28 comments on “Well, yes…

  1. Probably the most important thing is that Vlad is not confused as to which Georgia he wants to invade.

  2. Well there were tales of Americans stocking up on amunition when the Russians did invade Georgia a few years ago

  3. It’d be an interesting exercise to get Europeans to indicate Iowa on a world map & grade that by ant–American sentiments.

  4. I yield to no-one in my admiration of your basic American – after the Scots (pound-for-pound and historically) the nation which has given the most the world I suspect.

    However, they do seem to be unusually bad at geography, even among the (reasonably) educated classes.

    Sure, you can get mouth breathers anywhere and confuse them with a map, but I found this quite amusingly horrifying:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNzN3q-VgwI

    I suspect it’s because they have pretty much everything bar really old stuff in their own country. I like hiking through great wildernesses, and skiing, and swimming in the ocean, and I could do all of those in California, whereas living in the UK I have to travel abroad.

    Plus they’ve never really had to look at a map and think, ‘Who and where are the threats to us?’ Though that is changing.

  5. The “Americans are stupid” view has developed because

    1. They speak English, like the rest of the world aspires to. So people can understand what they say.

    2. They are literate and impossibly rich by global standards with superb communications infrastructure. So even the poorest hick in the sticks will have some way to access the internet (at the extreme, they probably won’t try to burn someone with a phone as a witch, unlike in some parts of the world 😉 )

    Therefore if some American says something stupid somewhere then chances are it could quite easily make it’s way across the world very quickly. The vast amounts of equal and greater stupidity spouted elsewhere rarely gets seen (it’s not in English, it’s not been filmed/typed/tweeted etc)

    Therefore the majority of “foreign stupidity” (as opposed to homegrown stupidity) that people will experience will be American. It’s an easy prejudice to then assume all Americans are stupid.

  6. The point isn’t whether they are stupid, it is whether they tend to be comically ignorant of history and geography. In my experience they do: even highly intelligent ones with impressive educational credentials.

    Mind you, yoof nowadays ……

  7. ” after the Scots … the nation which has given the most the world I suspect.” What do you have in mind?

  8. But Interested’s point is apposite.

    USians are parochial, compared to Europeans or Old Empirians. This is for a wide range of reasons – political isolationism; that, to a significant extent, because they don’t actually need to leave their own country for a wide range of travel experiences (obviously, excluding history older than my house, exempting indigenous cultures which they usually do); inter-state exceptionalism, etc.

    To the “educated European”, parochial is largely seen as stupid. Whether it is the little Englander drunk in Ibiza or retired on the Algarve, the French peasant farmer driving their tractor through the new MacDonald’s, or the Italian bureistocrat* cheating on their taxes because they know the Germans will pay up in the end.

    Ho hum.

    * I claim this one. The meaning should be obvious. “Let them drink wine lake!”

  9. “The point isn’t whether they are stupid, it is whether they tend to be comically ignorant of history and geography. In my experience they do: even highly intelligent ones with impressive educational credentials.”

    Interesting, that’s not been my experience. And I’ve met a lot of highly educated Americans.

  10. @Dearieme

    Written in haste on an iPhone, what I mean is that people from Scotland are behind more than their fair share of the great techie leaps forward and life-enhancers.

    Here’s a few pretty much off the top of my head – Watt (steam engines), John Napier (various inc logarithms), Watson-Watt (radar), Alexander Graham Bell (telephone), Maxwell (various stuff inc electromagnetism and colour photography), Fleming (penicillin), James Black (beta blockers), Boyd Dunlop and John Dunlop (tyres), McAdam (tarmac), Telford (civil engineering greatnesses), John Shepherd-Barron and James Goodfellow (ATMs), James Gregory (first reflecting telescope), John Rickard Macleod (insulin), James Lind (scurvy), Dewar (vaccum flasks and cordite), Haldane (various), Murdock (street lighting) and Lindsay (electric light), Bain (fax machines in the 1850s), Logie Baird (early telly), Cummings (flushing loo), William Cullen (fridge), Braid (surgery under hypnosis pre anaesthetics), James Young Simpson, James Miller, Michael Tunstall (various advances in anaesthetics over 100 years or so), Alexander Wood (hypodermic needle), Andrew Ure (thermostat), James Beaumont Neilson (hot blast smelting), and who can forget C.U. McJimmy (deep fried Mars bars).

    Obviously most of them stood on the shoulders of giants etc, and competing claims da da da, but for a very small country with a tiny population they did pretty well, until the socialists took over.

    (I’m not Scottish.)

  11. dearieme – “The point isn’t whether they are stupid, it is whether they tend to be comically ignorant of history and geography. In my experience they do: even highly intelligent ones with impressive educational credentials.”

    Well America has long had a Comprehensive education system. So what do you expect?

    People used to call the Tory Party the Stupid Party. And Conservatism is very much an ideology for stupid people. Which is fine by me. Given that the smart ones have been committing treason for the last century. When Pol Pot came to power, the smart people cheered.

    So who gives a sh!t if Americans are dumb? They have got what matters right. America is free, rich and inventive.

  12. I agree with SMFS. The US is a great country, though in decline.

    I’m interested as to how the lefties prove Americans are thick. IQ tests are obviously a no-no.

  13. Bloke in Spain is correct. Ask the average European even fairly simple questions about US geography, politics or history and they’ll be utterly stumped. I don’t mean things like which States border Canada or who was the 14th President but questions like how many States there are or in which city the Constitution was signed.

  14. How often do we see similar research done with Brits? We’re fooling ourselves if we think Brits are that much different. I’ve heard of them going on holiday to foreign parts without being able to locate them on the map. I’d love to know how many could point to Russia despite the fact that it stretches halfway round the world.

  15. I’ve only met run-of-the-mill Americans, none of whom were stupid, but nearly all of them were geographically challenged.

    I think it’s that juxtaposition that’s interesting; bright, articulate people who have no clue where anywhere is or how that place might relate to another.

    This obviously has a knock-on effect historical-wise, but it would certainly be unfair to single out Americans for being ignorant of history.

  16. “People used to call the Tory Party the Stupid Party.” No, people didn’t; even the chap who did did it before the Labour Party was invented.

  17. “questions like how many States there are”: which notoriously seemed to fox Obama during his first presidential campaign. No doubt he was tired.

  18. @Dearieme My pleasure.

    Off the top of my head, Ford, Maxim, Colt and Browning, Gates, the people at NASA, the Wright Bros, the people at Boeing, the people at the Manhattan Project and the soldiers who kept us free during the 20th century, Steamboat Fulton, the people at Hollywood, the people behind jazz and soul and blues, Eli Whitney, Carrier of the AC, Goodyear, McCormick of agriculture, Sam Morse, Walt Disney, 80-odd Nobel physicists, 60-odd Nobel chemists, 100-odd Nobel medics, Malcolm McLean of containerised shipping, Ray Damadian of the MRI, Edison, Edwin Drake (oil), the people behind Apple, ebay and Amazon, the early video gamers, Clarence Birdseye, Estée Lauder, Levi Strauss, Leo Baekeland of plastics, Sperry and the boys who gave the world GPS FOC…

    There are about a million more I can add if you want.

  19. I can agree from personal experience that many Americans are relatively geographically ignorant. To me it is a function of size, the USA is so large with such geographical diversity that one can easily study and visit that without needing to know a lot about the wider world. By contrast, if one lives in a relatively small island the outside world looms considerably larger.

  20. Ford: Americans claim he invented has production. He didn’t. He did exploit it brilliantly though.

    Colt: Americans claim he invented the revolver. He didn’t. It had been a weapon of the cavalry in the Indian Army.

    “the people at NASA”: ah, Werner von Braun.

    “the people at the Manhattan Project”: many of whom were not American, though I’ll grant you the starring role of General Groves.

    Steamboat Fulton: Americans claim he invented the steamboat. He didn’t. He had been, however, a keen student of the trials of the first steamboat, the Charlotte Dundas, as developed by some of your beloved Scots.

    “Sam Morse”: Americans claim he invented the telegraph, but it just ain’t so. There was a telegraph system on the London railways long before (Wheatstone was the man).

    “Edison”: Americans claim he invented the first practical light bulb, but once again it’s bullshit. He was well beaten to it by Swann, lost his patent case and had to buy out his competitors.

    I hadn’t realised how much of American “history” is basically untruthful until I spent a day at the Smithsonian, where even the labels were often lies. The scales fell from my eyes.

    I’ll give you the Wright brothers, though – who seem to me if anything underrated – and a swathe of recent software/computer people.

    I’d say, on the contrary, it’s stunning how few absolutely top drawer people the US has produced, given its size and wealth. I have no idea why, or what it signifies, but no Shakespeare, Newton, Darwin, Gauss, Rembrandt, a Renaissance-full of Eyeties, Einstein, Maxwell, Smith, Hume, Descartes, …..

  21. When you start reducing ‘the people at NASA’ to von Braun you know you’ve lost the argument.

    As I said re the Scots, even Newton stood on the shoulders of giants.

    The great music and art of the middle to late 19th century couldn’t have been made in the USA because at that point the people in the USA were mainly cutting about the place with tomahawks.

    The great mechanisation of the industrial revolution mostly happened in Britain because of similar timing.

    In the 20th and 21st century, the innovation wrought in the USA has been astonishing. Sure Ford didn’t invent the motor car, but then no-one did (ditto almost everything). What he did was mass produce it for, er, the masses. That’s the point!

    You can quibble about steam boats and Colt if you wish (and you could have quibbled about many of the items in the Scottish list, or any similar list) but I note that you don’t question the Nobel prizes and US soldiers which have kept us free and alive, the Boeing 747, modern containerised shipping and the computerisation of the world.

  22. “it’s stunning how few absolutely top drawer people the US has produced, given its size and wealth. I have no idea why, or what it signifies, but no Shakespeare, Newton, Darwin, Gauss, Rembrandt, a Renaissance-full of Eyeties, Einstein, Maxwell, Smith, Hume, Descartes, …..”

    They’re a whole lot better at implementing, though. The Euros may have invented the automobile, but left to themselves, automobiles would still be bespoke horseless carriages for the wealthy. America produces a Henry Ford.
    A lot of the famous names stuff is intellectual snobbery. It presumes the “great discovery” is a unique event. It’s more a case, Maxwell’s Equations, or whatever, are ripe for formulation – being based on what’s gone before – & it’s Maxwell gets there first. But what’s really important is getting them to do something that’s worthwhile. Like show TV programmes.

  23. If you think Americans are stupid, trying living in Nigeria. I don’t know whether it is stupidity or not – I suspect not – but an awful lot of the population seem incapable of carrying out a simple task. Say what you like about the thicko Americans, they can run a shop where you can actually buy stuff and its clean. Ask your average Nigerian to stack three buckets in the corner by lunchtime and he’ll somehow fuck it up.

  24. “They’re a whole lot better at implementing, though.” Indeed, they’ve been excellent at that – hence my admiration for Ford, or Groves, or many another.

    “A lot of the famous names stuff is intellectual snobbery. It presumes the “great discovery” is a unique event.” Yeah, but it’s an American snobbery; they love attaching the wrong, American, names to the big practical advances.

    “I note that you don’t question the Nobel prizes”: indeed, but my remark was about the lack of really top drawer makers-of-civilisation geniuses, not about the next rank or two down – of which the US has been prolific since the Second World War. But they give Nobels every year, you know, even if it’s been a century since an Einstein.

    “US soldiers which have kept us free and alive”: I hope you’re going to give just a little credit to the RAF and the Red Army?

    “the Boeing 747”: jolly good, but undoable without radar (British) and jet engines (British and German) so should I dismiss it as mere “standing on the shoulders”? Why there was the long delay between the Wright Bros and the next big US advance in aeroplanes I have no idea. Just chance I dare say; there must be plenty of equivalent examples elsewhere.

    “modern containerised shipping”: jolly good; up there with the bicycle.

    “the computerisation of the world”: read again what I said – I explicitly did give credit for that.

    “The great music and art of the middle to late 19th century couldn’t have been made in the USA because at that point the people in the USA were mainly cutting about the place with tomahawks.” Utter bollocks; America had already copied swathes of the British and German industrial revolutions and made very fine extra contributions herself. But no-one absolutely top notch emerged: the nearest would be Michelson & Morley for their experiment, and Mark Twain. Some of their business moguls were pretty impressive, but they are nowadays dismissed in the US as “robber barons”. Seems harsh to me.

  25. “Why there was the long delay between the Wright Bros and the next big US advance in aeroplanes I have no idea. ”

    Which was this big delay?
    Europe got advances in military aviation because Europe needed aviating military. US was already working towards commercial aviation before WW1 with postal deliveries.The interwar years saw the introduction of regular passenger services throughout the States. US military aviation lagged European in the military sphere because the US didn’t have a lot of uses for military aviation. There’s no point building horrendously complicated & unreliable jet turbines to ferry encyclopedia salesmen around. They built the Douglas DC-3

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