This article by the BBC is as good an analysis as I’ve seen so far to explain why the hell Americans behave in the dumbass fashion that we do.
I think they’re wrong in tracing it back to the 60s, however. It goes further back than that. There’s always been a deep suspicion in this country of intellectuals, that they’re secretly making fun or putting themselves above others. You are supposed to become rich and successful due to your hard work or your charming personality or your innate talent rather than your intellectual gifts. What do you need all that book learnin for? There’s a large segment of American society that is deeply deeply suspicious and resentful of anyone who dares think for themselves, or questions ‘facts’ that are presented with no proof or rationality.
True Story: When the H1N1 vaccine came out, there was some debate as to whether or not people should get it. There are some legitimate reasons to decide not to (egg allergy, bad reaction to previous flu shot, compromised immune system), but there were also a lot of absolutely ludicrous statements floating around. In the course of a discussion, someone actually said in all sincerity that the vaccine caused death in 1% of people who got it. The lack of critical thinking skills evidenced by this statement is astonishing. I don’t disbelieve that propaganda of that sort was out there — I just can’t believe that people believed it! But then, people see numbers and their brains shut off. 1%, they think, that’s a pretty low number, maybe it’s true. Except, of course, 1% of even just 1,000,000 (and by that point about 20,000,000 doses had shipped) is 10,000. Even the American media could not fail to notice 10,000 randomly dead people.