Sunday, July 23, 2006
The High Value of Low Thinking
The Rise of Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, and George W. Bush.
Ask people what they think of President George W. Bush, and I am sure some form of the word “stupid” will be used. It may be the polite “he isn’t that sharp” or “he is not a reader” or my favorite one: “he is not a curious man”. Regardless of what form of the word one uses, his intelligence will certainly be called into question by every one of his detractors. If he is stupid, as some would say, then what does that say of a society that elected him at least one time?
There are many examples of the President’s supposed lack of skill when it comes to public speaking. It does not take long to find numerous examples of these on the internet, one of the best places being Slate’s “Bushism of the Day”. All of these certainly point to a man who is in the process of learning the English language, but there is no way that Harvard educated Bush cannot properly speak English.
One of his most well known gaffes is the famous “misunderestimate me” he once uttered about why he always seemed to win. Everyone, myself included, just listed this as the new Quayle. I looked forward to four years of humorous press conferences and great SNL skits. The more he spoke, the more these gaffes emerged. People began to seriously underestimate him as a thinker. He would feed this myth by stating that he did not read newspapers or watch the news. He came across as a vacant space ready to be filled.
I began to think about the term “misunderestimate” and dissect it. To estimate is to make a guess. To underestimate is to guess to short. The prefix “mis” means "bad or wrong". So, to misunderestimate someone is to underestimate them the wrong way. With this one simple verbal play, he identified every hostile reporter out there. He also made the opposition relax, since they would now assume him to be a simpleton from Texas.
Bush is not from Texas. Bush is from the same New England that Kerry was attacked for being from. The difference is that Kerry still lives there while Bush ran off to recreate himself. There is nothing wrong with leaving your home to recreate yourself. I have done it many times myself, but one should never deny who one was. Bush’s “man of the land cowboy anti-intellectual” image is a slap in the face to his upbringing and his education.
During the 2004 campaign against Kerry, Bush was often portrayed as the dumber of the two. A few months after the election, once Bush had won, the grades of both candidates were released and Bush had a higher G.P.A. than Kerry.
Most people, when their intelligence is attacked on a global scale, would seek to prove they were not an idiot. One possible reason why a person would not seek to correct this is if they wanted it to be assumed that they were stupid. I did not do drugs in high school, yet had the reputation of being one of my schools biggest burn-outs. It was due to my naturally large pupils. People would look at me and just assume I was stoned. I did nothing to correct this mistake either. Why? Because people underestimated me when they thought I was stoned. It gave me an advantage in dealing with them. I could use their confidence in my lack of ability against them. Now, I figured this trick out at 14, so it is not that far off to guess that Bush would know the same trick.
Let me say for clarity that I am aware that all people do project upon others what they think they would do in a similar situation, so I could be fully projecting my trick on Bush, but I do not think so.
The main reason I believe in my heart that Bush is faking his stupidity and encouraging the stories of his lack of intelligence can be summed up in two other success stories: Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton.
Much like George Bush, when one thinks of either Jessica Simpson or Paris Hilton, the word “dumb” or some form there of is not too long in coming. Both of these women have made an entire celebrity career off of verbal gaffes and the impression of stupidity.
Jessica Simpson had been trying for fame since she was a child. First trying out to be on the New Mickey Mouse club with Britney Spears and Christina Agularia, she has tried for the level of fame her peers have achieved. They came out with albums around the same time as she did, yet they rose to fame while she still remained mostly unknown.
Then she got her big break, a reality show on MTV about her marriage. One simple verbal gaffe (“Is this chicken that I have, or is it fish? I know it’s tuna, but it says Chicken? By the sea. Is that stupid?”) and she was mocked on every late night comedy show. Jessica Simpson became the new word for “dumb blonde” and she encouraged it by giving more and more.
Was turning down Buffalo wings because "I don't eat buffalo" a sign of being stupid? I do not think so at all. She later appeared in a Pizza Hut commercial for Buffalo wings looking at a buffalo with wings. She was now famous and everywhere.
Paris Hilton, like Jessica Simpson, wanted to be famous. She tried being a model, and was quite good at it, but, even with her famous name, never rose to supermodel status. She was better known as a party girl, but I believe she knew her looks were the secret to success, so when a sex tape was “accidentally” released, she became big news.
While sex sells, making someone feel superior to someone else will make one rich. The famous "Wal-Mart, what's that? Do they, like, make walls there?" quote made America feel so much smarter than her, that they needed more. She was now famous.
Paris Hilton has recently admitted in the press that she is not as dumb as she came across, but found celebrity easier playing that part. Much like me in high school playing the stoner, they played up to people’s stereotypes and used them.
I have no proof that Jessica Simpson or George Bush are faking their “gaffs” as Paris Hilton as admitted to, but when I look at how well they have used it for success and fame, I must assume they know exactly what they are doing.
It does make me wonder: does the rise in number of “dumb” celebrities have any effect on the falling test scores in school? I mean, why be smart when stupid gets you further? Just thinking with my fingers.