Embracing ignorances ensures more dumbing down

By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer

We always talk about the dumbing down of America. I think of it every time I see an episode of Friends, or each time a comedian gives a routine completely made up from routines done years before by better comedians.

There are many signs of the dumbing down of America, which I will now refer to as the DDA. There are also many theories as to how this DDA began. Allow me to offer a partial solution, but right after I furnish a warning.

Tuesday morning, I rented The Aristocrats, a documentary about an inside joke from stand-up comedians. The joke starts with a talent agent being pitched a “family act,” and from there the comedian riffs on the most disgusting acts he or she can think of. The joke ends with the talent agent being told the act is called, “The Aristocrats” — a huge letdown compared to the obscenity that preceded it.

That’s my warning, should you decide to watch this movie. It’s so offensive, the movie starts with “This movie is unrated, but it is protected by the First Amendment.” If you’re offended, I warned you.

On the flip side, however, is the guaranteed reaction to this movie — and part of my theory to the DDA. In common conversation, somebody will ask about the movie. Another will respond, “It’s a horrible movie, and I’m proud to say that I will never see it.”

That, my friends, is one of the biggest causes of DDA — people who are so proud of not experiencing something that they are an expert on the topic. While “The Aristocrats” is a crude example of such, it’s not the first time we’ll hear of people proudly admit ignorance on a topic.

It happened with “Moneyball,” a Michael Lewis book about a season with the Oakland Athetics and how they continued to make the playoffs despite having a payroll one-fourth the size of teams like the New York Yankees. Many baseball “experts” like ESPN analyst Joe Morgan proudly claim they have never read “Moneyball,” yet are proud to dispute many of the ideas that its subjects apply. Ask pretty much anybody who’s read the book, myself included, and they’ll tell you it’s a story about a man who manipulates a system that fails him, told so well that you’ll consider skipping work to read it.

It happened with “Dogma,” a Kevin Smith comedy about two angels banished from heaven who try to re-enter through a loophole. The movie received so much criticism before it came out that its production company, View Askew, published a hate letter of the week on its Web site. The boycotts and the harsh criticisms died down when audiences realized it was a stupid and harmless comedy.

This will most assuredly happen with “The Aristocrats.” It will also happen with this summer’s film version of “The Da Vinci Code.” It will happen to many other things that haven’t come out yet. I’m not sure how and why it became acceptable behavior to embrace ignorance.

So here’s the question I now ask myself: Have I helped alleviate the DDA with my theory, or furthered the dumbing down of America by actually abbreviating it? Maybe I should have warned you before this column, too.

Kevin Wilson is a staff writer for the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 32, or by e-mail: