What’s dangerous is often stupid

'When you can’t decide between laughing and screaming, you’re effectively paralyzed'

What’s dangerous is often stupid

Dumb and dangerous aren’t mutually exclusive. Stupid and bad things should be easier to manage, yet we are still struggling.

Author Naomi Wolf, now better known as a leading COVID-19 conspiracy theorist, was banned from Twitter last week. Prior to her digital ejection, the content she shared on the platform was a mix of genuinely toxic misinformation and absurdist claims. Despite readily apparent issues with her credibility, she was manufactured into an “expert” voice in right-wing media. She was repeatedly booked on Fox News and hyper-partisan media sites like Breitbart News wrote about her statements as if she possessed authority on matters of fact surrounding a global pandemic. People were told to trust her falsehoods, and those who did received information that jeopardized their health.

In addition to the torrent misinformation she has spread, Wolf is also a plainly ridiculous person. She has suggested that vaccines are delivered with technology capable of facilitating time travel and floated the idea of filtering vaccinated people’s shit and piss out of the general sewage system. She performed outrage over a photo of a teddy bear at a vaccination clinic and peddled various conspiracy theories about 5G wireless technology. She was easily duped into sharing an anti-vax quote falsely attributed to a pornographic film star and a book she wrote was pulled after it became clear it was premised on fundamental misunderstandings of legal jargon.

@DawnHFoster described Wolf as “the first recorded person to be banned from Twitter for being too stupid.” Honestly, I don’t think that’s too far off from the truth.

So much of what’s dangerous nowadays is also stupid. Donald Trump led a wannabe proto-fascist movement to relevance in the United States while his supporters cheered him for drinking water on stage with one hand. QAnon has convinced thousands, if not millions, of people of a false reality but it only works because people placed faith in some idiot on a forum who was like, “No dude, trust me. I am a secret agent.”

That brings me to this @getfiscal post, which managed to stick with me for a little bit over the weekend (though maybe not for its intended reason).

Things so stupid should be easy to defeat. Instead, we seem to be struggling to grapple with them effectively. We are failing our tests. And with each own-goal, we leave ourselves more vulnerable to the next stupid thing coming down the ramp. It’s important we win these battles while they seem silly, otherwise an extra smidge of competence could leave us defeated.

Or, to borrow some words: If this is what is making us flounder, “maybe society just isn't going to work.”

The absurdity of threats in our current environment is a well-worn path of examination. “How are the Proud Boys still dangerous when they’re outside the bar punching each other and yelling breakfast cereal brand names, or when they’re singing Disney songs?” we can wonder.

For some of these dangerous movements, the absurdity has had a point. Notorious groups like the KKK have deployed similarly silly mannerisms, calling themselves “wizards” and such, to deflect from criticism and scrutiny. Memes and discussions of “chan culture” have provided plausible deniability for egregious actions of community members, like doxing and digital stalking. The “funny guys” in movements are often among the most cherished and extremist rhetoric has been package in self-aware humor for decades.

When you can’t decide between laughing and screaming, you’re effectively paralyzed from doing anything that could pose a real threat to a dangerous movement’s existence. The stupidity prompts hesitancy, during which movements can grow with little friction. That’s not to say any of the kicks we get from these threats are unwarranted or unenjoyable but that it’s important we not lose sight of the bigger picture.

Accepting that things can be both dangerous and dumb is a crucial step toward achieving an internet where individuals feel safe and secure to participate in open conversation. Though it may feel silly at times to vocalize a concern about weirdos who believe vaccines are contaminating your poo-poos, it does ultimately matter (even if the reasons are as laughable as the premise for the initial concern).

We live in extremely stupid times. We are in Hell World and the sooner we embrace that fact, the quicker we get to thinking up with ways through it. We shouldn’t waste our time debating the merits of what appears clearly in front of us.

Programming Note: I asked the other day how we felt about merch and there were enough approving replies for me to look into it more closely. That said, it’s taking me longer than expected to track down a supplier that can produce goods with ethical sourcing. Thanks for your patience.