Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
February 22, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

What We Do Now

Truthdig Bazaar more items

Email this item Print this item

Intelligentsia Against Intelligence

Posted on Nov 20, 2009
U.S. Marine Corps / Sgt. Mark Fayloga

Members of a rifle detail perform a 21-gun salute during a memorial service.

By David Sirota

In the parlance of our times, the term idiocracy means a nation run by idiots—and the term idiot is defined by the dictionary as “an utterly foolish or senseless person” who exhibits “a mental age of less than three years old.”

There are obvious reasons to believe America is becoming an idiocracy—a series of horrendous government and business decisions strongly suggests that we’ve seen the ascension of utterly foolish, senseless people, many with the mental age of infants (yes, W., I’m looking at you). And if there remained any flicker of hope that we aren’t turning into a full-on slobbering idiocracy, that hope was snuffed out last week by two of the Washington intelligentsia’s most respected voices.

First came a now-famous column about Afghanistan by The Washington Post’s David Broder. The “dean” of the press corps attacked President Barack Obama not for choosing any particular policy, but for simply taking time to meticulously consider his options in the Central Asian quagmire. “The urgent necessity,” Broder asserted, “is to make a decision—whether or not it is right.”

This was followed by Jackson Diehl, the Post’s foreign policy “expert.” He wrote that the White House’s assiduous Afghanistan deliberations are not a sign of reassuring prudence after the bring-it-on Bush years, but instead a “compelling cause for unease about this president.” Diehl’s rationale for such an incendiary statement? He alleged (without proof, of course) that “there is unanimity in the Pentagon and considerable agreement in Congress and among the NATO allies” that a military escalation has to happen—and therefore Obama “knows [the pro-escalation] course he must take” but “can’t bring himself to embrace it.”

Let’s set aside the nauseating spectacle of two well-heeled journalists, comfortably protected far away from the front lines, demanding a president immediately send thousands of soldiers to their potential deaths without regard for blood-and-guts consequences. Let’s just, if we can, put that grotesque immorality in a corner and pretend it’s not important—and let’s go to the deeper, even more disturbing message.

As leading opinion makers, Broder and Diehl are paid to carefully ponder issues and then offer their considered thoughts. That’s not part of what they’re supposed to do—it’s what they are singularly employed to do. It’s how they earn their living and credibility—indeed, it’s their entire raison d’etre. And yet, these leading lights of the intelligentsia are overtly preaching anti-intelligence, insisting the president must avoid taking time to think through his actions.

This isn’t interpretation—it’s what these Beltway sages are literally saying. Broder is explicitly demanding Obama make a knee-jerk decision—any decision—even if it has catastrophic consequences. Likewise, Diehl is calling for Obama to immediately risk thousands of American lives simply because that’s what Diehl believes the Establishment wants.

Let’s be clear—these are just two of many similar examples. Today, screeds calling for leaders to prioritize lightning-fast decisions over measured deliberations are increasingly commonplace in the Washington intelligentsia, even after an Iraq debacle brought on by the same ideological know-nothingism.

The trend is deeply disturbing. It’s one thing for talk-show-host wannabe Sarah Palin or carnival-barking provocateur Glenn Beck to glamorize willful ignorance—that’s been the narcissistic act of celebrity court jesters since the dawn of history. But it’s an entirely different thing when hostility to intelligence and to the basic process of thinking itself emanates from the very professional thinkers who lead the nation’s intelligentsia.

When that happens—when the supposed guardians of political cognition and empiricism begin publicly flaying leaders for taking time to fully evaluate potential decisions—it’s a sign our country is becoming the ignorance-deifying idiocracy we should all fear.

David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books “Hostile Takeover” and “The Uprising.” He hosts the morning show on AM 760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at

© 2009


Square, Site wide

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments

By Bucky5, November 20, 2009 at 9:57 am Link to this comment

Idiocracy? “Yoo betcha!” As Wall Street goes, so goes our government. Long-term planning and perspectives, in both business and government, have been replaced by a laser-like focus on the current quarter. Anything beyond that has no place in contemporary discourse. Reflexive, knee-jerk reactions and decision-making have smothered deliberation and critical thinking.
A representative democracy can function only if citizens vote based on unbiased information, an understanding of candidates’ ideological leanings, and a rudimentary knowledge of how government functions. The average American is blind to all such considerations—even if they could find reliable, factual information to start with.
As an aside, one of our Founding Fathers (FF) many strokes of genius was creating the Electoral College, with its mandate to override the will of the people should the popular vote go to a certifiable idiot. Never could our FFs have anticipated that the majority of elected officials themselves would be biased idiots putting partisan concerns ahead of citizens’ best interests.
I abhor the concept of any mechanism, e.g., a poll tax, designed to make voting more difficult. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that we MUST start administering a short, simple test to all eligible voters before allowing them access to the ballot box. For example, in order to vote, a citizen must be able to answer three of the following five questions:
1) Name your state’s two Senators
2) Name your district’s Congressperson
3) Name the current president and vice president
4) Name three Cabinet members, including their titles
5) Which of the following statements is true? “All elected officials pledge an oath of allegiance to protect and defend ______.” (Pick one.)
  A) The Flag
  B) The Constitution
  C) The President of the United States
My guess is that more than 50 percent of registered voters would fail such a test, making them ineligible to vote. This would serve to strengthen our country by ensuring that votes cast were based on some basic understanding of the issues and challenges facing candidates and our country.
Another interesting nugget…. While brilliantly designed by extraordinarily perceptive individuals, our experiment in self-government has been doomed to failure since its inception. Why? Because our two core beliefs—equality (one man/one vote) and capitalism (rewarding accumulation of wealth and political power)—are diametrically opposed. The inevitable result of a free-market representative democracy is an entrenched class structure with limited upward mobility for those on the lower economic rungs.
Greed among entrepreneurs and those with significant capital resources is a sound design for an economic engine. However, when the economy relies on greed among the lower classes, characterized by debt-driven consumerism, the engine is burning the wrong fuel. Lacking excess capital, lower classes can achieve upward mobility only by acquiring and using education/information as a competitive advantage. But today, rather than glorifying education, we vilify it while worshipping willful ignorance and blatant stoopidity.
For an excellent, incredibly prescient dissertation on this topic, read “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville, circa 1835. Fascinating book and a good read to boot.
So an “Idiocracy” we’ve become. We get what we deserve and if we want to improve our lot or regain our standing as a world leader, Americans need to know more about their government than American Idol which, sadly, is not the case today.

Report this

By Sallyport, November 20, 2009 at 9:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think Sirota gives too much credit to Broder & Diehl as highly influential leaders
of the intelligentsia.  They are read, no doubt, but readers exercise their own
judgment.  THe know-it-all tone of too many of the above (or below, depending
on your mail program) comments is a dead giveaway that the posters are simply
echoing a kind of received wisdom that the ordinary ruck of society ain’t up to
much.  If they actually took the trouble to talk to people outside their own little
circles of cynics, they might be surprised by the depth of insight possessed by a
great many ordinary people. By talk, I don’t mean challenges or provocations,
but serious discussion of the issues of the day.  While I suspect that Obama is
not really up to the job that needs doing, his election was a marvellous
demonstration of unexpected sensibility on the part of the voting public.  I have
seen a community that began reacting to a local peace demo with “Fuck off!” &
“Get a job!’, gradually come around after weeks & months of faithful demos, to
yelling “Right on!” & “Thank you!”

Report this

By fwdpost, November 20, 2009 at 9:33 am Link to this comment

Follow the money. There are 100,000 private contractors in Afghanistan and a similar number in Iraq. We have privatized war itself, and enabled bribes, profiteering and mass murder for profit.
We can’t ever really get out of Afghanistan or Iran, because it would be “bad for business.”

Report this

By dihey, November 20, 2009 at 9:15 am Link to this comment

The dictionary definition of “idiot” is a stupid insult to three year old children. At that age children become the world’s greatest and most intelligent discoverers.

Report this

By RdV, November 20, 2009 at 8:22 am Link to this comment

“By the way, the so-called “dithering” is the process one uses to figure out how to safely remove all the troops from both Afghanistan and Iraq - not to mention figuring out how to explain that complex topic to brain-dead war mongeRS”

Like the whole “support the troops” mantra was turned, by extention, into supporting the invasion, this crap about pondering on how to remove troops safely while they are in the line of fire is an obvious stalling device.

Report this
Hulk2008's avatar

By Hulk2008, November 20, 2009 at 7:52 am Link to this comment

By the way, the so-called “dithering” is the process one uses to figure out how to safely remove all the troops from both Afghanistan and Iraq - not to mention figuring out how to explain that complex topic to brain-dead war mongers.

Report this
Hulk2008's avatar

By Hulk2008, November 20, 2009 at 7:48 am Link to this comment

The electorate is quickly degenerating into noisy boisterous hordes whose only goals in life are to have enough cigarettes and Red Bull.
    Education Secretary Arnie Duncan is literally dangling money as a carrot to get States to improve learning - his “compete for the best” program.  Instead, the States are racing to the bottom.  Every state insists on incrementally dumbing down educational requirements annually to give the false impression their graduation rates are improving.  While conservatives clamor for teacher “accountability” they simultaneously shift all accountability away from parents and “students” and reject any kind of national standards. 
    Governor Mitch Daniels (aka “The Blade”) in Indiana and his “education” staff have called for removing requirements for educating teachers - in other words, there’s no need to learn how to teach. 
    If such trends continue, we will have doctors that don’t need to learn medicine, attorneys that don’t need to study law, police and armed forces that don’t learn to use weapons.  We already have politicians who don’t know how to govern.
    My question:  Who will still know how to make cigarettes and Red Bull?

Report this

By hark, November 20, 2009 at 7:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think Obama would like to get health care reform safely tucked away before opening Pandora’s Box.  A major escalation of the war has critical budget implications, and Congress could easily get sidetracked by the war in Afghanistan.

I also think he’s looking for a way out of the mess.  He must see that his presidency could be destroyed if he gets bogged down like LBJ.

Report this

By Mark Berger, November 20, 2009 at 7:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It will only be a matter of time when someone on the far right utters this phrase, “Whenever I hear of culture… I release the safety-catch of my Browning” This was a favorite of the Nazis and was meant as an attack on anything intelligent that might be a threat to their barbarism.

Report this

By RBShea, November 20, 2009 at 4:31 am Link to this comment

Some good points in both Mr. Sirota’s article and the comments.
However, Sirota is confused on one point. Referring to Broder and Diehl as
“intelligentsia” is both inaccurate and an insult. Inaccurate because he make points
which demonstrate that neither Broder or Diehl are intellectually honest, living up
to Sirota’s job description for their roles. Both are clearly nothing but shills and
mouthpieces for idiocy. Therefore, inadvertantly, Sirota insults anyone who is
careful, thoughtful in weighing difficult decisions.
That said, five stars for Sirota calling out these armchair chickenhawks who join
the ranks of equally despicable bloviators such as Wild Bill Kristol, Limbaugh, Beck,
Palin and most of the Republicans in the Senate including Lieberman. All seem like
cheerleaders for the deaths of others to defend the indefensible.

Report this

By RdV, November 20, 2009 at 4:27 am Link to this comment

How long does he have to think about what should be patently obvious and is to the majority of Americans?
  It is more likely that he “dithers”, not because he is weighing his options with wisdom and insight, but because he knows that continuing on his present political course if frought with political disaster. His fear creates the paralysis.

Report this
Ouroborus's avatar

By Ouroborus, November 20, 2009 at 4:20 am Link to this comment

As Chris Hedges noted in his A/V Booth piece here;
Americans are emotionally, infants.
That dovetails nicely with my own assessment of
Americans that I formulated more than 35 years ago. It
was my observation that we reach our life time level of
emotional maturity at about our senior year of high
school. The majority of us never grow beyond that; and
the older I get, the more certain I am that I got it

Report this

By joedee1969, November 20, 2009 at 2:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

People just need to pick up a book and get informed:

Report this

By C.Curtis.Dillon, November 20, 2009 at 1:50 am Link to this comment

“American Exceptionalism”?  It would seem that the only exceptional behavior we exhibit of late is the ability to be stupid.  And that is exceptional!  Everywhere one looks in today’s America, we see the most base of instincts (greed, lust, intolerance) being pushed as the only logical way to address our problems.  I, for one, am starting to believe the great American experiment is dead and we are but a rotting carcass still twitching but essentially gone.  RIP America.

Report this

Page 2 of 2 pages  <  1 2

Right Top, Site wide - Care2
Right 3, Site wide - Exposure Dynamics
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide

Like Truthdig on Facebook