By Buddy Early, November 2020 Issue.
Earlier this summer, at the height of protests regarding police brutality, one of my (former) friends started circulating a racist and alarmist message on social media. It was a warning about a group referred to as “they.” It started as a text message that Susie Housecoat sent to Linda Goodslippers, who screenshot it and sent it to Julie Minivan, who pushed the button on various social media platforms and every Tom, Dick, and Mary gullible to such hysteria shared it with friends and acquaintances.
Truth is, I don’t know where it began — could’ve been started by a “Phoenix mom” as it alleged, or by a fat slob in the basement of his parent’s home, or by a Russian instigator — but that’s not really important in this context. What is important is that it picked up traction amongst “regular” Americans.
The “they” referred to in this message was clear: black people. “… They are planning to start raping and murdering white women and children that are out on the streets” is what the message stated. The message claimed to have sources in law enforcement, i.e. Phoenix Police and Homeland Security.
This type of fearmongering should be recognized by anybody with some god damn common sense. But plenty of people fell for it. It’s why candidates from Arizona’s own appointed senator Martha McSally to Maricopa Country Sheriff hopeful Jerry Sheridan to Donald Trump himself have decided to traffic in such schemes. Each of them has been firing up their bases by citing “liberal mobs” in the streets. Their respective opponents, if you believe them, support such non-existent mobs that threaten our safety and peaceful way of life.
The year 2020 has revealed a lot about us, our fellow Americans, and our country in general. One of the things this year has revealed is that we are stupid. We are a stupid, stupid country. We might be more stupid than we’ve ever been.
(I had a college English professor who insisted no one should ever use the word stupid, that we should use the word dumb instead; but dumb is not strong enough for this column, so I apologize to that professor, whatever her name was. Furthermore, there are folks who suggest that both words are ableist, and only used as insults, to put down or undermine another. To that I’d say: that’s exactly what I’m doing.)
In in age when we have more correct information at our fingertips and incredible educational institutions among us, our collective disdain for intelligence is at an all-time high. This is evidenced every time someone disparages the intellectual elite or scoffs at a real-life expert in a particular field who is merely trying to share facts. Ivy League Graduate is now used as a pejorative. The truly ironic part is that the people who argue “we need to stop letting all these foreigners come to benefit from our top-rated universities, then go back to their own countries” are usually the same ones ridiculing anyone who matriculated at such a place.
Joe Q. Public prefers to get his information from an idiot rather than someone esteemed in educational and scientific circles as a bona fide expert. Mr. Public favors doing his own research — which amounts to seeing a meme that confirms his worldview and/or reading a discredited treatise about a topic — than trusting genuine research done by experts who’ve spent decades working in their arena. This was never more evidenced than when millions of Americans dismissed the warnings and advise of Dr. Anthony Fauci and the World Health Organization on COVID-19 and chose to be believe a few quack doctors who were easily debunked and disgraced.
We’ve seen this stupidity in many other forms in 2020: believing every child trafficking theory posed on social media without applying reason; disbelieving seasoned and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists despite verified truths; accepting numerous lies about Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and Colin Kaepernick without using good judgment; and promoting crackpot conspiracy theories about microchips, 5G signals and the Deep State.
I have no delusion that I am, in fact, a member of the intellectual elite. I’m pretty smart by many standards, but let’s face it: I studied at Arizona State University where I graduated with a C+ average, and despite my education and professional experience I still have to Google certain words for accurate spelling. But in an effort to become smarter I read newspapers and web sites and watch news channels because I desire to be educated about the world.
And maybe that’s the problem. Many Americans don’t take the time to learn from those in the know. It’s easy to attack the true intellectual elite (Bill Gates, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Barack Obama) because their highbrow knowledge is viewed as unattainable to John Meatloaf and Helen PotPie. Better to listen to those who exhibit minimal intelligence (Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Joe Rogan) because they are “like us.”
I mean, that’s the only explanation I can think of.
Let me clear, if this reads like I am mocking average Americans with my use of Everyman monikers and other invectives … I absolutely am. If you don’t want to be labeled stupid, then don’t practice stupidity. You have the power to choose.