South Carolina has been the butt of many a joke lately, and deservedly so.

From Gov. Mark Sanford to U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, the Palmetto State has received more than its share of bad publicity on national news shows, not to mention late-night talk shows.

It reminds me of that infamous quote from anti-secessionist James L. Petigru back in 1860, when our state led the charge to leave the union.

"South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum," he said.

Granted, our little corner of the world is an interesting place to live. Our history is littered with outlandish political characters ranging from Gov. "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman to convicted congressman John Jenrette, who became famous for having sex with his wife on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

And modern times are no different.

Laughing stock

Sanford made us the laughing stock of the world when he lied about his whereabouts last year. He said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he really was in Argentina with his mistress.

Now the world has gotten a good look at Jenny Sanford since the governor's soon-to-be-ex-wife has written a book and is making the rounds on the national talk-show circuit.

And don't forget congressman Wilson of Lexington, who shouted "You lie!" while President Barack Obama addressed Congress and the nation.

That made us all look like a bunch of idiots. Like we needed his help.

All this followed the 2007 revelation when Caitlin Upton, Miss Teen South Carolina, got a little confused about people and countries in her ill-fated attempt to answer a question about why people can't find the U.S. on a map.

Now the geographically challenged beauty queen is making a comeback on "The Amazing Race," a reality show that requires contestants to actually find places on a map.

And don't forget our illustrious Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who recently said giving people government assistance is like feeding stray animals because it just causes them to reproduce.

Stupidity travels fast

I hope everybody around the country and the world gets a big kick out of kicking us when we're down. Of course, people have been doing and saying stupid things ever since stupid people were invented. The only difference now is that in today's Internet world, stupidity travels at the speed of light.

Say something stupid this morning and it's on a hundred Web sites, blogs and YouTube by lunchtime.

If it gains enough traction, it becomes the opening joke on David Letterman by bedtime, and Robin Roberts will be interviewing your kindergarten teacher on "Good Morning America" about what an idiot you were as a kid.

So here's the solution to our public relations problem. When somebody asks where you live, tell them North Carolina, because most people don't know the difference anyway.

Reach Ken Burger at kburger@postandcourier.com or 937-5598.