2014/08/12/Only Stupid People Call People Stupid/woozle

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First of all, it should be pointed out that the headline defeats its own argument. It's addressed at people who call other people stupid, and telling them they're stupid. If she's arguing that calling someone stupid makes them stop listening, then anyone in the intended audience who reads the article is disproving her point.

It turns out she's actually arguing that anyone who calls other people stupid is basically calling themselves stupid. (The conclusion seems obvious...)

She looks at statements like "I don't understand how anyone could believe X" and sees three layers of meaning:

  1. "I lack the knowledge and understanding to figure this out."
  2. "I am such a superior moral being that I cannot even imagine the cognitive errors or moral turpitude that could lead someone to such obviously wrong conclusions."
  3. "I lack the empathy, moral imagination or analytical skills to attempt even a basic understanding of the people who disagree with me."

These are all basically argument by ridicule – not rational counterarguments.

Item #1 is essentially "if you don't understand why other people believe what they believe, then that only proves your own ignorance and stupidity".

Item #2 implicitly argues that the belief that your own beliefs are more sensible than those of someone else is always wrong – a form of hubris – that there are no argumentative positions which you might rightly dismiss as nonsensical or stupid, no matter how uninformed they may appear nor how knowledgeable you may be on the subject.

Item #3 says that if you find someone's position ridiculous, you must not have even attempted to understand it.

The problem with each of those assertions should be obvious.

"In short, "I'm stupid." Something that few people would ever post so starkly on their Facebook feeds."

This is an appeal to shame. (She's also calling people stupid, just in a more verbally-clever way.)

"To me, calling other people stupid is simply a variant of this. It's notable that very smart people rarely address this insult to people who actually have deep cognitive limitations. No, it's usually said about people who have an IQ of at least 120, and it is best said to someone who is obviously very accomplished and has a reputation for being a serious thinker in their field. Because obviously that feeling of swelling superiority is much sweeter and stronger if we're agreeing that we're all well above someone who's pretty good at what they do."

This is also hogwash (and stupid).

First of all, she just got done telling us why we shouldn't dismiss other people's beliefs – and now she's implicitly equating calling beliefs stupid with calling the people who hold those beliefs "stupid".

Second, the reason we only direct such scorn at reasonably-intelligent people is that we expect better of them. It wouldn't be fair to go to a mentally-retarded person and ask them why they're being so stupid; that's the kind of thing a right-winger would do – the kind of behavior routinely engaged in by the people for whom McArdle's arguments provide covering fire.

So again, she's misattributing motives as part of an appeal to shame.

She does it again in the next paragraph: "Calling other people stupid is, of course, a great deal of fun..."

And finally (finally!) the last paragraph is yet another emotional appeal, which I see no point in going into.

The headline says it all. She says it's stupid to say something is stupid. That's... amazingly infantile. (...and stupid.)