The Stupidest Generation

by Larry Eubank (November 2013)


". . . Americans today are the dumbest human beings since our ancestors crawled down from the trees to have a look around to see what they could steal."
– Thomas Fleming, "The Best Schooling Money Can Buy," Chronicles, Sep. 2013

"U.S. adults are dumber than the average human."
– New York Post headline about the recently-released "Survey of Adult Skills" by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Our country faces problems today more numerous, and greater in magnitude, than we have seen in many a year. And the possibility has to be considered that one major cause of our national difficulties is our sheer stupidity.

To anyone of sufficient age to have a perspective (say 50 years or so), it is apparent that the current generation of Americans is the stupidest in living memory, and thus the stupidest ever. (By the "current generation" I mean the whole population at this time, not any particular age group.)

I have observed us for a long time, and in my considered judgment, we say stupider things, in stupider English. We watch stupider movies and TV shows, and listen to stupider music. We elect stupider politicians, for stupider reasons, by stupider methods. We wear stupider clothes, fight stupider wars, and idolize stupider heroes. We have stupider laws and far, far stupider bureaucrats. Every day, in every way, we are getting stupider and stupider.

Of course, there has always been a noticeable streak of stupidity in American life. But our stupidity was formerly of more or less a normal type, with a more or less normal distribution of intelligence and stupidity. Now we are stupid in more basic ways, on a more fundamental level, and in disproportionate levels.

Our bell curve of intelligence has flattened out, into a dumbbell curve. The ranks of the stupid seem to be growing, to the point that they seem to be the norm rather than the exception; and since (as the dialecticians say) "quantitative change becomes qualitative change," that too is a whole new kind of stupidity.

Stupider English

One alarming indication of our increasing stupidity is our stupider use of our native tongue. In our command of our language – always a key gauge of intelligence – we are regressing. Some Americans use such a rudimentary or shrunken version of English as to be incomprehensible, to me at least. One recent example I heard was a series of radio ads about a contest to find "the world's greatest stand-up." The term meant nothing to me: is a stand-up one of those life-size cardboard cutouts of a person that stand up? Is a "stand-up" a stand-up guy? It soon became clear that what they were talking about was the world's greatest stand-up comedian. The modifying adjective was apparently considered sufficient to identify the object in question, without the noun.


A stand-up?

That form is apparently now the usage of choice. One contributor to Stage Time Magazine is described as "a 22 year-old lover of standup, literature and spoken word." I'm a lover of standup, too. Also sit-down, lie-down and crouch. But they mean he's a lover of stand-up comedy – one phrase in the new pidgin English I have learned.

Somehow, many people don't understand the connection between an adjective and the noun it modifies, or consider the noun necessary. One comedian – actually, a very funny one – does a bit where he says, "I've got a pet Lock Ness." It takes a second or two to realize he means "a pet Lock Ness monster."

Similarly, many people say "a porno" when they mean "a porno movie." For example, in the Wall Street Journal, ("An Improviser Sticks to the Script," by Rachel Dodes, Jan 18, 2013) we see,

Indie director Lynn Shelton is known for . . . "Humpday," about two heterosexual buddies who are pressured into making a gay porno. . .

That use of the adjective alone, without the noun or the actual thing it refers to, sounds off-kilter to traditional (or "normal"?) speakers of English, and it is a fairly new thing. It may seem like a small issue, but it is significant in that it involves an elementary concept in the English language. There seem to be people who lack an understanding of very basic concepts of how one word relates to another, and how they connect to make thoughts. These people's use of English is descending almost to a level of parrot-like repetition, or the assembling of stock phrases.

It may seem incredible to think that a grown person could fail to grasp the concept of an adjective modifying a noun. One would think that it is an innate, pre-programmed aspect of human cognition, which everyone grasps in childhood as he grows up. But consider this bit of research (from "Many English Speakers Cannot Understand Basic Grammar," Science Daily, July 6, 2010). It's a study that originated in a British university, but it illustrates how basic a person's misunderstanding of his native language can be; one of its startling conclusions is that some speakers were not able to understand passive voice:

Research into grammar by academics at Northumbria University suggests that a significant proportion of native English speakers are unable to understand some basic sentences.…

[B]asic elements of core English grammar had not been mastered by some native speakers.

The project assumed that every adult native speaker of English would be able to understand the meaning of the sentence: "The soldier was hit by the sailor.".… She adds: "Our results show that a proportion of people with low educational attainment make errors with understanding the passive, and it appears that this and other important areas of core grammar may not be fully mastered by some speakers, even by adulthood.

It seems that fundamental linguistic stupidity is indeed possible; if some people don't understand passive voice, probably some don't understand the use of an adjective with a noun. Some of us seem to verge on speaking English by cutting and pasting together set catch-phrases, as if from a foreign-language phrasebook, rather than actually understanding the inner structure of our own native tongue.

Past-perfect is passé

Another element of English that is apparently too difficult for us today is past-perfect tense. This is not something that should be too hard to grasp, but it is completely disappearing from our spoken English.

I can still remember when our teacher first introduced past-perfect tense, in about the 6th or 7th grade. (It may sound implausible that I would remember that, but I do.) The term "past-perfect tense" sounded so complicated and esoteric, that I sat there in class afraid I would never be able to grasp it. But then, as our teacher explained it, it wasn't really that difficult at all; the name was more abstruse and complicated-sounding than the actual thing.

To refresh the memory: past-perfect tense is a way of saying that some second event took place prior to the first event we are speaking of. "He had already done one thing, before he did the other thing." It's not that difficult, and I would venture to say, only a few kids in our class were unable or unwilling to grasp it.

But I can't say when was the last time that I heard a TV news announcer use past-perfect tense. Here are just a few examples of the new, modern parlance:

  • In 2010, after Rush Limbaugh moved out of the state because of high taxes, New York Governor David Paterson reacted by saying, "If I knew that would be the result, I would've thought about the taxes earlier."

  • Sean Collins, a writer based in New York, wrote for www.spiked-online.com, "The protesters would have remained obscure nobodies if the media did not promote them…."

  • National busybodies The Ad Council issued this pronouncement: "If I knew there was a way to escape last night, I definitely would have taken it…."

  • In 2007, Hillary Clinton said of her vote on the Iraq War, “If I knew then what I now know, I would not have voted that way.”

Almost nobody uses past-perfect tense nowadays, at least in the media. We are, all of us, becoming the slow kids in the back of the class, who couldn't or wouldn't grasp past-perfect tense. Increasingly, we speak a kind of simplified or dumbed-down English, with the more complicated elements removed – a simplified subset of English, like a child's dictionary. Or maybe our English is more like the Newspeak of Orwell's 1984, where vocabulary dwindles down to pasted-together constructions like "doubleplusungood."

Our little minds can't seem to handle too much complexity, and so our language is shrinking and shriveling. We are losing linguistic complexity, like a polar bear on a shrinking ice floe.

Subjunctive Mood is gone

Another chunk off the shrinking ice floe of our language is the subjunctive mood. Hardly anyone says "If I were" anymore. The standard usage is "If I am." We hear things like a radio sports announcer saying, "That's how I'd do it, if I'm the Commissioner of Baseball" (Nick DiPaolo, radio podcast, Sep. 6 2012). Fox newscaster Bill O'Reilly of "The O'Reilly Factor" always says "If I'm" rather than "If I were."

Today Tevye would have to sing, "If I am a rich man," and the Cowardly Lion would sing, "If I am king of the forest," to be understood by all Americans. Yet subjunctive mood shouldn't be that hard to grasp, given normal levels of intelligence.

Mass Nouns (things that are measured rather than counted)

This is another area involving such a basic aspect of English that it's hard to see how any native speaker of English could fail to grasp it; yet apparently we do. This area is mass nouns. These are nouns that don't have plural forms (at least in their ordinary sense), but refer to things that are measured rather than counted – nouns like milk, compassion, importance. We don't normally speak of "a behavior" or "a luggage," or "a wealth."

However, it is now accepted practice to refer to "behaviors." Academics love that usage. It sounds so abstruse and elevated, and thus it sets the academics above the common non-academic herd. ("Normal," non-academic people, ironically, tend to use "behavior" properly, as a mass noun; they say good or bad "behavior," not "a behavior" or "behaviors.")

The misusage is taking over, as in these cases:

  • Lunesta commercial: "Abnormal behaviors may include restlessness ..."

  • "They were imitating perfectly the behaviors of the soldiers that made the planes land."  – "How Self-Expression Damaged My Students," by Robert Pondiscio, The ATLANTIC, Sep. 25, 2012.

Here are some other mismanaged mass nouns:

Parts of downtown Hillsborough were temporarily shut down Sunday evening after an Orange County resident drove an ordnance to the Hillsborough Police Department on Churton Street...
               
– The Raleigh Times, "Person Takes Ordnance To Police Station," July 6, 2008.

The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality stated that the Keystone Pipeline will have "minimal environmental impacts" if properly managed.
             
– "The Keystone XL Objections Wither Away," Wall Street Journal, Jan. 25, 2013, by Paul C. Knappenberger.

Times have changed, as has our basic grasp of English. In the Edward G. Robinson movie "Larceny, Inc." (Warner Brothers, 1942), the character Jug Martin says, "I could have sold him a luggage." Jug is a lug, and his English usage brands him as such, class-wise and intellect-wise; the viewers draws the intended conclusion. But the point of such facetiae might be lost on an American audience today. If they accept "behaviors" as completely normal English, they would probably accept "luggages."

Written English– The Dreaded Apostrophe.

Here is a simple distinction that totally eludes our collective tiny intellects today: the difference between "its" and "it's," "your" and "you're," and so on. It's something that we learned in 6th or 7th grade (11 or 12 years old), and it's not that difficult a distinction. But today it's always a toss-up whether a writer will use the right version or not.

Here are some other instances where the dreaded apostrophe gets the better of us:

  • "There are two $30 baseball hats on the MittRomney.com store — one of them add’s Ryan above the bill — and both of them boast being American made."  
    – from www.theblaze.com, "Debunked: Here’s the Explanation for the ‘Made in China’ Romney Hat You’re Seeing on Facebook," Oct. 30, 2012, by Liz Klimas.

  • "While Feinstein's bill lists all kinds of firearms she want's to ban the real purpose is to ask for more than what she really wants. . ."
    – from Breitbart.com, at http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/01/24/How-Did-Shotguns-And-Handguns-Become-Assault-Rifles#comments.

  •  "Who's mouth is cleaner a dog or a humans? . . . A dog's mouth because it holds less bacteria in it's mouth and because the saliva in a dog's mouth is more acidic so it breaks down the bacteria in there mouths."
     – from http://wiki.answers.com/

  • "Then there is the Federal Social Security and Medicare payroll tax of 13.3%. You pick up 5.65% while you're employer pays 7.65%."
    -- Financial adviser Gerri Willis, in "Half Your Paycheck To The Government In 2013," Nov 15, 2012, www.foxbusiness.com

  • "Despite it's small size and affordable price, the IdeaPad S405 notebook offers a robust array of cutting-edge features."
    – from www.newegg.com, a commercial computer-hardware business site

A reasonable estimate is that a good 50% of the public don't know how to use apostrophes. Half the population is now the dumb kid in the back of the class in 5th grade. That's a new level of stupidity.

Mush-Mouthed Pronunciation

Today we can't handle too much complexity in word pronunciation. If a word has too many syllables or sounds, it overloads our primitive mental circuitry, and part of the word has to be left out.

Of course, some inexactitude of pronunciation is normal in spoken language; nobody gives a dictionary pronunciation of words in everyday speech. But there is a continuum of pronunciation, and when we get too far toward the sloppy end of the continuum, when we drop too many sounds from the word, we cross into the stupid-sounding zone.

For instance, a hospital in my home town runs radio ads that brag about their fine department of "respitory" therapy. If a hospital spokesman can't pronounce "respiratory," who can?

Another example is "temperature," which is most often rendered "tempachur." Radio ads for the Exergen Temporal Scanner Thermometer say, "I just snuck into my kids' room and took their tempachures." That is: an ad for thermometers can't pronounce "temperature." ("Snuck" is a well-entrenched usage, by the way. "Sneaked" is too pretentious and toffee-nosed, apparently. We can only be grateful that "drug" for "dragged," and "clumb" for "climbed," haven't taken over. As it is, "break" and "burst" have been displaced by the absolute dominance of "bust.")

Again, nobody expects a dictionary pronunciation all the time; we don't say "tem-per-a-ture" in everyday speech. But most of us manage to include the first "r" somewhere, saying something like "tem-pra-chur." As more and more sounds are omitted, the speaker drifts toward the mush-mouthed and oatmeal-brained end of the spectrum.

Someone has apparently placed the less literate populace in charge of the English language, at least here in the U.S. I hear supposedly educated people say "pitcher" for "picture" – a distinction only the very dumbest kinds in the class couldn't learn back in 6th grade.

That is one sign that our stupidity is of a different order today: it is now presumably educated, responsible people who use stupid pronunciations. Well-paid radio and TV announcers sound like the slow guy in the back of the 6th grade class. There's no grown-up in the room.

Another sign of advancing stupidity is that what used to be said and written facetiously, and understood as facetious, is now done seriously, and no one gets the joke. Cartoon characters used to say "hunnerd," indicating they weren't too bright; the audience heard and understood that signal. Now the audience mostly says "hunnerd" itself, and the joke's on us. For example, radio ads for a company called Regal Investment use the pronunciation "hunnerd." That's a financial firm, and they can't get an announcer who can intelligently pronounce "hundred"? There's no grown-up in the room.

Again, a proviso: few people would slow down and carefully pronounce the word "hun–dred." Most people say something like "hunderd" and always have. It isn't an exact dictionary pronunciation, but it retains most of the sounds (phonemes) of the word. If someone gets still sloppier and says "hunnerd" (or God forbid, "hunnert"), they cross into the dumb-sounding end of the spectrum; and that's where a large percentage of our population resides.

Some other words we seem unable to process:

  • Entrepreneur: too many sounds, too close together. The pronunciation "entre-PA-neur" is prevalent now. A typical example: Dennis Miller, on his radio show ("The Dennis Miller Show," Salem Radio Network), introduced the author of the book The Entrepreneur: The Way Back for the U.S. Economy, using the pronunciation "entre-PA-neur," and he used it continually during his interview – as did the author of the book.

  • Deputy: At least half the time, it's pronounced "deppity." Even John Bunnell, a former sheriff and now the announcer on the TV show "World's Wildest Police Videos," always says "deppity." As recently as the 60's, "deppity" was a comic pronunciation, used for humor and to indicate that the speaker was sort of a dim-bulb. There was a cartoon show " Deputy Dawg," with the word always pronounced "Deppity." Everybody got the joke, because we knew the difference. Today, the pronunciation "deppity" is normal; it has no comic effect.

  • Corroborate: forget it! The voiceover announcer on the TV show, "Video Justice," says, "You want to cowoborate or refute...." It seems "cowoborate," or "cooborate," is the closest the vast majority of Americans can come to pronouncing that word.

  • Prescription: a radio ad for Williams Brothers Health Care Pharmacy says, if you have a "perscription," do such and such. Prescriptions are their business, and they can't say "prescription"? (That leaves aside the mush-mouthed formulation, "Health Care Pharmacy" -- a stupid name in itself. Replacing the adjective "medical" with a noun phrase, "health-care," is atrocious.)

The TV commercial for Crestor, a cholesterol-lowering drug, says "That's why my doctor per-scribed Crestor...."

Miscellaneous manglings:

  • "[S]he receives regular vetinary care..."-- guest hostess on "Fox Report with Shepard Smith," July 4, 2008. The word "vet-er-in-ary" just has too many sounds for the average American mind and tongue.

  • On the TV series "Solved," a sheriff says a victim was "afixiated" – meaning, "asphyxiated".

  • In a radio ad for a restaurant, the announcer extols "Fat Man's Barbecue, assetra." Shudder!

Columnist Gene Weingarten has also commented on how deep the rot has got. He bemoans the spoken pronunciations provided by Merriam-Webster's online dictionary in his article, "You talk funny!" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/, November 28, 2010):

[D]ictionaries have finally proved they no longer can be relied on to offer reasonable assessments of proper pronunciation. There's a vacuum of leadership in this area. . .

Dictionaries have not only begun recognizing even more wince-inducing formulations, but of late they have been uttering these unutterable pronunciations aloud, via online audio links. So it is now possible, with just two clicks of a mouse, to access Merriam-Webster.com, and to hear the crystal-clear voice of an intelligent-sounding woman. . . informing your impressionable children that it is just peachy to say ... "liberry."

Also, "ek-setera."

Also, "ath-a-lete." . . .

And finally, ironically, in what can only be seen as its ultimate abdication as a trusted authority, Merriam-Webster gives us, aloud, the following pronunciation:

"Pronounciation." In short, the dictionary is dead to me -- and, I hope, to you, too… 

Spelling 

We're good spellers, too

(image from http://worldduh.com/ 

http://joannecasey.blogspot.com/

 

 Donna Brazile      @donnabrazile

Why are your health insurance premiums higher? Price gauging, not . My provider told me it was because of my age. More to come.

We're Stupider At Mathematics

"There's some dumb people up at the Arby's, ain't they?.... You wanna have some fun up there at the Arby's? Do this. Get you three beef and cheddar samwiches in there, right? Your order's going to come to $4.81. Give that feller in there working the register ten dollars and a penny. Kick back and watch the fun begin at Arby's! " 
                         
-- Larry the Cable Guy, stand-up comedian, "Git'R Done"

Our schools are poorly qualified to teach mathematics, because math is a subject that requires study and hard work; there is no royal road to geometry, as Euclid famously said. The various fads and enthusiasms now in vogue in American schools– things like self-esteem exercises and politically-correct propaganda attacking our society – may be fun for students and teachers, but they are poor replacements for actual instruction and practice in mathematics. And computers and calculators just substitute for mathematical ability, they don't teach it.

As a result, a great many Americans are illiterate in mathematics, as was reported in the story, "Americans Are Illiterate and Innumerate, But Unionized Teachers Are 'Criminally Low Paid',” http://politicalmavens.com:

Numerous studies have shown that millions of Americans cannot read or do basic math well enough to conduct basic transactions of life, according to The Washington Post. . .

[A] recent study conducted by Vanderbilt University found that 4 out of 10 adults were unable to calculate the amount of carbohydrates in a half a bagel, based on [the carbohydrates in] a whole bagel. Get this: 68 percent of the study participants had at least some college education, yet they could not divide by two!

It is not hard to discover the mathlessness of the modern generation. Columnist Lori Borgman recounted this incident, in "Excitement about mathematics adds up," Jewish World Review, January 9, 2009:

I often find myself excited about mathematics and young people. I was at the grocery store and asked for two-thirds of a pound of deli meat. A young man behind the counter, who looked to be about 19, took the meat to the slicer, then asked, "Is two-thirds .75 or .66?"

"It's .66," I told him. I go in a week later, and the same young man is working, so I ask for two-thirds of a pound again, just to see if he's tracking. He walks to the slicer and again says, "Is that .75 or .66?"

Students aren't taught much real mathematics today, not even how to make change – and that's not even arithmetic, it's counting. Victor Davis Hanson relates his educational experiences (in "Back to school blues," Jewish World Review August 23, 2007):

[M]y family has attended the same public schools since 1896. Without exception, all six generations of us . . . were given a good, competitive K-12 education.

But after a haircut, I noticed that the 20-something cashier could not count out change. The next day, at the electronic outlet store, another young clerk could not read — much less explain — the basic English of the buyer's warranty. At the food market, I listened as a young couple argued over the price of a cut of tri-tip — unable to calculate the meat's real value [i.e., total price] from its price per pound.

It is not unfair to make the blanket statement (using a line from a Pet Clark song), "to reason is not what we care for." So it's no wonder that our modern yobs and youths can't calculate.

Movies Are Stupider

Stupidity starts with our English usage, but it doesn't end there. Seemingly every aspect of our culture is being invaded and overwhelmed by stupidity. Our movies, our TV shows, our "music," our politicians – all stupider than ever before.

"Movies are dreck." That blunt assessment was made by author and columnist Joe Queenan; and it would be hard to deny it. Blogger "Ace of Spades HQ" said, ("Why Movies Are Awful: An Insider Report," http://ace.mu.nu/archives/335421.php, Dec. 04, 2012):

Movies really have become awful, haven't they… It's very hard to name movies made in the last 20 years which are made for adults.…

Almost every studio movie is just an assemblage of things that have worked in other movies for the last 20 years. And as Hollywood's hits are fewer and further between, every movie seems to be rehashing the same Moments That Worked from previous movies.  

Most movies are rather simple-minded today. Some of them are "like watching the tantrum of a neglected psychotic child," said Richard Brookhiser – and he wasn't even discussing Quentin Tarantino!

Movie-makers seem to have run out of ideas, or at least, intelligent ideas. They're raking through the ashes of past movie vitality, looking for an ember they can fan back into life – some movie, TV show, comic book or amusement-park ride they can repackage.

Stupidity in a movie is no impediment to its becoming a block-buster hit. The highest-grossing movie of all time was a piece of juvenile agitprop, "Avatar" – a "Smurf-murdering movie," in Glenn Beck's choice characterization. As for "Avatar's" morality play, John Hawkins (in "The 7 Most Overrated Blockbuster Movies of the Last 20 Years," http://pjmedia.com/, September 5, 2012) summed it up this way:

Avatar was a . . . gorgeous, illogical movie with a trite, recycled plot that could be fully summed up with “Trees good! Natives good! Military bad!”

To repeat: stupidity is no impediment. "Titanic" was the second-highest-grossing movie of all time, and it is a piece of childish agitprop and soft-core smut. Here are some apt comments about that schlock-house film (from "Schlock poetry," by Peter Rainer, Dallas Observer, Dec 18, 1997, http://www.dallasobserver.com/ ) :

[T]he James Cameron film Titanic. . . could best be described as Romeo and Juliet Get Dunked.… As a piece of storytelling, it's almost as easy to read as a grade-school primer; even toddlers shouldn't have trouble following the action. . . . The people aboard the Titanic are instantly pegged for us, and they stay that way: They're greedy or good-natured or craven or valiant. Ambiguity and subtlety are strangers to this film. They're about as welcome as icebergs.

TV is stupider

"I want to be entertained. Instead, I get Ice-T threatening strangers, a fat kid who thinks she’s cute, and reality shows that are so obviously scripted, you’re watching bad actors do a fake action movie for free. I want to enjoy TV, but every time I open my mind, a TV executive in LA takes a dump in it."

– "10 Things I Hate That Everybody Loves," by Gavin McInnes, Taki's Magazine, September 28, 2012

In saying TV is stupider, I'm not especially thinking of "reality TV" shows, mainly because I don't watch them. But plenty of other people have commented on the apocalyptic stupidity of the genre. Dave Barry, for instance, said (in "Dave Barry’s Year in Review 2012", Washington Post, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/):

This year the “reality” show “Jersey Shore,” which for six hideous seasons has been a compelling argument in favor of a major Earth-asteroid collision, finally got canceled, and we dared to wonder if maybe, just maybe, we, as a society, were becoming slightly less stupid.

But then, WHAP, we were slapped in our national face by the cold hard frozen mackerel of reality in the form of . . . “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” which, in terms of intellectual content, makes “Jersey Shore” look like “Hamlet.”

Barry has taken aim at "Jersey Shore" before. From "Dave Barry’s 2010 Year in Review":

Let’s put things into perspective: 2010 was not the worst year ever. . . . For example, toward the end of the Cretaceous Period, the Earth was struck by an asteroid that wiped out 75 percent of all the species on the planet. Can we honestly say that we had a worse year than those species did? Yes we can, because they were not exposed to Jersey Shore.

Of course, reality TV did not arrive in a vacuum. It came along after Oprah had softened up the intelligence of TV viewers with a relentless barrage of doltishness for 25 years. Regaling her audience with quack therapies, sob-sister exhibitionism, and the chronicles of her vejayjay, she lowered the national I.Q. with every episode of her show. She was a mother lode of mumbo-jumbo like this (as reported by http://jezebel.com/ ):

Oprah's favorite gyno, Dr. Christiane Northrup, answered lots of vagina questions for O and her audience today. Dr. Northrup is way into spirituality, so she employs methods other than straight medicine as remedies for physiological problems. Today she taught the women about Qigong (pronounced chi gung), which is when you use your mind to increase energy flow to the body. Naturally, they were trying to send the energy downtown (to their "low heart" aka vajayjay), as a way to arouse themselves. . .

Oprah and reality TV may be seen as the Scylla and the Charybdis, the phony uplift and the exhibitionist descent, of American TV.

Music is stupider

"Here's my problem with hip-hop music: there's no singing, no one's playing any instruments, and anything catchy has just been stolen from another song. . . . Since when did yelling over our favorite hits from the 80's become music?"
– stand-up comedian Natasha Leggero

Music is also regressing. Like our use of English, our music is shrinking beneath us like an ice floe under a polar bear. One genre, rap or hip-hop, has discarded melody (and therefore harmony) altogether, reducing itself to a sort of witless doggerel chanted over a rhythm track. This is the stupidest form of musical performance ever invented.*

To show that this is not just one man's eccentric opinion, here are some disparaging words from people with music credentials. First, from an interview with rhythm & blues (and jazz, and standards) great, Ray Charles (http://entertainmentmagazine.net/, "Interview with Ray Charles and 'My World'", 1993):

Q: How do you feel about today's music? Are you hearing anything you like?

A: Not much. I'm just not into rap. What is rap? Nothing but somebody talking. . . . See, I call myself a musician, so I want something to trigger my brain and make me sit up and say, "Did you hear that?" . . . That's what I'm looking for. I don't hear that in rap.

On another occasion Charles said his opinion on rap would be unprintable ("Black History Month/ Ray Charles," Gale Cengage Learning – http://www.gale.cengage.com/ ):

Commenting on rap music, he said in the same source [U.S. News and World Report] that "You can't even print what I think.... Just to talk to music, I did that years ago on 'It Should've Been Me' and 'Greenbacks'." . . .

Even the non-rap music segment is pretty dumbed-down. Today, to rise above a monotonously similar-sounding crowd of aspirants, a singer needs a gimmick; and the more ordinary and uninteresting the music, the more extreme the gimmick must be.

Not to pick on her alone, but Lady Gaga is typical of the phenomenon: a more or less bog-standard pop artist, she pulls such stunts as wearing a meat dress or a pistol bra, in an effort to stand out. Thus she is well on her way to becoming the Carmen Miranda of the girly-pop set, known more for her outlandish get-ups and gimmicks than for her musical performances.  

 

 Our Government Is Dumber

"John Boehner is a spineless twerp, and few House Republicans are any better…. [Obama's] opposition doesn't have a full set of vertebrae between them…. A nation gets the government it deserves, and this is the one we got."
– John Derbyshire, audio podcast on Taki's Magazine, Dec. 8, 2012.

"Sometimes a society becomes too stupid to survive."
-- Mark Steyn

Time and space don't permit a discussion of all the stupidities of Congress. Suffice it to say: former Rep. Barney Frank. Nancy Pelosi. Maxine Waters. Harry Reid. Charles Schumer. Such a collection of power-mad, imperious, mentally-challenged autocrats and dolts has rarely been seen in the annals of "free," democratic nations.

Our First Family is no better (i.e. smarter). Though left-wingers automatically bestow on any prominent Democrat kudos for being the smartest person on Earth, Obama has never said anything remotely smart-sounding; on the contrary, he comes across as calculated and manipulative, possessed of low cunning, not intelligence.

Consider Obama's use of English – that is, his speaking style. He manifests a dumbed-down, childishly simple-minded style of rhetoric that grates on my adult ears. Since he is usually playing to a crowd of adoring acolytes, his simple-minded banalities go over well; but to observers outside the clique of true believers, he comes across as childishly manipulative. To me, he always sounds like a con man addressing a roomful of grade-school kids, trying to bamboozle them out of their lollipops.

One group which measures such things said Obama's last State of the Union address measured on an 8th-grade level of English complexity.* That sounds about right to me. The group said (as reported in "State of the Union registers at 8th grade reading level," by Byron Tau, www.politico.com, Jan. 25, 2012):

President Obama's 2012 State of the Union address again rated at an 8th grade comprehension level on the Flesch-Kincaid readability test — the third lowest score of any State of the Union address since 1934. . . . President Obama's three addresses have the lowest grade average of any modern president. . . .

The First Lady is no brain trust either, despite the fact that she once held an important, well-paid, absolutely unnecessary job at the University of Chicago Hospitals. Here she is, answering the question of whether any TV shows are off limits to her daughters:

Barack really thinks some of the Kardashians--when they watch that stuff--he doesn't like that as much. But I sort of feel like if we're talking about it, and I'm more concerned with how they take it in– what did you learn when you watched that? And if they're learning the right lessons, like, that was crazy, then I'm like, OK.

Diagram those sentences!

Cashill's article has some pithy comments about Michelle Obama:

Sympathetic biographer Liza Mundy writes, "Michelle frequently deplores the modern reliance on test scores, describing herself as a person who did not test well."

She did not write well, either. Mundy charitably describes her senior thesis at Princeton as "dense and turgid." The less charitable Christopher Hitchens observes, "To describe [the thesis] as hard to read would be a mistake; the thesis cannot be 'read' at all, in the strict sense of the verb. This is because it wasn't written in any known language."

In conclusion, I defy anyone to say we're not the stupidest generation of Americans – possibly the stupidest generation of people anywhere, anytime. We're no longer capable of managing our own affairs; we need a guardian or keeper. The only problem would be to find a competent nation, in this modern world, to handle the job.

During the Depression they used to sing, "Potatoes are cheaper, tomatoes are cheaper. Now's the time to fall in love." Nowadays we can sing, "Our movies are stupider, our language is stupider, the future looks dark for us all."

 

*Except possibly the genre "flatulist." Here's a description of one such, from wikipedia:

Le Pétomane was the stage name of the French flatulist (professional farter) and entertainer Joseph Pujol . . . . He was famous for his remarkable control of the abdominal muscles, which enabled him to seemingly fart at will. . . .

Pujol was able to "inhale" or move air into his rectum and then control the release of that air with his anal sphincter muscles. . . . Some of the highlights of his stage act involved sound effects of cannon fire and thunderstorms, as well as playing "'O Sole Mio" and "La Marseillaise" on an ocarina through a rubber tube in his anus. He could also blow out a candle from several yards away.



____________________

 

The author, a computer programmer and consultant for 25 years, is now a free-lance writer. He has written a book, Why Marx Was Wrong, and articles in such magazines as Chronicles - A Magazine of American Culture and  Quarterly Review (U.K.)

 

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