Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Chump Nation

As long as we're singing the praises of the author and sole proprietor of Blogenlust (soon to be relocated to NYC), let's give him a big nod for this link to the Poor Man's site and the post there about chumps. It starts out with a short and delightful excerpt of a post from the excellent and always insightful Pharyngula. Biologist PZ Myers rips a collective new one for the creationists, the intelligent designers and other "drooling gomers" (his term) out there (which gladdened my heart considerably). The Myers post alone made my day; the Chumps post made my week.

After another excerpt from Digby, which points out how a number of erstwhile sheep of the Republican persuasion are suddenly flummoxed by the disconnect in what they have seen reported on FOX News and heard from Rush regarding Terri Schiavo and how it diverts wildly from reality, the Poor Man then goes on to excoriate the True Believers who still think we found WMD in Iraq and believe other discredited winger theories for being the idiots that they are:

"The fact is that radically misinformed views about, say, the theory of evolution, and radically misinformed views about the existance of WMD in Iraq, all tend to cluster around wingnuts, and wingnuts tend to cluster around FOX News. These aren’t views people develop on their own. Stupidity plays a role in this, but it’s not an over-all kind of stupidity, necessarily - many of these people manage to function in society, hold down jobs, etc. - but it’s clearly not a case of having a few isolated kooky beliefs here and there, either. The problem is chronic stupidity of a particular type - an inability to identify what sources of information are unreliable - and the word for people who are stupid in this particular way is 'chumps'.

Chumps are harder to argue with than regular people, because the argument is never really about the subject at hand, it’s about something far more personal: 'am I a chump?' Admittedly, this is true to some extent about any argument, where the meta-topic is always 'am I wrong?' and nobody likes to be wrong, either. The difference is that being wrong is something that can be remedied pretty easily, just by acknowledging a superior argument and/or more compelling evidence, thereby becoming right. Being a chump, on the other hand, is not just a lot more personally embarrassing than being wrong, it’s also a lot harder to fix, because it involves reversing one’s self on any number of positions - any position where you treated established systems and methods for weeding out fraud and error, such as exist in professional science or journalism responsibly practiced, as being less credible than what you saw last Wednesday night on 'Scarborough Country' or read on like all these blogs. Being a chump is a lot like eating Pringles - once you pop, you (you! you!) can’t stop, and the tendency is to gorge yourself into a tasty oblivion. Not being a chump requires acknowledging that you are, in fact, a chump, with very chumpy opinions and pronounced chumpish tendencies, and then acknowledging that everybody you believed was a nice man who would have a beer with you and never lie was, in fact, playing you for a chump, or were simply chumps themselves. That’s not a very nice feeling. Far easier is to reject common sense one final time, and be just a slightly bigger chump than before."

I think the word "chump" is exactly right in describing these deluded -- and most often self-deluded -- people. P.T. Barnum would have loved this era; he also would have had to revise his estimates about birth rates considerably upward.
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