IDIOT PROOF by Francis Wheen


Deluded Celebrities, Irrational Power Brokers, Media Morons, and the Erosion of Common Sense
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In his controlled pyrotechnic against idiocy, Wheen (Karl Marx, 2001) trots forth its champions, from Deepak Chopra to Thomas Friedman, and douses them with flammable liquid.

The author’s concern here is the application of the Enlightenment as an attitude, a “presumption that certain truths about mankind, society and the natural world could be perceived, whether through deduction or observation, and that the discovery of these truths would transform the quality of life.” Wheen is rarely so stuffy, but he is a serious citizen amidst all the ripe ironies as he demands “an insistence on intellectual autonomy, a rejection of tradition and authority as the infallible sources of truth, a loathing for bigotry and persecution, a commitment to free inquiry,” just as Bacon, Locke, or Newton did and just as Tina Brown's Vanity Fair, “a parish magazine for the new plutocracy,” never did. Wheen sometimes takes a little too long to make a point, and he does like the sound of his own voice, even when it is luxuriating in facile trumpings like “money is power, and power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. The logic is inescapable: Rich people are sexy.” But he also has a handle on other obvious points that seem to have escaped general notice: for example, that “globalism doesn't necessarily require or promote democracy,” or that the bleeting of Samuel Huntington “sounds eerily like the specious inductive reasoning that was once deployed to explain why the suffrage would not be extended to females, or the population of India, or black South Africans.” Call Wheen on points when aggravated, but he’ll make you think hard.

“Where can we look for assurance that it’s still the same reliably inevitable old world we loved to hate?” asked Russell Baker. Look no further.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2004
ISBN: 1-58648-247-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2004


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