Saturday, November 06, 2004

Stupid Is

Various responses to the Australian and US elections, cribbed from various left-leaning blogs:

"The election result was wrong ... It was disinterested, manipulated morons voting out of misguided self-interest, based on an effective lie, versus those who actually care"
"Yours in enmity"
"You should have to pass a test to earn the right to vote. Just about any sensible test would do, I think, as long as it took at least half an hour to complete."
"So, that's Australia. Racist, paranoid, insular, decadent, and endlessly self-destructive."
"Ahh, that's where you're wrong, TimT, in presuming I never run into the voters who put this country in the situation it's now in. I run into them all the time. You should see the dents on my bonnet..."
"If Americans vote for Bush, then they bring it on themselves, and they deserve whatever is coming to them. Bush is more of a threat to Americans than terrorists"
"And, for this, I say to Australia - you can go fuck yourself."
you ignorant, slack-jawed yokels, you bible-thumping, inbred drones, you redneck, racist, chest-thumping, perennially duped grade-school grads"

That's what it comes down to, is it? Hundreds of millions of voters of every race, colour, creed, sex, gender, age, from the city and the town and the country, over vast geographical areas, voting for thousands of candidates on the basis of various international, national, state, regional, local, and personal policies - literally millions of choices being made on election day.
And to some commenters, the majority of them are - stupid.

Offensive, no?

Actually, it's more than offensive. Consider this quote:

"You should have to pass a test to earn the right to vote. Just about any sensible test would do, I think, as long as it took at least half an hour to complete."

If you accept that a person with inadequate mental capacity shouldn't be able to vote, then who might you rule out? Well...

- Autistic people
- People with Downs Syndrome
- People with low IQ
- Schizophrenics
- People with bipolar disorder
- Manic Depressives

Yeah, my brother. Let me tell you about him. He's got Asperger's syndrome - a mild form of autism - and he voted in his second federal election this year. He did it on his own, and when I asked him who he was going to vote for, he said, "Well, not John Howard."

But - according to some people - because of his intellectual limitations, he should be barred from voting. Stopped from having a choice in the way the world, his country, his town, his life was run, by a self-designated intellectual elite who assume to know what's best for him.

Yeah, this assumption that only the 'smart' people should vote is a little more than offensive, and more than a little fascist...

UPDATE - Blogs I quoted from: Metal City, News, Rants Soliloquies and Reveries, Intergalactic Hussy, Presumed Nuclear War, and Fanatical Apathy. It's worth going there and reading the relevant posts, because I don't have the time or the inclination to put them in context.


Anonymous said...

What's your point, Tim?

Your brother has Asperger's Syndrome and votes Labour, therefore intelligence isn't a factor in people's decisions at the ballot?

I notice that you've quoted a few out-of-context lines from Metal City. Cute. Honestly, I don't understand what your point is, here. Even though you, for reasons unknown, enjoy painting a portrait of yourself as some kind of young ultra-conservative, you don't have the courage of your convictions. If you think that people are in the wrong for being disgusted by an election result that, more than ever before, has clearly embraced racism, ignorance, violence, religious arrogance, cultural imperialism, and neo-colonialism - why don't you just admit that you support these policies and be done with it? Why are you trying to hide behind half-hearted attempts at provocation and nonsensical jabs at 'intellectuals'?

Why shouldn't intelligence be a site of critique? And why, dear Tim, do you so steadfastly equate intelligence with elitism and arrogance? Why is it wrong to hypothesize that if you can't understand the issues at stake, then you can't make an informed choice on election day? It seems fairly simple to me. And the fact that your buddies in the right prey on lowest common denominator politics in order to appeal to people who aren't as willing or interested in taking the candidates seriously kind of blows your accusations of 'elitism' out of the water. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, Timbo.

TimT said...

Hi David. Those comments were sourced from a lot of websites, with a number of different agendas. I couldn't focus on all of the points that they made, so I chose to focus on the point that annoyed me the most - the assumption that people who vote for the Liberal party (or their comrades in the US, the Republican party) are stupid.
Inevitably, some of the bloggers I've quoted are going to feel that they've been taken out of context.

What's my point? Well...

Hundreds of millions of voters of every race, colour, creed, sex, gender, age, from the city and the town and the country, over vast geographical areas, voting for thousands of candidates on the basis of various international, national, state, regional, local, and personal policies - literally millions of choices being made on election day.There, that's my point. That's the core of my argument. I think that to try and explain away an election result on the basis of 'the stupidity' of 'the Australian/American people' is a gross oversimplification. And, incidentally, that's why I think that supporting the Howard government isn't necessarily supporting 'racism, xenophobia, etc'. Another argument for another time, maybe... but if it gives you any comfort, I actually voted for Labor in the recent elections. Not making any secret of it, either - I blogged about it earlier.

But - anyway - if we follow this idea, that 'intelligence' will affect the vote, and that voting should be restricted to the smarter people, where will it take us? It will take us to a society where the disadvantaged people will not be able to make a choice for themselves, but will instead have choices made for them by others.

That's a grotesque parody of the aims of the Left - to empower and give choices to people who are disadvantaged.

Anyway, thanks for the comments Dave, tis fun to engage in the occasional political rant.

Anonymous said...

But, Tim. There are millions of choices being made - but, at the same time, there are two choices being made. Left or right. Which ideology do you support? You are offered two visions of the world - which one do you approve of? The left's or the right's? It may be simple - but the system is simple. It doesn't have the space to factor in every ideological nuance that may sway voters one way or the other, or be an important factor of what they see as a viable Government - instead, we have Democrats vs. Republicans, and Labor vs. Liberal.

As for intelligence affecting the vote - I never said that 'stupid' people shouldn't vote. But, at the other end of the spectrum, your claims that intelligence should play no factor whatsoever in the decisions of voters is just flat-out ridiculous. I'm afraid, Tim, that despite your loathing of 'intellectuals', this is really quite simple. Let me break it down for you.

If you don't have the mental capacity to understand who and what you are voting for - then how can you vote for anything? How can you represent your personal beliefs via the ballot if you don't even understand the philosophy of the candidates?

This isn't 'intellectual elitism'. It is, quite simply, a desire for constituents to put in the effort to make truly informed decisions. In the case of the U.S, I think you'll find that when bloggers are railing against the 'stupidity of the Americans', they are referring to the fact that the evidence was clear as daylight that Bush & Co. were corrupt, morally degenerate, and utterly disinterested in the needs of anyone but the power elites - and if only they'd taken the time to find out about what their Government was up to, we might not have the looming threat of another four years of conservative rule. Same applies to Australia.

Intellectual elitism? No. It's called wishing that people would see their ability to vote as a privelage instead of a right, and wishing that they'd take it seriously enough to invest some time in it, instead of
falling for buzzwords like 'freedom' and 'morals', and voting for the guy who invokes God the most.

TimT said...

So we shouldn't fall for buzzwords like 'freedom' and 'morals' but we should fall for buzzwords like 'Left' or 'Right'?
Personally, I value my freedom and my morality more, much more than the political party that gets my vote.

The trouble with this idea that many voters are 'stupid' is that, if it is accepted unconditionally, it makes it easier for sanctimonious bureaucrats to take over our lives by disenfranchising people of lower intellectual capacity. Which is why I thought the idea was worth pursuing. But yeah, that was aimed more at Nicholas Carvan's suggestion that we should have to pass a test before voting. And that was just a passing suggestion on his part, in the course of a similar debate we had on his blog a few weeks ago; it's worth going to his website to check out the full context.

As for this evidence of racism, xenophobia, corruption, etc, on the part of Bush - all I can say is, I haven't seen it yet. Maybe it's just a result of the blogs I read - Tim Blair, occasionally Tim Dunlop - but, like I said, I haven't seen any firm evidence. At any rate, that's another argument that should be had another time...

Anonymous said...

The concepts of 'left' versus 'right' aren't buzzwords, though. They are groupings of political ideology - one favouring altruism, generosity, ecology, racial and religious tolerance, and the maintenance of a society which promotes economic and cultural equity. The right is, essentially, the opposite of this - favouring hypercapitalism, race bordering, the sacrifice of the environment in favour of corporate business interests, and an overall agenda of self-interest and disregard for wider impacts - not to mention Christian fundamentalism and, by extension, religious intolerance.

And if you haven't seen evidence of racism or corruption in the Bush/Howard governments... where in the hell have you been? What have you been reading? There are literally thousands of pieces of documented evidence of widespread corruption in both parties - one need not stop at Michael Moore to find out what is really going on with our leaders. But, seriously Tim - I find it very difficult to believe that you're being straight when you claim that you've seen no evidence. Yeesh.

Besides, forming one's political views from Tim Blair's blog may not be the healthiest way to approach these issues. It might be time to drop the accusations of political elitism, and the cartoonish dismissal of leftist ideology - I'm afraid that a storm is brewing, and in the words of Springsteen, right now 'blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed.'

TimT said...

I agree. Blind faith in our leaders won't get us anywhere. But we won't get anywhere by insulting the voters either ('Youse are all STOOPID!') or by relying on vague stereotypes, such as...

Right Wing = Evil and Greedy and Mean (which forgets right-wingers like Churchill and Menzies and their respective achievements)

Left Wing=Nice and Generous and Oh So Wonderful (Neglecting the contributions of notorious lefties such as Stalin and Mao to the World Genocide Stakes)

Best to direct insults at all political leaders - Latham and Howard, Bush and Kerry, Blair and (Michael) Howard. They're the ones who want to rule over us and they deserve all our ridicule.

Anonymous said...

Tim, you appear incapable of having this conversation without acting like a three year old.

It is perfectly legitimate to express outrage and anger at a voter body which supports a regime such as the Bush/Howard axis. Unless, of course, you're suggesting complete and total apathy - something which many of us are incapable of.

As for your attempt to defuse my points regarding left vs. right, you're relying on the same old arguments. Come on, Tim - get some new material! Whether you like it or not, and you clearly don't, the left is the left and the right is the right. Of course, unacceptable actions are taken in the name of each, but that doesn't invalidate them, nor does it redefine them - your cries of 'stereotyping!' are kind of... um... pointless. We're talking about two sets of political ideology, and they are what they are. The left is the left, and the right is the right. Period. How they are implemented is another story.

Best to direct our insults at political leaders? Why? Without support, they are toothless dragons. Why not feel anger at a voter base that supports corrupt, amoral regimes? Or, does that only work when we're pointing the finger at Other People? Face it, Tim - the bottom line is that there were mountains of literature and data regarding the actions - both over and under the table - of the Bush/Howard governments, and voters ignored it all in favour of soundbites and promises appealing to first-world greed. And that's kinda that.

TimT said...

Um, David, I do beg your pardon, but you were the person who said that 'The right is, essentially, the opposite of this - favouring hypercapitalism, race bordering, the sacrifice of the environment in favour of corporate business interests, and an overall agenda of self-interest and disregard for wider impacts - not to mention Christian fundamentalism and, by extension, religious intolerance'...

Now that sounds to me mighty like a stereotype. Seriously, there is no politician in the world who would run on such a platform. "I am for religious intolerance and Christian fundamentalism and selfishness and the sacrifice of the environment! Oh, and I might also might make the eating of babies part of my political platform as well, because they're sooooo tasty!" Nup, it ain't gonna happen.

The left is the left and the right is the right? Er, yes, quite left - I mean, right. But that doesn't mean I should accept your definitions of them straightaway, or accept that the multitude of decisions made by voters should all be interpreted in this paradigm.

(Paradigm? Crap! Now I'm starting to sound like a frigging academic. Eeeergh! Intellectual elitism, here we come... Er, where was I?)

As for criticising voters - well, I'm not going to be the first one to walk down Sydney's North Shore shouting 'You're all losers! You're all stupid! You're all assholes!' Because, you know, one of these days I might actually want to do business with one of them, and insulting them just isn't very smart. Besides, that would be to ignore their very real concerns which motivated them to vote the way they did. I just don't believe they were manipulated - there were too many differing media sources available to them - on internet, TV, radio, and newspaper...

Anyway, I think you'll agree with me that this argument is starting to go round in circles, and become a bit of an 'I said...' 'You said...' kind of thing. What say, your response notwithstanding, we mosey on over to this website to read a delicate philosophical meditation on the subject of bunny-wabbits?

Or is that just being childish?

Anonymous said...

That's just it, Tim. There are TWO politicians in the world who ran on the platform you just described. Think about it.

Bush - Supports Oklahoma Repub. senator who wants doctors who perform abortions - even in cases of rape/incest - to be executed.
Howard - Logging some of Australia's oldest forests in Tasmania.
Bush - Pulling out of Kyoto.
Howard/Bush - Iraq. 'Nuff said.
Bush - Oil drilling in Alaska.
Howard - Woomera.
Bush - Rolling back of pollution laws.
Howard - Anti-abortion. Abbot wants 'the abortion issue' to be 're-opened'.
Bush - The Patriot Act. Read it, Tim. Frightened, yet?
Howard - Deregulation of news media, lowering of Australian television quotas, massive removal of arts funding.
Bush - Guantanamo Bay, and U.S detention policy.

You don't have to accept my definitions of left-right. That would be foolish. But consider the definition of 'liberal' - which is, essentially, the label for a person who is ideologically leaning towards the left:

- # Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
# Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.


While... looking up the definition for a 'conservative':

# Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.
# Traditional or restrained in style.

Considering the dark history of humanity, steeped in bloodshed, intolerance, racism, colonialism, and an utter disregard for anything but the advancement of one's own cultural, economic and political agendas - dovetailed with a fanatical zeal for fundamentalist religious practice - it is not hard to see that these aren't MY definitions: They are the definitions that your candidates have chosen. Right versus left, Tim. Progressive or regressive. Take your pick.

For better or worse, the multitudes of decisions made by the multitudes of voters ARE factored into this paradigm - they have no choice, since both sides of politics subscribe so heavily to the concept of a 'left vs. right' heirarchy. When you cast your vote, you're not making a subtle, nuanced series of decisions based on all of the factors that affect you, your family, and your environment - you are saying 'I am with these guys, or these guys'. Right.. or left.

TimT said...

That list there doesn't directly relate to the mock platform I made above, and I think there's not a point there that should be accepted without some critical argument. One example:

Anti-abortion. Abbot wants 'the abortion issue' to be 're-opened'. From my reading on this issue, Abbot does think abortion is wrong, but won't actively do anything to change the abortion laws in parliament. It's worthwhile seeing it in that context, even if (like me) you disagree with him.

Another example:

Bush - oil-drilling in Alaska That's not anti-environment. It will be bound by strict environmental regulations, as is always the case in modern capitalist economies. (Typically, it's the 2nd or 3rd world economies, or communist countries like China, that have the worst record in relation to the environment).

Anyway - woohoo! - first time I've got 10 posts on my blog. I've sent you an email, BTW.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I think that list totally relates to that platform. Taking out the serious part...

"I am for religious intolerance and Christian fundamentalism and selfishness and the sacrifice of the environment!"

... what do we have here?

Abortion? Christian fundamentalism.
Pulling out of Kyoto? Selfishness and the sacrifice of the environment.
Logging? Ditto.
Patriot act? Intolerance and paranoia of every conceiveable kind.
Guantanamo Bay/Iraq - About multiple things, with religious intolerance and selfishness being only two.

As for your criques of those points -

Oil-drilling in the Alaskan wilderness ISN'T an anti-environmental issue?!? Bound by strict environmental regulations - THAT HAVE BEEN MODIFIED BY BUSH. The drilling hasn't been modified to fit the policy, the policy has been modified to accomodate the drilling.

Abbot's anti-abortion stance is enough. And he's rallying the troops - the G.G, and his family-first cronies. He's not going to actively pursue the issue in parliament? No, he's just going to collaborate with his cretinous fundamentalist allies. Religious intolerance, Tim. Don't kill a bag of cells - it makes God sad.

Anonymous said...

Most of what I would have said has been said by others in the comments above, but a few things.

1. I was kicking around my intellectual meritocracy argument with a friend last night, trying to come up with a practical system. What I came up with was a lower house with the power to propose laws, based on a voting population who passed a simple twenty minute test: identifying countries on a map, simple arithmetic, comprehension of short newspaper articles. An upper house with the power to block (but not modify) legislation, with an open franchise. Deadlocks to be resolved by double dissolution. This prevents the oppression of the defectives you are so concerned about. It also stops governments from basing their support on proposing legislation that appeals to prejudices held by the proles.

2. Forgive me for the use of the word "defectives" above. I would not normally be so crass as that, but I think dragging your brother into it is a bit of a low, manipulative argumentative tactic. Have you learned it from Bush and Howard? Anyway, from my knowledge of Asperger's, I suspect many could pass such a test - arithmetic and maps should not be a problem, and the comprehension only a little more difficult than for a non-Asperger's person?

3. We already disenfranchise everybody under 18. In my system, if they can pass the test, they get full voting rights. I really don't see why a Down's Syndrome person has an intrinsic right to vote but an intelligent sixteen (or twelve) year old person doesn't.

4. The intellectual anger about the Bush and Howard wins is more than sour grapes by tall-poppy intellectuals who are wringing their hands (or whatever derogatory stereotype the right is promoting to the morons that day)- it is the impression that they both seem to have completely disqualified themselves from office via incompetence and blatant arrogant stupidity (Bush), or through having been blatantly exposed as a man who will manipulate xenophobic feeling based on a known lie to win an election, then continue to deny in the face of all evidence that he had done so - Howard.


TimT said...

Thanks for the comment Nicholas. Actually, I don't see why talking about my brother is being manipulative... ideas like your 'test' are interesting in theory and may seem feasible, but when you consider the real consequences they have on people that we know and are close to, they start to seem uglier.
Heck, I've tossed around a lot worse ideas in my time - and your idea is worth raising. But I still think it's wrong, for reasons already raised.

I think I'll leave it at that... this whole argument could drag on for ages otherwise...

Email: timhtrain - at -

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