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Fighting Stupid

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Fighting Stupid

I have a filter on my web browser that suppresses certain kinds of responses from the public in the comments of a YouTube page, an Amazon review, and other places where the Unwashed Masses are given free reign to pollute the web with bad spelling, excessive punctuation, and general stupidity. While I appreciate the work this filter does, sparing my sore eyes and sad brain from being accosted by the insipid utterings of the nearly-retarded, I do take umbrage at the filter's name: “Comment Snob”.

It bothers me that having standards — almost any set of standards — will result more often than not in accusations of 'snobbery' or 'elitism' and other la-di-dah pejoratives on the web and in real life, though in the latter case it's generally not said to one's face.

When did it become a crime to bring up a serious topic in the World At Large, or pose a question to which there may not be an answer, but that would spawn an intelligent conversation? I'm sorry, too lofty? Too 'snobby'? What about a simple exchange of ideas? Even this tepid goal, attainable by the dimmest of dullards, is on the decline. Need an example? It's an election year. How many people on one side or the other actual listen to an opponent's idea and give it its just day in court? I'm not just talking about internet trolls, but even people within your own life — people to whom you would not think to apply the word 'stupid'? And yet their minds are closed to unfamiliar processes and ideas.

Why is it abnormal to challenge oneself? Why is it read as a sign of weakness to question oneself? I'm very suspicious of people who claim to know anything beyond the shadow of a doubt. People who have cemented convictions in such slippery subjects such as religion, politics, and your more squirmy ethical dilemmas may deduct 25 points off their I.Q. on general principle. The audacity of 'knowledge' — bah!

Conversely, I don't think we as a society are treating deliberate stupidity with quite enough firmness and disapproval. Of course it's hilarious to scan the nominees of the Darwin Awards, watch any movie with Adam Sandler in it, or marvel at the nadir of intelligence and taste encapsulated in Honey Boo Boo. I'm not suggesting we do away with enjoying some good ole' stupidity from time to time. Life is a buffet, and creme puffs are delicious! But so is, say, turkey, and it's probably a bad idea to eat more sugary pastries than a protein-rich meat.

Did you see one of the more recent South Park episodes that dealt with Lowering The Bar, and focused, incidentally, on Honey Boo Boo and her popularity, and exalted her as a spokesmodel of what's entertaining? It was pretty insightful, actually. Go look for it if you missed it. (Let's not even think of how sad it is that South Park is a more reliable moral compass than, say, network news.) The episode lamented how low our standards have sunk this century, and then asked the question, "But what can I DO about it?" It's easy and cathartic to bitch and rant on a silly blog on the silly internet about how dumbed-down the country has become, but once the catharsis has faded away, the next logical step would be to ask, "What can I DO about it?"

Probably not much. I'm just a little person, a bug on the face of the planet, scuttling about my little life as are most of us. Just having the ability to leave a YouTube comment in full grammatical sentences does not make me a great intellect. I'm reasonably intelligent, sure, but susceptible to the over-saturation of Stupid with which we are confronted thousands of times a day, from sub-standard music, to television (particularly 'reality' shows), to political rhetoric and speeches written so those who dropped out of fifth grade can sorta understand, to the constant stream of advertisements that bombard us at every turn. Not watching the news is a great way to hack off a lot of the fat, but I still live in this country. And use the internet. I've allowed myself to accept the level of Stupid I've been presented with.

Key phrase: I've allowed myself…

It's time to wean off Stupid, mes frères, mes sœurs! Listen to my proposition. Don't worry, you're not going cold turkey. You can still have your Jersey Shore or whatever your guilty pleasure is (and if it's such a 'guilty' pleasure, shouldn't you try and keep it on the DL instead of wearing it as an ironic badge?).

For every minute you spend reading, hearing, watching, consuming something Stupid, you must spend an equal number of minutes reading, watching, doing, making, or thinking something Smart.

An equal number of minutes! I'm not even asking you to spend more time on Smart than Stupid. You still get to dive merrily into a political flame war on some retarded forum on the internet, as long as when you're through, you do something Smart — like question your own convictions that you just spewed forth on that forum — play devil's advocate — search for weaknesses in your "argument" and consider polar opposite points of view.

For every half hour of "Desperate Housewives of Wherever" that you watch, watch a half hour of Carl Sagan's NOVA, or a few of these clever presentations on TED Education.

And hey, I didn't mean to bash so hard on Honey Boo Boo. She and her awful family are important pointers to who's the lowest common denominator. So watch the travesty of Honey Boo Boo, wince at their white trash drawl, but then spend half an hour listening to your own voice, your own accent, and consider how you may be judged by others due to the cadence of your speech.

Then spend thirty minutes learning an unfamiliar language.

There are hundreds of ways we can improve ourselves every day. Education, practice of a physical craft or skill, examining our prejudices and convictions. If you're as sick to death of Stupid being the accepted status quo, the best thing you can do is to make damn sure you're not contributing to the pollution.

After all, it's the ones who think themselves the most righteous that are always the most wrongeous.
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