The Uncouth Question at Aspen: Are Americans Smart or Dumb?

socialmedia.jpg
In the terraced and dim Aspen music club, the Belly Up, Strauss Zelnick, media impresario, noted during Tuesday night's panel on social media and journalism that his job as a businessman has never been easier.

"It's never been easier or cheaper for me to market." Thanks to social media, Zelnick said, he can spend $2 million marketing a game like Red Dead Redemption instead of $24 million buying ads in the New York Times and on CBS. And fewer journalists doing less journalism, he noted, makes it easier for unscrupulous types to deceive people. 

Vivian Schiller, NPR's CEO, responded, "I think you underestimate the intelligence of the American public." 

Almost reflexively -- and for the first and only time of the night -- the crowd erupted with laughter, hisses, boos, and "oohs." 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, at least that group of Ideas Festival attendees didn't think the American public was quite so smart. 

Was it a nasty show of elitism? Maybe. But I've been in plenty of less privileged places and heard the same sorts of hoots when a solid belief in the smarts of our citizenry is expressed. 

It got me wondering: in the least nuanced way possible, do you think the American people are Wall-E idiots or underrated intellects? And is your view specific to Americans, or part of your more general view of human nature? On what evidence do you condemn or uphold the intelligence of a 350 million person nation? 

Image: The night's panel from left to right: David Kirkpatrick, Vivian Schiller, Charles Firestone, Arianna Huffington, and Strauss Zelnick. Credit: Alexis Madrigal.
Presented by

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Entertainment

Just In