Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Sounding smart to stupid people
Bud Norman has a funny, insightful article on the subject of things that people say that make them sound smart to stupid people. Of course it may make them sound stupid to smart people, but since there are more stupid people than smart people, the odds favor bullshit.
Many years ago we had a friend on our high school debate team who adopted the odd habit of adding an extra syllable to words. When devising a plan he would “strategetize” rather “strategize,” for instance, and he was adamant that “conservativism” rather than “conservatism” is the political philosophy espoused by conservatives.He did this on the belief that most people are impressed and intimated by multi-syllabic words, and that by adding an extra consonant to a three-syllable word he could make it one-third more impressive and intimidating. Judging by the awestruck looks that would cross some people’s faces whenever he unleashed one of his new and improved coinages, and they way they seemed willing to accept whatever nonsensical argument he was making, we were forced concede there might be something to his theory. We tried to persuade him that although his highfalutin and fundamentally incorrect verbiage made him sound smart to stupid people it also made him sound stupid to smart people, but he’d laugh off the criticism by noting that because there are far more stupid people than smart people he would ultimately be more widely regarded as smart by saying such stupid things. As much as his mispronunciations grated on our sensitive ears, we had to admit there was probably something to that theory as well.
Norman note that Obama used this insight in his recent campaign speech in the Rose Garden again extolling the wonderfulness of ObamaCare when he promised that a “surge” of the “best and brightest” professionals from the public and private sectors would soon have it all worked out.
Other examples abound in Obama’s political career. He once promised “peace in our time,” apparently either unaware or unconcerned that the slogan was famously associated with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s disastrous attempt at appeasing Adolf Hitler, and his apologists have created such formulations as “leading from behind.” “Hope and Change,” “Yes, We can,” “the failed policies of the Bush administration” and all the other vague slogans of his first presidential campaign had the same winning effect on the stupid and same calculated disregard for the smart, and all were delivered with a smug cocksureness and upraised chin that even our shrewd high school friend could not equal. It might not work with Obamacare, as even the stupidest among us can figure out when their health care costs are rising and grandma’s hip replacement is being put off, but most of the time it seems to work well enough.
We were particularly taken with this epiphany when we though of Ann Althouse, famed blogger and law prof at University of Wisconsin, Madison. She voted for Obama in 2008, totally taken in with his claims. Proof, if anyone needed any more, that stupid is alive and well in academia. It's the one place where you can write an academic paper deliberately designed to be filled with total CRAP, and get it published. And don't get me started on the super-concentrated collection of stupid in the press and the media.