunkCentral and LeBasketbawl. If enough intelligent people join forces we can transform "Idiocracy" into a cautionary tale instead of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:08 AM



At Tuesday, July 29, 2008 11:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a feeling that being stupid is a lot more fun than being smart and that's why so many people perefer the one over the other.

So what we should really do is find a way to make "smart" attractive.

Good luck with that!!

At Tuesday, July 29, 2008 1:56:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Idiocracy is one of those movies that does not get enough exposure in the public, and a movie that I am always recommending my friends to see. You would think the situations in the film are so absurd and farcical that they are unrealisitic. On the contrary, that's what makes the movie so funny, because we recognize the truth even amidst the outrageous stupidity being depicted.

I especially like the part where people cannot comprehend that water makes plants grow. Hilarious.

At Tuesday, July 29, 2008 3:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well said.

I knew there was a reason I liked you that went beyond basketball.


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