Friday, July 31, 2009

Misinformation Age

The internet has given voice to the stupid. Before, if you wanted to get your voice out there, to be heard, you had to say something that someone else would be willing to reprint or broadcast. But these days, anyone can say anything. And the fact that there are so many dumb people out there can be a bit depressing.

You look at comments and flame wars in forums and see people with their idiot logic and their inability to spell. It kind of gets you down. Then you realize that those aren't the stupid ones!!!

And you want to die.

Here's a list of quotes taken from forums and blogs in which people argue against atheism and evolution (I rag on Christianity a lot, but I promise that the subject matter is incidental here, there are idiots of all faiths). My personal favorite is the second one down on the page, which I won't spoil it for you, but a few highlights include "Gravity: Doesn't exist" and "[atheists] are actually a different sect of Muslims" and "I can sum it all up in three words: Evolution is a lie" and one that any self-respecting person should find patently offensive: "If u have sex before marriage then in Gods eyes u are married to that person if a man rapes a woman in Gods eyes they are married it sucks for the girl but what can we do lol".

It's the "LOL" at the end that really sells it.

As internet idiocy goes, this is all rather tame. One of the reasons that I linked to a site of Christians being idiots is because you can at least trust them to keep it PG (give or take, sans a few ghastly ideas about sexuality and whom it is okay to murder). If you want truly, deeply offensive and nonsensical, check out the forums on the Google Finance DJI listing. Which frequently devolves into discussions about religion. YouTube comments are notoriously insipid (find XKCD's take on that phenomenon here and here). It's a bit too much to take. So what if we just want to sample moderate stupidity, well, that's easy too.

The moderately stupid are on TV.

Consider this clip of Bill O'Reilly explaining why Canadians have a higher life expectancy. I'll spoil it for you: because there are ten times as many Americans, there are ten times as many accidents, deaths, etc. In short, Bill, who is paid to talk on television, has no idea what a "rate" is or the math behind it. And this isn't brain-aching math, people. If there are ten times as many people having ten times as many accidents, you would expect life expectancy of the comparative populations to be roughly the same.

Bill O'Reilly is foolish about many things, but he is not a flat-out idiot. Neither is Sarah Palin, but you wouldn't know it from listening to her farewell address (She goes off-script around the 6 minutes mark in response to a heckler and by 6:30 a nice little WTF sets in).

But that's just people. We're selectively stupid. Did you know that someone polled people in the hospital who were recovering from automobile accidents where they were at fault? 85% consider themselves to be an above average driver.

Just keep that in mind. Idiocy abounds. And as bad you you think it is... it's worse.



Ben said...

And yet, despite of all this collective idiocy, we've achieved medical, scientific, and artistic breakthroughs at a more or less steady pace throughout our life as a species.

All those stupid people haven't stopped us from gradually bettering ourselves as a species yet, and they never will.

Kurt said...

I would disagree. Medical, scientific, et al, breakthroughs are the work of individuals or small groups--not the "species". In fact, as modern life grows ever more sophisticated, I'm struck by how resolutely humanity has not.

Individuals can shine, but our species has stagnated. Imho.


Anonymous said...

I would argue that the medical and scientific breakthroughs brought about by a small population are actually aiding the stupidity of the general public, because people are never forced to better themselves. They don't need to learn the skills or have the knowledge they used to, because there's a machine to do it for them, or the internet (cough) to tell them the answers.