Occasional politics

When you vote, think of this

and never forget that too many of them vote

“Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes.” — Isaac Asimov

If Fox News supports a candidate, then you can be assured that person is one of the people Asimov refers to in this quote.  (Christine O’Donnell anyone?  Sarah Palin ring any bells?)

Another of life’s eternal, unanswerable questions: Why is stupidity so popular?

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11 replies »

  1. Hello! Stupidity is popular simply because there are more followers in this world than leaders. There are more sheep than pastors, mores snakes than charmers, more parrots than free thinkers.

    Unfortunately the leaders are not always in the right; if they were this would be a much better world, wouldn´t it?

    • Thank you for visiting the site and taking the time to respond to a post. I enjoyed meeting you Wednesday, and particularly getting to see a bit of your work.

      Of course, it would never work the other way — more leaders than followers — by definition. The problem I elude to here is that ignorant (or dumb or stupid) people are not intellectually capable of knowing when they are supporting and electing people who are just like them — intellectually deficient, ignorant, dumb. And that is why we do not live in a better world. That is why our leaders are more often than not idiots.

      Currently a candidate running as a Republican (naturally) for a seat in the US Senate from the state of Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, who is about as intellectually deficient as a human being can be and still get through the day, has a campaign ad that claims: “I am you.” Yes, she is, and that is what is truly frightening and disheartening about the political process. This woman is just as stupid as the people who will vote for her, and the cycle never ends.

      This sad situation has no borders.

  2. when i saw the title of this post i recalled an older post of yours that asked the same question: how and why do so many people function on stupidity, esp. when it comes to democracy?

    some things don’t seem to change, or it takes way too long.

    • Yes, this is one of my recurring themes. I have an intellectual fascination with ignorance and dumbness; I want to understand why they are so persistent.

      Nicole, isn’t there a big fucking storm headed your way? Maybe you should stay inside and write all day.

  3. Hello! thanks for replying to my comment, Don. I have let the subject sit for a day. Previously, I believe I was implying we should really strive to think for ourselves. You are right, not everybody is prepared to lead but perhaps we can all try to think freely, to be leaders of our own actions, so to speak.

    The problem with the question you pose is, I think, the issue of opinion. What you may consider idiotic sounds brilliant to some. In Argentina we are seeing extreme positions develop in everything to the point where it becomes almost impossible to have a coherent argument with people in the opposite political spectrum. I find some positions stupid beyond belief and yet those deemed so idiotic by me go about their loony business without batting an eye.

    So, going back to your question, “why is stupidity so popular?” I guess I would have to say the person I think is really stupid is asking the same thing about me because I have different views and opinions.

    So who is right? I have often struggled with this issue and have foound that the only way out is to try to point that finger at myself and ask “What am I being stupid about?” Luckily, I have certainties too and I think my stupidity alarm is accurate when it goes off (of course, that is MY opinion).

    Since this is a theme for you I was wondering if you have read Paul Tabori’s book “Natural History of Stupidity”. I have not read it so I can’t make further comments.

    • Hello Maria. I try to always respond to anyone who comments here; seems a common courtesy to me.

      “Natural History of Stupidity” sounds like just the book for me. Thanks for the recommendation.

      I have to disagree that what I refer to as dumb, ignorant, or the harsher term, stupid, is only or simply a matter of differing opinion. I welcome debate with intelligent and rational people with different opinions from my own. The emphasis is on intelligent and especially rational. I learn and improve my own opinions from contrast, not from echo.

      Dumb or ignorant (more or less redundant) is not a direct result of one’s opinions, but the direct result of holding indefensible opinions, or utterly irrational opinions, or opinions that are flagrantly and obvious without factual basis, or that have no recourse to verification.

      Adding the adjective “extreme” to the word opinion does not mean that such opinions are inaccurate or dumb, it simply means that one holding extreme opinions acts in such way regarding his opinions that an extreme is reached. Opinions in themselves are emotion-neutral.

      I have simple criteria that enable me to decide when opinions (and persons espousing them) are dumb or stupid — when they don’t make sense, when such opinions have no possibility of ever been verified, and when they are simply and obviously not factual.

      More often than not, the cause that leads to the consequences of dumb opinions is ignorance (which is not the same as being uneducated; some really dumb people have a lot of formal education, and conversely, some extraordinarily smart people have much less).

      So who is right? I don’t think this is a difficult question. “Right” in this case is simply when one’s opinions are rooted in fact, or in the result of factual analysis, and have been subjected to the common tenets of critical thinking — which means rational thought resulting in opinions which are publicly available and verifiable, using terms available to all parties.

      If I tried to argue the case that unicorns live in caves in southern Patagonia, where they produce black cheese and read Plato, you might call that opinion stupid.

      There are often political opinions of that kind; many religious opinions are of that kind.

      What one believes is an opinion, what one knows is a fact. The former is not subject to test or the criteria of common verifiability, the latter does not exist until it meets those tests and criteria.

      Dumb is mixing the two.

      Thank you again for your visit and stimulating remarks.

  4. An addendum to my previous comment.

    Since I mentioned two public figures by name in the original post — Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell — I can use them to expand on the point of this post.

    O’Donnell has not shown one bit of public evidence, in her past and in her present, that would indicate she is anything her than a rather dumb human being who happens to be physically cute and entertainingly personable. She is the poster child for dumb people running for public office.

    Palin, on the other hand, is far from dumb or stupid. She knows exactly what she’s doing and what her best chance is of getting what she wants from life in the public sphere. (Rich, for the most part.) She is not dumb, she’s malevolently self-serving.

    Both are dangerous to the wider public good.

  5. Hello Rose (my Titanic moment of the morning). No, I didn’t see Colbert. We don’t get the really interesting stuff on TV here. Sometimes I come across Colbert, Bill Maher, Stewart, on the Internet, but I usually have to be looking for them.

    If O’Donnell hadn’t appeared from the Tea wing of the GOP, the Democratic Party ought to have created her. She is, as I wrote earlier, the poster child for appealing to the lowest common denominator among voters. She is stunningly inept. But cute and comical, so that’s something. She’ll get a comedy talk show on Fox when this election fiasco is over.

    Palin started her life as a Christine O’Donnell, but instead of simply being cute and comical, Palin has a darker, more malevolent edge to her character. She is the poster child for the philosophy of — anything for money. Say anything, profess anything, so long as it brings in big bucks. If being dumb paid well, she would have stayed dumb. She still isn’t smart enough or educated enough to play in the land of intellectual giants, and she knows it, so she went the other way … I’m as dumb as you are, I’m just like you, I believe whatever it is you believe; oh, thanks for the check.

    Christine is dumb scary; Sarah is scary scary.

    But the scariest thing remains the problem that began this rant: There are more people in America who are just like either Christine or Sarah (Christine’s ad was right, she is just like them), than there are people capable of rational, critical thinking. So long as that remains the case, politics will be a malevolent circus.

    Goodbye, Rose.
    (My second Titanic moment of the morning.)

  6. Hi Don, me again. Oh, this subject is truly so debatable! I really like your positivistic approach to rationality, I tend to agree. BUT you say “Opinions in themselves are emotion-neutral” and I really disagree here.

    I have just finished reading a book called “How We Decide” which I found really, really interesting. Latest studies show that emotion IS actually involved in decision making and that is apparently a good thing (the authors explain this at great length). In a nut shell, on reason alone we would not be able to make a decision and would debate an issue, such as when to make a doctor’s appointment, for hours on end.

    I wish the issue of being right with good, solid arguments were that simple. We are not talking about flying unicorns. I don’t like Palin personally but have American friends who are far from stupid and they might argue in favor of her with arguments that are certainly not dumb. Tricky.

    Believe me, emotion is involved.

    Anyway, my dos centavos.

    Best regards.

    • Thanks for coming back and keeping it going, Maria.

      Let me clarify something. Opinions in and of themselves, the statement, the string of words, are nothing without the application of a human mind, and is therefore emotion-neutral. Words are marks of a certain size and shape until given meaning through mental processes. That is what I mean by emotion-neutral. The emotion component belongs to the thinker, not to the marks on the paper or the sound waves in the air. In other words, it is the person who provides the emotional content to opinion.

      I think the example you provide from “How We Decide,” which I have not read, borders on the silly … rather, the trivial. Emotion — it is essentially a psychological state — is of course an element of every action and every thought, but without the control, the governor, of one’s ability for critical thinking and reasoned analysis, every thing we do would have the appearance of an exploding golf ball, little pieces of us flying out in all directions, in random and meaningless fashion. The essential definition of a psychopath is someone who is not able to rationally control his emotions.

      Actually, Maria, too often we are precisely talking about the emotional equivalent of unicorns. What is god and heaven and angels if not the emotional (and unreasonable, and irrational) equivalent of a unicorn in a cave in Patagonia making black cheese and reading Plato? In fact, the unicorn is more reasonable because it meets the deniability factor in knowing.

      As Karl Popper so astutely observed, that which has no possibility of being denied (disproven, as it were) has no meaning, does not count as knowledge. Science progresses knowledge as much by what it proves wrong as by what it proves right, and something which is not capable of being proven either wrong or right has no meaning in terms of human knowledge.

      Which returns to my original point. Dumb is believing the unbelievable to be the case, and then acting on such a belief.

      I have never once heard a single reasoned defense of Sarah Palin’s beliefs or actions. They may exist, but I have not encountered one. So if you know of arguments in favor of Sarah Palin, I mean sensible and reasoned ones, please forward them along.

      If I am to make a judgement about what to believe about a person who wants power over my life, I base that on what a person does, not what a person says — the existentialist in me leaking out. On that basis, Sarah Palin is malevolent and self-serving.

      Christine O’Donnell, on that same basis, is just really dumb.

      Both of them want to be in a position to make decisions about how the rest of us will live. That’s why it matters.

  7. Hello, Don! Not an easy subject to put to rest, is it? Supidity, how we decide, and how we actually take in the world (and put out a response).

    You say “If I am to make a judgement about what to believe about a person who wants power over my life, I base that on what a person does, not what a person says”.

    Amen.