Stupid Vogueby Jeffrey A. Tucker, January 6, 2004
Dec. 21, 2010
The gym has Fox television on, and perhaps I should be grateful, because otherwise it would not have dawned on me just how popular and widely embraced stupid is. By stupid, I don't really intend insult. Stupid is a mental outlook that affirms the crude and base while eschewing the noble and thoughtful. It is an attitude of mind that can be adopted by both low lights and bright lights.
That low lights be can be stupid is not a surprise. It is typified by posters on FreeRepublic, callers to talk radio, the O'Reilly Factor, and College Republicans. Among this crowd, not only is reading in history and libraries not undertaken; it is not encouraged and is even actively discouraged. The thinking goes: Rush doesn't bother with footnotes so why should I?
More puzzling is when stupid is adopted by the bright-light set after its members have come to the conviction that some modes of thought are more useful to achieving socio-political goals than others. Intellectual affectations, long deductive processes, self-control, and abstract ideals are fine in many cases, they conclude, but not as effective for some purposes as base instinct, first thoughts, anger unleashed, and raw emotion.
For intellectuals to believe in stupid means to embrace the attitude that sometimes society thrives best in the absence of serious thought, that stupid is more conducive to revolutionary change in society than carefully pondered ideology. It is about the conclusion that ideas and reflection do far less good for society that screaming insults, and that to live in our times and make a difference requires that we set aside our intellectual pretensions and appreciate anew the things that move the masses.
Thus is stupid in vogue. Without attempting an update of Walter Pitkin's Short Introduction to the History of Human Stupidity (1932), or getting bogged down in a full theoretical treatise, let us explore the how and why smart people decide to embrace stupid.