Post #760: Have we stopped being stupid yet?

Posted on July 17, 2020

Have we stopped being stupid yet?  In the US, regarding COVID-19?

Oh, heck no. 

The only school that’s still fully in session is the school of hard knocks.   And that one’s doing a bang-up business.

Source:  This image is copyright Bill Griffith, and is used without permission.  But with the notation that “Are we having fun yet??” in fact originates with Bill Griffith/Zippy the Pinhead, but has been so frequently copied that many people incorrectly believe the source is apocryphal.

I miss Zippy

Source:  This image is copyright Bill Griffith, and is used without permission.

Zippy the Pinhead used to be one of my favorite comic strips, back when I read the newspaper.  And of late, I have really been missing it.  Why now?  Because everybody knew that Zippy was not in his right mind.  And that was the joke.  So when he said something that was totally crazy, nobody took it seriously.  Everybody realized that he wasn’t supposed to make sense.  He was clueless, and he was totally unaware that he was clueless.  That was the joke.

That’s not nearly so funny when you hear people spouting craziness during a deadly pandemic.  Particularly when the speaker is (say) governor of a large state, or the Presidential Spokesmodel, or what-have-you.  Or just Joe/Jane Citizen, expressing what he/she believes to his/her inalienable right to be stupid, regardless of the consequences to others.

If I start giving examples here, I likely won’t stop.  My point is that every day, when I look at the headlines on Google News, it’s like a game of Mad Libs.  There’s at least one headline where I say, no, that can’t possibly be right.  Somebody swapped in the wrong word or something.  Nobody could be that stupid, could they?  Here’s two adjacent headlines from today 7/19/2020 at 7:30 AM:

Source:  Google News.

I mean, seriously, read the second headline, then look at the first headline.  Surely they meant “spend” instead of “block”?  Note that:

  1. It’s a piece of legislation is meant to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
  2. Four out of five epidemiologists agree that testing and tracing are the keys to containment.
  3. Blocking spending on those key containment tools turns this into legislation  meant to fail to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Now let’s redo that headline Mad Libs style.  See if you can come up with another word, other than “block”, that makes that headline even stupider, in context, than it is now.  Bearing in mind that this is a piece of legislation specifically intended to help control coronavirus.  Try to fill in the blank to make this sentence even stupider than the original above:

“Trump administration pushing to ______ new money for testing, tracing, and the CDC in upcoming coronavirus relief bill.”

Hallucinate?  Lick?  Spray-paint?  Hand-sign?  I give up.

If some foreign enemy tried to subvert a piece of legislation that way, we’d be outraged.  If the Russians stepped in to try to prolong the US coronavirus pandemic, we’d consider that an act of war.  And yet, because some pinhead in the Federal government thinks that’s a good idea, we have to treat it as a serious proposition.



I miss the lunatic fringe


Another thing I miss is the lunatic fringe.  Not the people and organizations in the fringe itself.  I miss the concept of lunatic fringe.  The notion that it was OK to ridicule people who believed really stupid things.  To do so openly, and without apology.  I miss the idea that you’re doing a public service by scornfully dismissing ridiculous people with ridiculous notions.  With that lovely, simple, phrase: Lunatic fringe.

But mostly, I miss having a government that didn’t pander to the pinheads.  A government that didn’t actively seek to weaponize popular stupidity in a game of political advantage.

So now, despite a public space that seem to be populated by a series of pinheads, somehow, we aren’t allowed to dismiss them.  Mock them.  Or classify them as the lunatic fringe.  Nope, we have to treat them as if they actually held some sort of valid opinion.  Because, in no small part, a lot of those pinheads get the strong support of our Federal government.

I guess what brings this rant on is looking back at my earliest posts on masks.  I breathed a big sigh of relief when the CDC changed its guidance on 4/3/2020.  Once the CDC recommended wearing masks, my sole concern was that citizens would get access to high-quality masks capable of filtering aerosols.

Wow, was I naive.   Three months later, and the battle isn’t over high-quality versus low-quality masks.  The battle is still about whether or not to wear a mask.  Or compel people to wear one.  Three months after the CDC said that it was a good idea.  And the head of the Chinese CDC simply stated that failure to wear masks was “the big mistake” that the US was making.

But I wasn’t alone.  Months ago, it dawned on me that all those cute “flatten-the-curve” graphs were way too simple.  Everybody with sense started to talk this pandemic response being something of a bumpy ride.   Everybody switched from graphs that looked like this:

Source:  NPR.

To ones that looked something like this:

But nobody, not one single analyst, ever expected the graph to look like this:

Source:  New York Times

And that’s because, if asked, nobody with any sense could possibly have predicted the amazing, astounding, dysfunctional stupidity of the (let’s be honest) die-hard Republican/right-wing-lunatic-fringe response to the pandemic.  I guess that’s impolitic to say that, so I’ll keep my thoughts to myself.  But the fact that it’s not socially acceptable does not mean that it’s wrong.