Maine is the dumbest state in the nation.
The Internet says so.
Just Google "Maine dumbest" and see what comes up.
There's a very colorful map currently making social media and blog rounds for probably the second or third time, with the title: "The United States of Shame," and it purports to list what each state is worst at. And, apparently, the map's creators have determined that Maine is worst at being intelligent. Emblazoned across the blue-tinted state of Maine is "DUMBEST STATE."
It also proclaims North Dakota the "Ugliest," Ohio the "Nerdiest," and Nevada the ... well, state with the highest porn usage.
Oh, OK. So, it's a joke, right?
But the map is also accompanied by a "statistics and rationale" section which states, authoritatively: "Most stats taken from http://www.americashealthrankings.org/ and http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/rankings.html (unless otherwise noted).
Oh, OK. So, it's not a joke?
Here's a little test: Google "Maine dumbest." We did. And of the 10 results on the first page, the top three were headlined: "Maine: 'dumbest state' in the U.S., but at least we're not the ugliest;" "Is Maine the dumbest state in the Union?," and "Maine is the Dumbest State."
The first one was from the Bangor Daily News blog, the second from the website For the Sake of Science, and the third was from the Maine radio state WWMJ 95.7.
Eight of Google's top 10 results referred to this article; only two referred to articles about "dumb criminals" and "dumb laws."
Now Google "California dumbest," or "Vermont dumbest," or "Ohio dumbest." Most of the time, the closest you will get is dumb state laws, or the state being called "dumb" by an editorial writer.
In the case of Vermont, the sixth result isn't really about Vermont: It is headlined: "Maine dumbest state" and refers to the Bangor Daily News blog about this map, published last week, where the writer happens to mention Vermont.
So, is it a joke or a serious list based on facts? What is this bit of trivia that no doubt has been consumed and passed on by millions over the two years since it was created?
The item was originally posted on, and is sourced to, the humor website pleated-jeans.com, in January of 2011. The writer introduced the item this way on his website: "Whether it’s a fat population, high rate of STDs or excessive tax rate, it turns out that every state ranks dead last in at least one unsavory category."
So was Maine the "dumbest state" in 2010? Well, it did come in last in SAT scores, according to the College Board, the source cited by pleated-jeans.com But, that's not the whole story: Maine, which requires all students to take the SAT test, at 93 percent, had the highest percentage of its students taking the test in the country. Most of the 20 states with the highest scores had student participation rates only in the single digits.
So, does that make it a "fact" that Maine is the dumbest state?
What is a fact, for sure, is that Maine now has that designation all over the Internet, and many of the references sited in Google don't refer back to the humor site where it originated.
What is also a fact is that most people who see this item — with its brightly colored map and snarky list — pop up on their Facebook page or inbox aren't going to think twice about where it came from or whether it's based on fact. They will just snicker and pass it on.
The fact is, some so-called "facts" on the Internet really aren't. Pass that on.