January 05, 2004
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer today published a guest editorial by Neal Starkman, who claims that the only reason most people support President Bush is because they are stupid.

What can explain his popularity? ... The answer, I'm afraid, is the factor that dare not speak its name. It's the factor that no one talks about. The pollsters don't ask it, the media don't report it, the voters don't discuss it.
It's the "Stupid factor," the S factor: Some people -- sometimes through no fault of their own -- are just not very bright.
Let's think this through for a minute.

Let's assume, for arguments sake, that Neal Starkman is right and the reason most Americans support Bush is because they are stupid. This would imply that the smartest strategy for a President (or Presidential candidate) is to craft an image that appeals to stupid people. President Bush would therefore be smarter than any of his Democratic rivals because he has successfully outmaneuvered them by appealing to more stupid people. Indeed, how smart can all of those Democrat voters be, if they haven't been able to support a candidate who is smart enough to co-opt the huge stupid majority?

I personally don't think that Democratic candidates and voters are necessarily stupid, but that does follow from Starkman's argument.

I have no idea how smart or stupid Neal Starkman is, all I know is that he wrote a book titled "Don't Read This Book". I expect that Starkman thought that such a title would be a smart marketing move. But it doesn't seem to have been all that smart after all. The book is out of print, presumably from a lack of readership.

And be sure to give the Seattle Post-Intelligencer your vote in LGF's contest to select the 2003 Idiotarian of the Year.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at January 05, 2004 01:19 PM

Even though he thinks he is being smart or witty, Mr. Starkman is showing his contempt for democracy. He claims Bush's supporters are stupid, that they "cannot understand the phenomenon of cause and effect," and puts their number at 50% of the population. He even proposes intelligence tests as a qualification for voting, reminiscent of the literacy tests used for years in the south to keep African-Americans from voting. As a result, he shows his own lack of understanding of cause and effect: contempt for the people leading to failure at the polls.

Posted by: Andy MacDonald on January 5, 2004 09:24 PM

Good analysis, Stefan.

Here's another: it took Starkman about 700 words to express the schoolboy insult that those who don't think like him are stupid. Now, an ordinary articulate human could say this quite effectively in 50 words, and one of some wit and cultivation could express it in a 17-syllable haiku - except that such wit and cultivation would probably recognize Bush's successful policies as beneficial for the country.

Starkman drags the 'variegated interplay of humans and the environment' into his discussion, but fails to think deeply enough about said interplay. Should he do so, he just might realize that his excessive verbosity was itself extremely harmful to the environment, requiring the murder of far more trees than necessary to produce the newsprint used to express his juvenile 'idea'.

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive on January 5, 2004 10:29 PM

What precisely is it about this guy that makes *him* so smart? Seems like if he wants to make such a claim, then he should post his IQ scores, SAT/GMAT scores, income history, reference letters from people he has been in relationships with, descriptions of skills he has learned, list of books read, etc. All of these kinds of "smart" are relevant to political participation.

Posted by: David Foster on January 6, 2004 08:36 AM

David - I think Neal's entire argument is based on the ludicrous assumption that anyone who violently opposes Bush is by definition smart. Thus, Neal has no need to provide us with any external validation of his claim to intelligence, yet he can request IQ tests for voters. In Neal's world, the sky is green, grass is blue, and anyone who scores high on an IQ test will not vote for George Bush.

These are assumptions he is making, not theories that he has any data to support. Why, he's so smart that he doesn't NEED data, right?

Posted by: Kimberly on January 6, 2004 12:53 PM

I'm gonna take a more "cerebral" attempt at eviscerating his 'stupid' article appealing to 'stupid' liberals who want to believe an 'easy' and 'prejudice' idea to justify their 'simplistic' feelings on Bush and Republicans.

1) It is certainly true that a % of the popluation is not highly involved politically nor displays even a decent understanding of issues involved in politics. The founders of the country believed this as well, as evidenced in their Bill of Rights, preventing the "tyranny of the idiotic majority', my imbellishment.

2) Dems don't realize how many stupid appealings they continually display.

a) Class Warfare, the rich are out to get you.
b) Evil White Man and Corps are out to get you. Get them first. (Lieberman commented with disgust on both of these even in 2000)
c) Republicans want to eat your social security check.
d) We can't check the borders or have any controls, its racist.
e) Tax cuts always and only benefit the rich.
f) We went to war for oil and bechtel.

In a democracy and fast life we all rely sometimes on quick information and ideas and thus can come to 'initial' or not 'fully investigagted' or 'stupid' conclusions. Who has the time to read everything.

The implication that only "stupid" people vote for Republicans is so idiotic its mindboggling. In fact it contradicts the other prejudice stereotype of Republicans, "Evil White (Corporate) Man. Thus, these "White Men" on average are educated and Middle Class and up and thus, NOT STUPID? A Cannundrum? Ready made excuse, but they're "Evil".

The only thing that is extremely stupid is when someone who "think he's smart" writes an overly simplistic and "stupid" article that is so rife with hypocrisy and idiocy and doesn't even realize how stupid he made himself look for the actually intelligent people who want to take a few extra minutes and break down his "idiotic logic".



Posted by: Mike on January 6, 2004 01:51 PM

Liberals have the arrogant belief that if someone were really smart they would agree with them. That is why they think Bush and his supporters are stupid and Major Owens and Patty Murray are brilliant. My question for Mr. Starkman: If Democrat voters are so smart why can't they figure out how to operate a punch card ballot?

Posted by: Merv Benson on January 6, 2004 06:24 PM


Do you think this Neal Starkman is the famous Neal Starkman of the "Search Institute"? Maybe you could confirm identity, since you are there in Seattle. The famous Neal Starkman gives a Seattle address in a request for help with his next book on asset-building teaching techniques:


If this is the same guy, perhaps some of us could send him some ideas on pedagogy which might reduce the "Stupid Factor".

Posted by: KarenR on January 7, 2004 07:06 PM
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