I featured the original Esquire article by Charlie Pierce as a p3 Reading 'way back in 2007. In a sentence, his thesis is this: America is hosting a war on expertise--and expertise is losing.
"Idiot America" the Esquire article has become Idiot America the book (subtitled "How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free"), and if it signals bad times for our country, at least we get the fun of catching Pierce making the media rounds this month hawking it.
(In fact, he took part in the Book Salon this morning at FDL.)
Whether the subject is climate change, evolution, stem cell research, sex education, AIDS prevention, or any of a number of other topics where you'd think expertise and the factual record ought to have the rhetorical upper-hand, the trend is the same: Public discourse in America, driven by anti-intellectual fire-breathers, cynical opportunists, and garden-variety cranks--and abetted by the lazy journalistic conventions of sapheaded objectivity--is being hijacked by people who want you to think that education and expertise are the enemy.
Idiot America, says Pierce, is not the collection of people who, for example, believe that Noah's flood created the Grand Canyon and believe that the gift shop at the Grand Canyon should sell books that advance this point of view. Those are just cranks, members of the propeller-hat brigade, and America's always had 'em. In fact Pierce shows a surprising fondness for cranks. Rather, Idiot America is the set of conditions that encourage--often require--these people to be taken seriously by the rest of us, and not as the cranks they are.
Check it out.