The Fish
for 5 May 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
Suck Staff
 

Joey Anuff
Joey Anuff
Editor in Chief

 

Terry Colon
Terry Colon
Art Director

 

[the fixin' pixie... ]
Emily Hobson
Production Manager
and Head Electrician

 

Heather Havrilesky
Heather Havrilesky
Senior Editor

 

[Ian Connelly]
Ian Connelly
Marketing Manager

 

[Copy Edit]
Copy Edit









	
Suck Alumni
Suck Alumni Text
 

Carl Steadman
Carl Steadman
Co-Founder

 

Ana Marie Cox
Ana Marie Cox
Executive Editor

 

Sean (Duuuuude) Welch
Sean Welch
Suckgineer

 

Owen Thomas
Owen Thomas
Copy Editor

 


T. Jay Fowler

Production Manager

& Ass Kicker

 

[yes, it's a plunger. i'll l
eave the rest up to your imagination ... ]
Erin Coull
Production Manager

 

Matt Beer
Matt Beer
Development Manager

Dumbstruck

So what point were you trying
to make? That it's really
cool and postmodern to be an
idiot?

Sure, 99 percent of culture
has always been dumb, but at
least it wasn't held up to be
as valid as Shakespeare by
deconstructionist academics
scraping the barrel of
popular culture in the name
of novelty and academic
celebrity.

Hurumph!
Lee Caulfield

Obviously it's really cool
and postmodern to be an
idiot, but the point was more
that our culture is plagued
by Chicken Littles screaming
that the whole country's
going to hell in a handbasket
because of the Teletubbies,
or something equally
innocuous.

OK, maybe those Chicken
Littles have always been with
us too, but if you want to
see what we mean, go to the
Museum of Television and
Radio and dig some of the
electronic entertainments
from the Golden Age of TV.
That our country was able to
perfect the Electronic Brain
and endure a nuclear standoff
at a time when Queen for a
Day
was entertaining the
masses and Murrow, Huntley,
Brinkley, and the rest of the
pompous charlatans we
mythologize today were
considered the Voices of
Truth should make you feel a
little more secure about the
general state of stupidity in
America.

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Vicki,

I believe you are dead-on for
the most part. I do think
something else is going on.
Every employer that I have
had has always gotten upset
when I show mastery of the
tasks at hand. We are not
only dumbing down, but we are
discriminating against
achievement.

The only place left in this
culture that excelling at the
task at hand is expected is
my Tai Chi class (but only
after 20 years of practice).

I fear that managers
everywhere are afraid that to
have you good at something is
an indication that you want
the boss' job. This is a
carrot and stick problem. The
carrot is being left alone
for being a schlep, the stick
is to prevent you from being
better than the boss.

David

Come on, David: Being good at
something is an indication
that you want the boss' job.
For my money, I want
everybody except me to be
completely incompetent and
fail at everything they try.

You might want to consider
journalism, where the only
necessary skill is the
ability to move in the right
circles. We even have a word
for people who are good at
nothing. We call them
"Editors."

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Vicki;

I enjoyed "Dumbstruck," it
reminded me of how many times
I've thought how many hands
and fingers I would need to
count how many times someone
in casual conversation has
said to me, "Everyone is so
stupid," as though the other
person and I shared some big
secret. I guess a lot of
people feel it underlines
their point or makes them
feel like they really know
what they are talking about
or something.

It was refreshing to hear
someone say, "Everyone saying
everyone is so stupid is
getting really annoying." But
Zardoz? Really....

Tim

Thanks, Timbo (You mind if I
call you "Timbo"?)

I'm sure there must be some
Poor Richardish axiom about
how "People who think
everybody's an idiot, etc."
but I don't know what it is.
Anyway, that business about
sharing some big secret has
always fascinated me. It's
kind of like when your
interlocutor brings up the
international Zionist-media
conspiracy once he's
ascertained that you're not a
Jew. They never seem to
consider that you might be on
the side of the dummies.

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Tonight was the first time I
had the pleasure of surfing
your site. There was a
feature on your site on "The
Computer Chronicles," which
made me curious about your
site. Your site is a fresh
and bold look at what the Web
could be.

I found your comments,
cartoons, and articles about
the Dumbing of the American
Culture to be very
entertaining. Keep up the
good work. I am from South
Africa, and it would be very
interesting to have an
article on how the media
tries to lead you to believe
that we are a backward,
third-world country. I was on
the IRC one evening, when I
told a channel member that I
was from South Africa and the
response was: "I never knew
you had electricity there."
The person was from America,
and my thoughts were, what
exactly are they leading you
to believe about South
Africa? Naturally, my
response was, "How do you
think I am typing to you
now?" The lack of a response
spoke volumes. You may have
already done a parody on
South Africa, if so could you
please point me to where I
could have a look at it.
Otherwise, it may be fun to
do a parody of us. I always
enjoy seeing what people come
up with when you mention the
words "South Africa."

Something we notice here is
that many people in America
say, "I didn't do nothing."
Now that immediately means
that you did do something,
and this has led some people
to say that Americans don't
speak English. This is a
gross generalization, but I
thought it apt for your topic
today.

I look forward to visiting
this site regularly.

Regards
Hylton Clarke

South Africa? Isn't that
where all these big ol'
Watusis dance around in grass
skirts with bones in their
noses, and shrink heads and
shit? You're right, we should
do something about that
country. Too bad I don't know
nobody from there.

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

I re-read my previous message
about Dumbstruck, this one:

"I meant to write something
about the fact that the apex
of snobbism is to snob the
snobs. Then I read the mail
you received and got even
more convinced that (at least
some of) the snobs you snob
are not that wrong."

And it reads just the
opposite of what I meant: The
mail I was referring to is
that of those idiots who sent
you flames quoting six-figure
incomes and the like, while
the snobs that you were
snobbing are the ones
deploring the apparently
swelling number of such
idiots around.

I don't mean to say that all
of those snobs are right, but
it seemed to me that you
canned together too many
people, labeled them with a
single "brand," and used the
most unfortunate quotes from
extremists in order to make
your point.

It has always been true that,
as we say in Italy, "the
mother of the stupids is
permanently pregnant," but I
do believe that life is
nowadays too easy (or,
better, pre-packaged) for too
many people, depriving them
of the challenges that would
force/help them to evolve.

By the way,
Webster's has a
has a different origin for
the word "snob" than the one
I know; I was told that
originally "snob" was a short
form of "sine noblilitate,"
Latin for "without noble
origins."

Guido Gambardella
<tddge@tin.it>

Your original meaning was
probably closer to the truth.
Since the greater part of
dumbing-down paranoia in
America comes from the
Republicans (they're the ones
who think poor people should
be destroyed), bragging about
your six-figure income is
pretty close to kvetching
about how stupid everybody
is. In particular, the
collection Dumbing Down and
Bloom's Closing of the
American Mind
- both cited
prominently in the article -
are thinly veiled polemics
against people who have the
temerity not to be white.

Sure, the mother of the
stupids is permanently
pregnant, but you know, I
think people still have
plenty of challenges to "help
them evolve."

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Dumbstruck

Dear Suck,

In your elitist article, you
criticized the dumbing down
of American culture. Frankly,
what you describe as dumbing
down is in fact the process
of making the fruits of a
well-rounded education more
accessible to the ordinary
American. We can't all be
snobby, privileged, snubby,
rich, middle-class kids who
can afford the privilege of a
college education.

If only America could have
the kind of education system
that Australia has, there
would be no need to "dumb
down" anything.

Dr. Godfrey Tanner Curtin
University Western Australia

Elitist? Why I was just
having a brandy Alexander at
the club with my school chum
Trad, when the topic of the
lower classes came up.

"Simply charming people," I
said, "but really, they
haven't the first idea how to
mix with the right sort. Why
I've seen chaps who would
think nothing of eating an
apple in the street!"

"Good lord, you're right,"
Trad shot back. "And what can
one make of these bragboast
Australians presuming to
strut around like peacocks,
telling us what for about our
schools?"

"A country where they toss
dwarfs for sport lecturing to
us? It's a perfect fright!"
Then I called for my
gentleman's gentleman:
"Cambridge! Another snort,
there's a good fellow!"

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Vicki,

Thank you for reminding me
how stupid I am. I sincerely
appreciate your effort to
illuminate my ignorance.

You will be flattered to know
I think your article really
sucked.

Jon Burnham
<jburnham@bootheel.net>

Well it wasn't specifically
directed at you, but since
you're willing to fess up, I
think that's admirable.
Remember that the only stupid
question is the one you don't
ask.

Now what seems to be the
problem?

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Vicki,

Let's not forget the dumbing
down of the land. In his book
"The Geography of Nowhere:
The Rise & Decline of
America's Man-Made
Landscape," James Howard
Kunstler pines for the olden
days of small-town life and
the family farm.
Interestingly enough, though,
he blames the rise of
mega-malls, gated
communities, and Disney
World, not on the dim-witted
populace, but on the
automobile. He looks to
zoning laws, car-free city
cores, and revised tax laws
as the solution, and yet it
never once occurs to him that
the problem might just be bad
taste and lack of imagination
in an increasingly expanding
world. The corporate sprawl
has made so much dull
sameness - whether it's a row
of tract housing or a Gap (or
two) in every town. This
might explain why the
20-somethings of today are
nostalgic for the music of
their great-grandparents -
like the swing and hot jazz
of Squirrel Nut Zippers or
the show tune cabaret of
folks like Rufus Wainwright.
Small-town community life is
deceased - it exists only in
our minds and in our art.

John Sopkia

Maybe, but a more logical
explanation might be that
people like owning their own
homes. If I recall my US
history correctly, the people
who filled the suburbs after
World War II weren't moving
out of small towns - they
were fleeing roach-infested
apartments in Red Hook and
Germantown, compared to which
even a pre-fab Levittown
shack or Massapequa rancher
would have seemed like a
palatial estate. The overall
result may not have been too
pleasing to the eye, but
nobody makes personal
decisions based on overall
societal effect. It was a
simple decision: "Now that
I'm back from Iwo Jima, do I
want to live like a sardine
or like landed gentry?"

Critics of the suburbs tend
to forget that, historically
and overwhelmingly, people
like having their own homes,
with yards and garages.
Suburbanization may have been
a disaster for community life
and the environment, but it
opened up that way of life to
millions of people who had
never had it before.

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

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