If ever there were a political manifesto by someone who clearly has his own agenda, this is it. A better title for the book may have been something along the lines of Iím So Much Better Than You (Let Me Tell You How). While full of statistics and personal boastfulness, I learned little if anything from Just How Stupid Are We?. Wait. I learned that Reagan was good and Republicans are bad. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that I canít stand a braggart. Maybe itís that Iím already disillusioned with society as a whole and the book, in turn, wasnít nearly as shocking as it was supposed to be. Either way, this was the book I had to goad myself into reading.
The same information is reiterated roughly a thousand times throughout the pages of the book. Americans are stupid and should not be trusted with the right to vote. Voting should be a privilege for those smart enough to undertake it. Americanís know nothing about geography and they think Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. Oh, and Republicans are bad.
While Rick Shenkman makes his stand that Americans are stupid, he also bangs the drum of a country built on mythology. He specifically (and constantly) refers to the myth of The People but doesnít explain what he means by said myth until nearly halfway through the book. Certain chapters were obviously written before others Ė this is clear due to pop culture references and some actual dates Ė but they are not in the correct order. While one chapter is written in 2007, the next may come from spring 2006. This leaves us with a few continuity errors, and that is something this book just doesnít need. Weíre led down the path that America is a nation built on myths, that most of what we believe about our founding fathers is untrue, and that our belief in these myths leads us to the stupidity that makes us so very dangerous to our own country.
Shenkman later says that myths were necessary in the infancy of our country as we were a nation of immigrants with no tribal ties to hold us together or give us a common background. If the myths are good, necessary even, then why is it that the same myths are also leading us down the path of political ruin? Why is it bad for Americans to have limited knowledge about our political workings, but still okay to only care about high gas prices instead of the Iraq war?
I seriously considered writing this entire review using only questions. It would mirror a good portion of the book. Since the title is a question, although rhetorical, perhaps the reader should be forewarned that a large portion of the book itself is also just question after question with very few of them being answered. It seems that nothing we do as a nation will make Shenkman happy, and nothing about this book will make most readers happy. The bottom line is that itís 256 pages of ranting about the people and politics of a nation in the midst of rebirth. If youíre looking for a very concise version of the book, I offer you this: Americans are stupid. Everything you know about George Washington is a myth. Myths are what our nation is built on. Myths will ruin our nation. Reagan was good. Republicans are bad.
Rick Shenkman thinks heís better than you, and heíd like you to spend your hard-earned money and several hours of your time to find out just how smart he thinks he is. Perhaps if you buy Shenkman for what heís worth and sell him for what he thinks heís worth, you can buy yourself a whole new library of books that werenít written for the sole purpose of furthering one manís superiority complex.