What if People Are Just Stupid?
At what point do we stop being polite and call #stopthesteal what it is: stupid.
I’m averse to the word “stupid”. For many years I have exchanged it for words like ignorant, persuadable, or uninformed because those are all things that can be changed. They do not indicate that something is inherently wrong with the way a person’s brain functions, nor that they are somehow, in an irreversible way, worse off than others. When I say those things, I am trying to say, “This person clearly, for whatever reason, lacks the information necessary to make an informed decision.” However, recently, I have had a very difficult time not using the word stupid. I find myself wondering: at what point does someone believing the ranting and ravings of an autocratic toddler over rigorously fact-checked journalism, unbiased international organizations, and the entire American legal apparatus, make them stupid?
For a while, after the election results became clear, I decided people were just angry. Anger makes people irrational, prone to quickly agree with anything that allows them to continue being angry. Yet, as the weeks drag on, and the straws become harder and harder to grasp, the doubling down has really started to disturb me. The idea that millions of Americans believe that millions more Americans, along with whatever legal apparatus is involved, are conveniently deep in some wild conspiracy to steal an election from easily the most reviled president in history is simply absurd.
My struggle to not think of people as stupid gets harder and harder every time I check Twitter like I’m checking on an infected wound to see if it has scabbed over yet. It very much has not. Often, when I am there, I will click and read some new conservative viral article from Breitbart, OAN, NewsMax, or The Federalist, often shared by the president, in the interest of finding out just what it is that makes these people so convinced. And one after another, I find nothing there, I mean, like — nothing. Often these articles have inflammatory headlines but, when you open them up, are often just recounting some bullshit some talking Trumpian Evangelist said.
When people try to refute these tidal waves of information, they are met with a blind refusal to engage in rational debate because the arguments being made are irrational. All of this garbage is impossible to fight in the same way it was impossible to fight when a middle school bully said, “Hey, you like to fuck dogs!” and you said, “I don’t like to fuck dogs!” and they said, “That’s just something someone who likes to fuck dogs would say!” and you say, “No it isn’t!” and they say, “Ha! You know that because you like to fuck dogs!”
Game. Set. Match. Genius.
When I bring up these frustrations with friends and family, I am often met with the phrase: “What did you expect?” And I do, genuinely, each and every time, expect, at the very least, something. I expect there to be some bomb-dropped in each and every article with the way that they are presented and spread. I expect at least a firecracker to be going off in there somewhere. But no, not once. For example, I decided to look through one of the latest articles shared by Donald Trump himself to see because certainly, he would have an interest in posting the most relevant and insightful materials. This was a recent one at the time of writing this piece:
5 More Ways Joe Biden Magically Outperformed Election Norms in The Federalist
If you open this article, you’ll find that the author pretty much just breaks down 5 election norms that didn’t behave normally in 2020. His insinuation is that Joe Biden shouldn’t have been able to win if people in the past hadn’t won in these circumstances. It is so riddled with logical fallacies and presumptions that it is amazing the words even hold together on the page. For example, he mentions that Biden got 80 million votes, and goes on to sarcastically say that it was perhaps Biden who pulled Obama across the finish line. Presumably, this is meant to get people to think: “Oh, shucks, well Obama was much more popular, so Biden couldn’t have gotten more votes! Fraud!” And this might have been the thought in your head for a microsecond until you realize: “Wow, that was a stupid fucking thought!” and moved on with your day.
The author then goes on to list four more totally irrelevant headers: Biden lost most Bellwether states, Biden trailed Clinton except in a few cities, Biden won despite Democrat losses everywhere else, Biden overcame Trump’s commanding Primary vote. All of these things basically come down to “Well these things didn’t happen before so…y’know!” The people who read the article must not have thought much about it. But it is likelier that people just read the headline and thought: “Yeah, it had to be magic! That’s how he won! I CONCEDE NOTHING!” And, even if you point out all of the dumpster-fire-shaped loopholes in these articles, it just doesn’t matter. Twitter hath spoken. It is doctrine.
This is such asinine swill. You could do this for anything. For example:
5 More Ways Sally Mayfield Magically Outperformed Spelling Bee Norms!
Sally’s final opponent, Jeremy, spelled pterodactyl in the semi-finals, and no contestant who has spelled pterodactyl in the semi-finals has lost the finals.
Barry, the homeless guy who watches through the window, has been arrested for masturbating at every eventual winner for the past five years. I didn’t see him looking at Sally!
Sally spelled words faster than her friend Mary two years ago, I guess Sally must’ve been whispering letters in Mary’s ear back then.
Sally spelled a harder word than Jeremy, but Jeremy’s word was also very hard! Does that mean nothing?
Also, didn’t you hear? Sally likes to fuck dogs.
I point this out because people often say: these people are in a bubble, they get their news from different sources, they only hear one thing, but the thing is: that’s not it at all. This is not news. It is inflammatory garbage, and you don’t need to read the NYT and liberal media to see that. You just need to think and also to listen to people who have spent their lives becoming experts in a certain field. Choosing to say that all experts in a field are in on a conspiracy because they don’t agree with you is not “a different opinion”. It’s fucking stupid.
This is not to mention people ignoring the realities of a worldwide pandemic that is killing hundreds of thousands. How could it be that many of those same people sharing voter fraud sentiments are also the ones who are out in the streets without masks, the ones who don’t believe in systemic racism or climate change, the ones who share 4chan memes as evidence, the ones who think that pizza restaurants are havens for satanic pedophiles? What can we say about people who believe that they know better than politicians, scientists, doctors, lawyers, judges, journalists, international election watchdogs, and really, anyone with a brain?
I think it’s time to admit it. No, it’s not because they are “prone to conspiracy theories”. No, it is not because algorithms have put them into a reality-warping internet bubble. No, it is not one side of a two-sided coin. It is the enemy of logic, reason, and critical thought. When people’s actions fall into the realm of irrational, unreasonable, and universally harmful behaviors, let’s call them what they are: stupid.