Intellectual Torture Porn: What We Get Out Of Watching Americans Be Idiots

Last Thursday, I posted an article about a study that was sent to my Daily Banter email address by someone named Kacie Rahm. She, along with her teammates, had been commissioned by a website called Movoto to do a study on just how poor Americans’ sense of their own national geography is.

That team gathered a collection of 400 people and had them attempt to locate all of the states on an unlabeled map. For each of the states, quiz-takers were given 5 seconds to move their cursors to the correct area of the map. The twist: their cursors were outfitted with motion-tracking technology which allowed Movoto’s team to see exactly how they moved their mice when searching for the correct answer.

The results are about as disappointing as any cynic may come to expect:

But what is the actual point of this study?

To help illustrate how little our countrymen know about the country we all pledge allegiance to? Maybe.

Does it change your opinion to find out that Movoto is, to quote Ms. Rahm’s email to me, “an online resource that allows potential home buyers to browse available real estate” that are “also well known for the top 10 lists and other viral content posted on their blog” too.

What about now?

It’s a cultural pastime to mock those that aren’t in the know (see: Jay Leno’s Jaywalking), and sure it’s great for us as an audience to get validation that we are, in fact, not the most uninformed creatures on the planet, but what’s the endgame to all this?

If it’s to demonstrate a problematic knowledge-divide in our culture, congratulations, that horse is dead.

If it’s to show others the error of their intellectual ways by publicly ridiculing them, we’re the worst teachers of all time, as the dunce cap and shame corner fell out of favor around the same time as the abacus.

Which means this is really all for our entertainment…

This is intellectual torture porn.

When one screams (/types emphatically), “Ahhh, how could you not know that’s where Louisiana is?! That’s the boot!” there’s that quick mini-endorphine rush, somewhere between a sneeze and an orgasm, that gets released. There’s that brief, fleeting sensation of appeasement and confirmation of self.

It feels good to be on top…

But what about that purple dot from the Mid-Atlantic, a small town in Maryland maybe, who is hoping that the large rectangle she is resting on is Nebraska even though it is most definitively South Dakota.

Where does she fit in all this? What about her?

She probably got some money for doing this “study”, but where is that really going to get her?

Let’s be honest with ourselves and admit that this is all for our benefit.

And that doesn’t mean we have to stop doing it cold turkey, sometimes we all need a little “validation of self” if you know what I mean, but let’s at least have the decency to be slightly ashamed about what we’re doing.

And hey, at least Jay Leno has stopped sticking his microphone in peoples’ faces…

 

Originally posted on The Daily Banter on April 29, 2014