I found myself watching Rough Cuts on CBC Newsworld. I'd seen the promos for it -- a "documentary" or more accurately an opinion piece called Stupidity and I wasn't much interested in it. But it was the only thing on TV at the time, so there I was, stupidly watching it.
From the production company's website:
Stupidity sets out to determine whether our culture is hooked on deliberate ignorance as a strategy for success. From Adam Sandler to George W. Bush, from the IQ test to TV programming and the origins of the word 'moron', [Albert] Nerenberg examines the "dumbing down" of contemporary culture.
Stupidity careens at warp speed through sound bites on topics from television news and reality TV shows, to Internet sites and popular films. Featuring opinions and comments from some of today's most recognizable figures, cultural critics, authors and academics, including John Cleese and Rick Mercer, Noam Chomsky and David Frum, Salma Hayek and Michael Moore, Stupidity reveals that, despite our culture's extensive access to knowledge and information, humans continue to choose stupidity. The film suggests that unless stupidity is dealt with, we may all be doomed.
Yes, yes; and to echo Keynes, we're all dead in the long run anyway.
About half the show, as you might expect, was dedicated to the proposition that George W. Bush is stupid stupid stupid and they trotted out prize pig Michael Moore to hammer home the point. (Note: There is no link, as CBC, unlike real news organizations such as CBS, doesn't offer transcripts [OK, they do, but they charge $45 for a 1-hour program] so I had to wait for the weekend when the show was rebroadcast so I could tape it and make sure the quote was accurate.):
I mean, really think about the United States, okay? Here we are, a country where one of the founding fathers discovered electricity. Look what we have devolved to. A guy who is proud he was King of the Keggers. [emphasis added]
Odd. I never got the sense that Bush was bragging about his dissolute youth. Never mind that, though. More pertinent is Moore's assertion that Benjamin Franklin (I assume that's to whom he's referring) "discovered" electricity.
Franklin certainly contributed to the theoretical understanding of it, but he was by no means the first to observe the phenomenon. From Wikipedia:
According to Thales of Miletus, writing circa 600 BC, electricity was known to the Ancient Greeks, who found that rubbing fur on various substances, such as amber, would cause a particular attraction between the two. The Greeks noted that the amber buttons could attract light objects such as hair, and that if they rubbed the amber for long enough, they could even get a spark to jump.
[ . . . ]
In 1600 the English scientist William Gilbert returned to the subject in De Magnete, and coined the modern Latin word electricus from (elektron), the Greek word for amber, which soon gave rise to the English words electric and electricity.
[ . . . ]
In June, 1752, Benjamin Franklin promoted his investigations of electricity and theories through the famous, though extremely dangerous, experiment of flying a kite during a thunderstorm. Following these experiments he invented a lightning rod and established the link between lightning and electricity. If Franklin did fly a kite in a storm, he did not do it the way it is often described (as it would have been dramatic but fatal). It was either Franklin (more frequently) or Ebenezer Kinnersley of Philadelphia (less frequently) who created the convention of positive and negative charge.
You want stupidity? Stupidity is airing a quote from Michael Moore without first fact-checking it sixteen ways 'til Sunday.