Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Americans are stupid, what else is new?

So more Americans know the names of The Three Stooges than the Supreme Court. And why not? The Three Stooges are funnier and perhaps even more intelligent. So it's no surprise when I read that Americans apparently know more about "The Simpsons" than they do about the First Amendment.

Only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half can name at least two members of the cartoon family, according to a survey. A study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22% of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just one in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms. The survey found more people could name the three "American Idol" judges than identify three First Amendment rights.

It also showed that people misidentified First Amendment rights. About one in five people thought the right to own a pet was protected, and 38% said they believed the right against self-incrimination contained in the Fifth Amendment was a First Amendment right, the survey found.

None of this really bothers me. Of course people don't know this stuff. They don't study it day in and day out. What bothers me is the people who do study it their whole lives don't know these rights. The President, Congress and the Judiciary seem to maybe know the words of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution but not the real meaning or reasonable interpretation or application of the concepts. My favorite example of late was the former head of the NSA Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden denied that the Fourth Amendment contained the words "probable cause" when of course they are there.

So no, I'm not bothered that my auto mechanic or my lawn guy doesn't know about the "due process" or "equal protection" clause. I'm bothered that W, Cheney, Rove the Justice Department and everyone else in government who should know about it don't.


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