The Four Horsemen of the Bamboozle

Bamboozle:   [bam-boo-zuh l]                                                     

 verb (used with object), bamboozled, bamboozling.

 to deceive or get the better of (someone) by underhanded methods, trickery, flattery, or the like; humbug; hoodwink (often followed by into):

                                           They bamboozled us into believing that we were smart.    


If you are going to plagiarize a metaphor, you might as well rip off one of the greatest ones of all time, especially if it has been safely in the public domain for more than 2000 years. Although our “Four Horsemen of the Bamboozle” cannot claim to represent something quite as catastrophic as their biblical forbearers, “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (After all, being a harbinger of the “end of times” is a hard act to follow) they are, in the non-scriptural reality of their existence, something even more threatening.


Our Horsemen: the American Educational System, Mainstream Mass Media, Politico-Corporate Greed and Religious Fundamentalism make an interesting team, though not by any means a well coordinated one. All four, some purposely and others unwittingly, are contributing to the rising tide of “Stupid” that is sweeping over a sizable portion of America’s population. Do I think that these institutions are working closely together in some shared conspiracy to dumb down America and make us all a mindless, anti-science bunch of consumerist zombies? Absolutely not! First of all, “conspiracy” is a strong word that should be used sparingly, although I must admit some of the weirder “conspiracies” are tempting for someone with an imagination to fathom. I would love to throw intellectual caution to the wind and believe in conspiracies about the hidden alien remains at Area 51, the fluoridated drinking water meant to turn us into a nation of cavity-free weaklings, and the war to the death going on between the secret remnants of the Knights Templar and the Vatican over a cover-up of Jesus’ marriage to Mary Magdalene. I would, however, have to draw the line at believing F.D.R. let the attack on Pearl Harbor happen to get us involved in World War II, or blaming George W. for 9/11, (although I do blame the little weasel and his cronies for a Hell of a lot since then). Also, Just for the record, I am a firm believer that it took more than that wimp Oswald to successfully carry out the Kennedy assassination (lone gunman, my ass).


Our Four Horsemen of the Bamboozle, however, do not, in any way, operate under a conspiracy. These creations of our modern, manipulative age are complicated, massive and long-standing societal fixtures. Attempting to carry out a conspiracy involving entities like these would be like trying to coordinate the Swiss Navy, the Royal Army of Tonga, the Harlem Globe Trotters, and the Bolshoi Ballet in an attack on Bolivia to liberate Mongolia. It wouldn’t work, but it would be totally ‘effin fun to watch on CNN.


Nope, no conspiracy here, but The Four Horsemen of the Bamboozle, each have a lot to gain from maintaining the status quo of stupidity, and they all participate in and benefit from the dumbing-down of America for reasons as complex as they are varied. Therefore, the next questions we need to examine are: If encumbering the sloth-minded masses among us with a blanket of mindlessness is purposeful, what are the Horsemen’s ultimate goals? On the other hand, if a certain proportion of our stupidity is accidental, is it simply unexpected fallout from some other undertaking, or is the idiocy a byproduct of conscious choices, other ambitions that are seen as more of a priority than the raising of a literate and creative populous?


If we were able to interview our Four Horsemen of the Bamboozle, and, even more amazing, if we were able to extract truthful answers from them, what would their responses be to our prime question: Why are you screwing a good potion of the American public and in consequence the rest of the nation, by forcing them to dwell in the world of the “Stupid”?

Mainstream Mass Media says:

  • It is easier for us to provide a slanted opinion geared to our corporation’s benefit than to allow our viewers to be exposed to counterpoints that would confuse their teeny-tiny monkey brains.
  •  A malleable mind = good ad reception.

Politico-Corporate Greed says:

  • If our forefathers had wanted a country built on true democracy, they would not have invented the Electoral College, super delegates for political conventions, the filibuster and a Supreme Court that would side with Citizens United. (I know the founding fathers couldn’t have foreseen something like Citizens United, but it and the ruling that upheld it are such anti-democratic travesties that I couldn’t ignore them.)
  •  An ignorant electorate = a non-voting electorate = continuation of our cozy little status quo.

 Religious Fundamentalism says:

  •  Its easier to manipulate people when you can tell them frightening, make-believe stories that can take their minds off such disturbing tools of the Devil as science and reality.
  •  A dumber congregation means more money for us, and the continuation of our tax-free con games.

 The American Educational System says:

  • It’s easier imparting bargain-basement education than it is to spend the big bucks to make an enlightened instructional system that is the envy of the entire world.
  •  It is easier to continually jerry-rig repairs to a rickety, barely functional, old structure, than it is to build a brand new exceptional one from the bottom up.

The one premise that I’m sure all of the Four Horsemen of the Bamboozle would agree on is that it is easier to control the masses and to hide things from them when they are in essence stupid or at least can be maintained in their ignorance. This is accomplished in several key ways: 

  • Manipulation via out and out lies. (There is really no way to sugarcoat that bit of noxious information.)
  • Misinformation spread by the ill informed (AKA stupid or ignorant) to the even more ill informed (AKA even stupider and more ignorant). This includes parents, other relatives and friends as well as the Media, Fundamentalists, and the Politico-Corporate structure.
  • Misdirection: Don’t worry your little simian noggin about that, check out this nice yummy banana!

Our Four Horsemen of the Bamboozle use the “Three M’s” above (Manipulation, Misinformation and Misdirection) in a continued effort to keep as many people in the dark as possible. If nothing else, it is my sincerest hope that the questions asked in this blog will have the effect of encouraging a few who have not done so already, to flick on their lights.



Eric Stowell is an educator who teaches Government, Economics, History and Philosophy in an urban high school. Though he does not claim to have definitive answers to the question “Why is America so stupid?” this blog intends to be devoted to examining various aspects of this important query, as well as all of its political, educational and social ramifications. Mr. Stowell takes full responsibility for any thoughts that appear here

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