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Charles P. Pierce

Författare till Idiot America

5+ verk 938 medlemmar 35 recensioner

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Verk av Charles P. Pierce

Associerade verk

Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! The Oddly Informative News Quiz (2002) — Bidragsgivare — 72 exemplar
The Best American Sports Writing 2001 (2002) — Bidragsgivare — 48 exemplar
Grantland Quarterly, No. 7 (2013) — Bidragsgivare — 4 exemplar


Allmänna fakta

Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, USA
Marquette University
Boston Herald
The National
The Boston Globe
Priser och utmärkelser
National Headliners Award (2004)
Sigma Delta Chi Award for Excellence in Journalism (2010)
Kort biografi
Charles P. Pierce
He has been a writer-at-large for a men's fashion magazine, and his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the LA Times Magazine, the Nation, the Atlantic, Sports Illustrated and The Chicago Tribune, among others. Although he is no longer a contributor to Eric Alterman’s Altercation, he remains a devoted reader. Pierce is a not infrequent contributor to the American Prospect and Slate. He appears weekly on National Public Radio's sports program Only A Game and on the Stephanie Miller Show and is a regular panelist on NPR's game show, Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me. Since July 1997 he has been a writer at large at Esquire, covering everything from John McCain to the Hubble telescope, with more than a few shooting stars thrown in between. In the fall of 2011 Pierce left the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, where he had been since 2002, to become a staff writer for Grantland as well as the lead writer for's politics blog.

Charles Pierce is the recipient of numerous professional awards and honors. On several occasions, he was named a finalist for the Associated Press Sports Editor's award for best column writing, and it has been suggested that if only he would wear a tie, they might have let him win. He was a 1996 National Magazine Award finalist for his piece on Alzheimer's disease "In the Country of My Disease," and has expanded the piece into a book Hard to Forget: An Alzheimer's Story for Random House. In 2004, he won a National Headliners Award for his Globe Magazine piece, "Deconstructing Ted", and in 2010 another of this Globe Magazine pieces, The Long, Strange, Twisting Case of Frances Carriere's Murder, won a Sigma Delta Chi Award for Excellence in Journalism. Depending on which year this is, Pierce has appeared in Best American Sportswriting more times than any other writer, or has tied with Roger Angell for most appearances in Best American Sportswriting, or is sulking in second place and plotting to regain the top spot soon, or is throwing himself into a stein of despair and refusing to talk about it ever again (the fact that David Halberstam didn't live to see just exactly how wrong he was about Pierce's Tiger Woods profile, "The Man. Amen." doesn't help very much, either. Mark 6:4). Nonetheless,Pierce's sportswriting has been anthologized in Sports Guy: In Search of Corkball, Warroad Hockey, Hooters Golf, Tiger Woods, and the Big, Big Game. Pierce is justly proud of the many awards and accolades he has received from the Media Research Center, and the reassurance they provide that he won't be running out of things to write about anytime soon (but what's with giving his dinner invite to Sam Donaldson?) He was awarded third place in the PBWAA Dan S. Blumenthal Memorial Writing Contest. When he won Phone Jeopardy, Alex Trebek sent him a plaque.

Charles Pierce lives in metro Boston with at least some of his three children all of the time, a malfunctioning Toro lawnmower, a somewhat more reliable snowblower, and his extremely long-suffering wife, who stockpiles shear pins like Mitt Romney stockpiles dried corn.

The above biographical notes are the product of the webmaster and not Mr. Pierce, who regularly evinces surprise that he even has a website.



There's nothing wrong with this book - it's on point, well-written, and probably a quick read. I just found it easily depressing, filled with things I already know and would rather forget, things I don't necessarily know how to change. I'm still going to lend it to whoever wants it.
Kiramke | 30 andra recensioner | Jun 27, 2023 |
I've had this on my shelves for a while, but hadn't picked it up as I suspected it was more a rant than anything else. That turns out NOT to be the case. The central thesis is that how the marketplace of ideas in the US operates has fundamentally changed - and largely to the detriment of both mainstream society and the crank/fringe elements of the country. These latter elements are an essential part of how we generate notions and ideas here and the marketplace, now broken, no longer 'processes' them in the way is used to.

Having finished this, I can say that it gets even better nearer the end.

While it seems, on the surface, to be a rant against the right, this is because the right has, by its own admission, embraced irrationality and showmanship over reason. Nor are all the examples of idiocy in it confined to the right. There are idiots aplenty on all sides.
… (mer)
qaphsiel | 30 andra recensioner | Feb 20, 2023 |
You can find my review and notes about the book here.
bloodravenlib | 30 andra recensioner | Aug 17, 2020 |
This was published in 2009, seven years before Idiocy reached a new high, to be followed be a mind-boggling four more years of steady climb. It's not done yet, I'm afraid, and I wonder what Mr. Pierce would have to say now (I'm sure I could find out, but I'm behind on other reading...)

Draped in James Madison anecdotes, observations, quotes and opinions, Madison is a hero to Pierce, who uses him and his writings as a foil. Pierce says, "Madison was never a superstar, not even among his contemporaries. His home never became a shrine, not the way Washington’s Mount Vernon did, or Jefferson’s Monticello.",
But he felt something in his heart in this place. (And he did have a heart, the shy little fellow. He never would have won Dolley without it.) He studied and he thought, and he ground away at his books, but it wasn’t all intellect with him. Not all the time. He knew the Gut, as well. He knew it well enough to keep it where it belonged.
"Gut"? Pierce says, "Once you're on television, you become an expert, with or without expertise, because once you're on television, you are speaking to the Gut, and the Gut is a moron, as anyone who's ever tossed a golf club, punbched a wall, or kicked a lawnmower knows. The Gut is the roiling repository of dark and ancient fears. It knows what it knows because it knows how it feels." The Gut is what's behind "facts don't matter".

Pierce says in his Introduction
Idiot America is not the place where people say silly things. It is not the place where people believe in silly things. It is not the place where people go to profit from the fact that people believe in silly things. That America has been with us always—the America of the medicine wagon and the tent revival, the America of the juke joint and the gambling den, the America of lunatic possibility that in its own mad way kept the original revolutionary spirit alive while an establishment began to calcify atop the place.
The rise of Idiot America, though, is essentially a war on expertise.
The book is about distrust, with derision ... experts and expertise. And it's worse than ever. When the lieutenant governor of Texas says Dr. Fauci, an incredibly educated, accomplished, knowledgeable epidemiologist "doesn't know what he's talking about."... yeah, it's worse. United States of America, where Pierce says, "This is a great country, in no small part because it is the best country ever devised in which to be a public crank." And how? It's part of our national DNA. "Let us be clear. This is still the best country ever in which to peddle complete public lunacy." So Pierce outlines the Three Great Premises of Idiot America:
The First Great Premise: Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
The Second Great Premise: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
The Third Great Premise: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

There it is, folks. The whole basis of FoxNews, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, talk radio... Oh...and antisocial media. Shouting is harder there, but they do try hard to. Note: Pierce offers no solutions. To be fair, he couldn't. The anti-intellectual inertia and the momentum of their crank-loving propensity (witness the popularity of "reality" TV) are too much.

Some selected flagged observations:
A wrongwing writer named Jonah Goldberg wrote a book titled Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning and Pierce, pierces it with
Apparently written with a paint roller, Goldberg’s book is a lugubrious slog through a history without reliable maps, a pre-Columbian wilderness of the mind where, occasionally, events have to have their hearts ripped out of all context and waved on high to the pagan god of the unblinking sun.
The book is little more than a richly footnoted loogie hawked by Goldberg at every liberal who ever loosely called him a fascist. In that capacity, if not as history, it is completely successful.
Love it! And it happens that Goldberg's and my opinion (and Pierce's) align on one point: Goldberg targets Woodrow Wilson for his own deluded reasons,and Pierce labels Wilson "admittedly, a hopelessly overrated president".

Pierce spends more than a little time with one Ignatius Donnelly, an erudite crank in the 19th century who wrote a few books, one being Ragnarok, of which Pierce said, "Ragnarok is such almost perfect pseudoscience that Donnelly can be said to have helped invent the form. ... It so gleams with the author’s erudition that you don’t notice at first that none of it makes any sense." That's a big problem with cranks - they can baffle even real experts with their stupidity. And by baffle, I mean "where do we even start?" Donnelly had a way with words, saying this of a US Representative colleague (yes, he served there, too):
“If there be in our midst one low, sordid, vulgar soul … one tongue leprous with slander; one mouth which is like unto a den of foul beasts giving forth deadly odors; if there be one character which, while blotched and spotted all over, yet raves and rants and blackguards like a prostitute; if there be one bold, bad, empty, bellowing demagogue, it is the gentleman from Illinois.”
History repeats! Donnelly could have said that today of a certain narcissist.

On Reagan's staff's traitorous selling of arms to Iran and the subsequent diversion of the proceeds (my embellishment):
In fact, Iran-Contra was a remarkable piece of extraconstitutional theater, far beyond anything the Watergate burglars could’ve dreamed up. Arming terrorist states? Using the money to fund a vicious war of dubious legality elsewhere in the world? Government officials flying off to Teheran with a Bible and a cake in the shape of a key? A president whose main defenses against the charge of complicity were neglect and incipient Alzheimer’s disease? Who could make this up? Iran-Contra was a great criminal saga, even up to the fact that it was first revealed not by the lions of the elite American press, but by a tiny newspaper in Beirut.
And the people swallowed it all, hook, line, and sinker.

On political parties, Pierce quotes his muse, Madison, who wrote to James Monroe,
"there seems to be a propensity in free governments which will always find or make subjects on which human opinions and passions may be thrown into conflict. The most perhaps that can be counted on is that … party conflicts in such a country or government as ours will be either so light or so transient as not to threaten any permanent or dangerous consequences to the character or prosperity of the republic.”
Oops. Pierce says he "calamitously misjudged his fellow Americans." Yep.

On the ubiquitous, pervasive, wrongwing underbelly that is talk radio:
According to a 2007 joint study by the Free Press and the Center for American Progress, on the 257 stations owned by the five largest owners of commercial stations, 91 percent of weekday talk programming is conservative. On an average weekday, the study found, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk is broadcast, but just 254 hours of what the study called “progressive” talk.
I know I don’t listen to “progressive” talk - I'm the individualist sort, rather than the flock of sheep type that the "conservatives" attract. And Pierce says Washington University (St. Louis) Professor Andrew Cline studied talk radio and television argument shows: "Television is an emotional medium,” Cline explains. “It doesn’t do reason well. This is entertainment, not analysis or reasoned discourse. Never employ a tightly reasoned argument where a flaming sound bite will do." And Pierce says "You can learn a great deal about how to talk on the radio, but very little about anything you might be talking about." Yep, again.

Hannity gets more than a little page time. On insisting long after they were debunked that Iraq had WMDs: "In any other job in the communications industry, such (and let us be kind) bungling would end a career. In his chosen field, it has made Hannity a multimedia force." Poor Alan Colmes, gets sympathy: "Colmes’s attempt to graft an intellectual conscience onto an industry based on profitable ignorance was exhausting. It was like watching someone try to explain that his hippo could conjugate verbs."

On religion (wrapped into a section on "faith-based" BS), Pierce says Madison knew "To invite religion into government is to invite discord and to establish the tyranny of the righteous." Further,
Mr. Madison went out of his way to wave red flags, most vigorously in Federalist 10, in which he cautions that “the latent causes of faction are [thus] sown in every man, and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points … have in turn divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for the common good.”
Note which factious entity he listed first. He did know his stuff.

Global warming:
The echoes of Clarence Little are quite clear when Chris Mooney describes how, in 2002, a Republican consultant named Frank Luntz sent out a memo describing how Luntz believed the crisis of global warming should be handled within a political context. “The most important principle in any discussion of global warming is sound science,” wrote Luntz. “The scientific debate is closing [against the skeptics] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science.” In short, it doesn’t matter what the facts actually are, all that matters is how you can make people feel about them.

On the W Bush presidency
Expertise, always, was beside the point, and the consequence had been both hilarious and dire: a disordered nation that applied the rules of successful fiction to the reality around it, and that no longer could distinguish very well the truth of something from its popularity. This election, which was said to be one that could reorder the country in many important ways, did not begin promisingly.
Oh, how expert by contrast that was to what came in 2017.

More soundbite quotables:
"Of course, if everyone is an expert, then nobody is." (Lots of YouTube financial and epidemiological experts now.)

"The founders wanted a nation of educated people: this, they believed, was essential to self-government." ... Oh well.

"Commercial idiocy is the mechanism through which political idiocy (among other things) thrives."

"Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a truly glorious place and science leads you to killing people.” Yes, Ben Stein, Ferris Bueller Idiot, said science leads you to killing people.

"In the months and years after September 11, the worst possible thing was to know what you were talking about."

We've lost. It's so much worse now than in 2009. I'll use this to close this review. Richard Hofstadter gets quoted a lot (but unfortunately, the sources aren't clear; I think this came from Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, which I'm going to read):
The case against intellect is founded on a set of fictional and wholly abstract antagonisms. Intellect is pitted against feeling, on the ground that it is somehow inconsistent with warm emotion.
It is pitted against character, because it is widely believed that intellect stands for mere cleverness, which transmutes easily into the sly and diabolical. It is pitted against practicality, since theory is held to be opposed to practice. It is pitted against democracy, since intellect is felt to be a form of distinction that defies egalitarianism…. Once the validity of these antagonisms is accepted, then the case for intellect … is lost.

Embarrassing, that adjective in front of America. But unfortunately...accurate.
… (mer)
Razinha | 30 andra recensioner | Jul 3, 2020 |


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