Christopher Willard

Jan 24, 2019

6 min read

It’s not being an idiot that makes idiots mad, it’s being called an idiot that makes them mad.

“Are you an idiot, or an idiot?” Gargarin hissed.

“The first one. I really resent being called the second.” (1)

Caprichos, №42, Francisco Goya, Wikimedia Commons

I’ve never read the book that quote comes from — not my reading genre. However, I like the quote. I just wish it had been written by Joseph Heller.

Once people are done with their schooling, how do they continue to improve their minds, to climb that ladder out of the pit of idiocy to the light of greater knowledge?

Yeah, now you’re mad at me. You’re mad because you drank the Kool-aid that says street smarts and intuition are just as good as learning. As Ben Franklin said, “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will have no other.”

Sorry but you don’t even believe street smarts is as good as learning. The next time you need surgery don’t choose a surgeon with lots of learning and experience, choose the one who only has a high school degree and who boasts of street smarts. Let me know how that works out for you…if you live.

Remember the good old days, remember Network way back in 1976 when the character Howard Beale said he was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it any more, and the reason this resonated was that people were getting sick of all corporate produced advertising and media garbage. Corporations and the media doubled down. (The force is strong with this one.) They upped their game. They did focus groups and tests. They asked, will it play in Peoria?
Consequently they found new ways to lets idiots know they are just fine on the learning scale, so long as they keep consuming. What happened to the I’m mad as hell attitude?

F.M. Dostoevsky. General Epanchin from The Idiot. Wikimedia Commons.

It makes sense that idiots don’t care about being an idiot and that they will accept any prettily packaged message that comes along. Confounding to me is the fact that people who are, or who once were, smarter than this apparently now aspire to the level of an idiot.

Their days blur into a life in which they text, they watch Netflix, they leave their house to see the occasional movie. And they, uh, um, they text, oh, said that, uh….nope, that’s it. Oh yeah, they skim the net to consume, and they shop at the mall. If they ever happen to read a book, who knows what planets aligned to cause this, they, (the fully grown adults I’m talking about) read soft diet stuff written for ‘young adults,’ a phrase probably coined by some marketer to better designate a multi-layered teenage market.

You’d think that at some point people would take a step back, or look at the animal world, or recognize the world’s horrible history, or at least reflect on their routine in which they never get ahead, and say,

Wait a minute, I’ve allowed myself to become brainwashed as a nonthinking, consuming serf.

But no. For those whose thinking skills have ebbed back to that of an idiot there’s always a new series to watch, a new Dr. so and so recommended product they can get at the mall, a new version of a phone they just have to have. Oh wait, have I done my DNA family history test yet? Ok paid for. Another item on life’s consumerist bucket list checked off. Whew. What can I buy next?

Sorry but I think there is a name for people who spend all their time consuming and texting and watching series and sitcoms, and who do nothing else related to learning at a higher level. Can you guess?

Frankly, I’m amazed that idiots are able to navigate society. Well, actually they don’t do this very well. Idiots get scammed, they fill their homes with junk, they can’t discuss anything with depth, they run on intuition and opinions, they have no real rational for any of their beliefs, they gladly let corporations mine their personal data, they don’t care when their financial information is hacked, they think by recycling one plastic water bottle they’ve saved the environment, they think they’re helping humanity by having only two cars, their attachment to issues and political issues sways like a squirrel’s tail in front of a fan. They suppose that any and every movie, by the fact they just see it, is the best ever. They suppose Golden Corral is fine dining because it’s cheap. I don’t have enough breath, or energy, to continue this list.

Be Stupid, Advertising slogan on a tram in Madrid, Spain, 2010. Wikimedia Commons.

‘All I know is that I know nothing,” said Socrates. Isn’t it interesting how the smartest people admitted how little they know. But not the idiots. Any one of them is smarter than everyone combined.

I suppose some of this arises from what researchers at Leuven University called the “hubris hypothesis” which speaks to people comparing themselves favorably to others. We hear it constantly, for example:

“I’m a good driver but everyone else on the road is an idiot.”

“The people I work with are a bunch of idiots.”

“You know, I only have a fifth grade education, but let me tell you about this idiot I had to deal with today.”

“I flunked kindergarten but I at least know how to use my iPhone like a pro, unlike those idiots.”

Our current situation could all be a chapter out of the novel The History of a Town by M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin (1870) that tells the story of stupid people living under a tyrannical government.

Pictography of Alfred E. Neuman used in an editorial critical of abolishing the poll tax in the south, with a caption showing the person wants to vote but is too ignorant to understand what voting means. The News Magazine of the Deep South, February 24, 1941. Artist not known. Wikimedia Commons.

Yo, sheeple, “Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?”

Corporations and the media either created this promotion of idiots to boasting consuming fools, or are at least happy to keep it going. They say with their constant messages: You’re validated for giving us your money. You’re validated for agreeing with the view we tell you to agree with via virtue signaling. Idiots, of course, love such messages. Why? They feel validated.

Hoodwinked idiots unite!

“If there is a black rock on an island, and if all people on the island have come to believe — through elaborate experiences and intensive use of persuasion — that the rock is white, the rock is still black and those people are idiots.” So wrote Italian philosopher Paolo Bozzi. (2)

Idiots don’t care. They huddle together in an army too big to accept criticism. They are bolstered by the phrases that condemn learning and support consuming. They never met anyone stupider than an academic.

“Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish,” said Euripides (2)

I know, my rant is useless. As Robert Heinlein wrote, “[A] fool cannot be protected from his folly. If you attempt to do so, you will not only arouse his animosity but also you will be attempting to deprive him of whatever benefit he is capable of deriving from experience. Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.” (4) Worse, idiots stuff their ears with sanctimony and self-righteousness. They will keep on being idiots because they know that what they are is better than anything else. If I ever dare tell them what I think they really are, they’ll be the first tell me in return:

That’s right.


(1) Melina Marchetta, Froi of the Exiles (2013).

(2) Paolo Bozzi, Frammenti da opere perdute, “Rivista di estetica”, n.s., 10: 3–24 (1999).

(3) Euripides, The Bacchae.

(4) Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love (1973).