Take No Prisoners

The New Stupid

A distressing phenomenon is sweeping the western world. It used to be that people ranged from stupid to enlightened, and the enlightened could easily tell them apart. But now, a new class of citizen has been born — I call them “the new stupid.” Let me give you some examples of beliefs that seem common to the three groups: the old (or traditional) stupid people, the new stupid people, and the enlightened.

Old Stupid: the mainstream media is relatively trustworthy
New Stupid: the mainstream media is bogus because it’s owned by big corporations, so the only place to learn the real facts is alternative media (like Digg)
Enlightened: Almost everything reported in both kinds of media is non-news. What’s actually going on in world politics, science and business is far too complicated to explain in a short blog post or news hour. Both mainstream and alternative media are subject to systematic manipulation by people with enough money or the right skills.

Old Stupid: In the US, the republicans are religiously and fiscally conservative, the democrats are liberal.
New Stupid: Both parties have lost their way, and creating grassroots support for fresh thinkers like Dennis Kucinach and Ron Paul are the key to turning the country around.
Enlightened: Grassroots support and voting are irrelevant. The election is rigged, not by some conspiracy theorist group like the illuminati, but by corporations, foreign countries and, of course, the two major parties.

Old Stupid: believe in creationism
New Stupid: believe in evolution
Even-Newer-Stupid: realize that theories can’t be proven; are skeptical about evolution
Enlightened: Understand that a good theory is the best explanation we have right now, and set a standard of evidence, which, once reached, is ground for action. Further understand that the evidence in support of evolution has exceeded any reasonable standard.

Old Stupid: don’t believe in man-made climate change
New Stupid: believe in man-made climate change
Enlightened: understand that the cause of climate change is not the issue. What matters is that if the temperature rises too much it will cause massive famine and bigger, meaner hurricanes, and that’s a good enough reason to try to stop it.

Old Stupid: gives up personal freedoms for security
New Stupid: realizes that security is pointless if you’ve become serfs, indentured to big brother; sees libertarianism as the answer
Enlightened: understand that libertarianism (i.e., centrality of individual freedom) quickly degrades into anarchy, in which only the most ruthless, evil motherfuckers survive

Old Stupid: think the “Don’t Taze Me Bro!” guy was a douchebag
New Stupid: think the “Don’t Taze Me Bro!” guy was a poster child for the evaporation of freedom of speech
Enlightened: Realize that 1) Police use of Tasers is or should be illegal in most countries because it violates the UN Convention Against Torture, and 2) Freedom of Speech is a myth — it never existed, and probably won’t exist anytime soon.

Old Stupid: think everyone should adopt their culture
New Stupid: think other cultures are important and should be preserved
Enlightened: evaluate elements of culture one at a time, recognizing that some are hurtful, others empowering, e.g., female genital mutilation versus freedom of thought

Old Stupid: think kids should abstain from sex and drugs
New Stupid: realize abstinence education doesn’t work
Enlightened: realize that the entire education system is so horribly broken that it needs a from-scratch redesign

Old Stupid: believe the government is looking out for us
New Stupid: believe the government is systematically manipulating us
Enlightened: believe the government, corporations, religious leaders and so on are comprised of thousands of individuals with heterogenous agendas, all consciously or unconsciously trying to manipulate different segments of the public. This menagerie of Machiavellian bullshitters has convoluted and unpredictable effects.

Old Stupid: think unauthorized downloading of music and movies is stealing
New Stupid: think unauthorized downloading of music and movies is not stealing
Enlightened: think that “stealing” is a socially constructed concept, and if the majority of society feels that unauthorized downloading is not stealing, the law should be changed to reflect that. The idea that laws reflect the will of the people is a central concept in democracy. There’s this thing called a “referendum”…

Old Stupid: think we all need guns to protect ourselves from criminals and terrorists
New Stupid: think we all need guns to protect ourselves from our own government
Enlightened: realize that guns are ineffective against bombs and planes crashing into your workplace (terrorists) or tanks, F15s and battleships (government).

Old Stupid: think that school is bullshit, all that matters is experience
New Stupid: think that if you do well in school, you’ll get a good job
Enlightened: realize that grades and experience are both bullshit — the meaning and causes of success are far more complex

I think you can see the pattern here. “The New Stupid” are people who’ve blindly latched on to positions opposing those normally held by those the enlightened call stupid: “The Old Stupid.” Enlightened people think critically about things, especially their own ideas. They make up their minds one issue at a time, and try to recognize when they just don’t know.