They are everywhere. And they are dangerous.
How do we deal with stupid people?
One freeing and releasing way to cope with the maddening stupidity of the world is by making fun of it and having a good laugh.
Last week, I watched the track world championships on TV — the women’s scratch race. The Australian coaches were the only ones wearing a mask. And they were wearing it like this:
Under their nose.
I wanted to scream: “HOW STUPID ARE YOU??? WHAT DOES THIS PROTECT YOU FROM? WHAT IS THE POINT?”
The highest standard N95 mask recommended for COVID-19 in Australia removes particles with 300nm. The Corona Virus is about 100nm, three times smaller. (Source). This assumes a perfect airtight fit over the nose, which is impossible. 100nm is
0.1 0.0001 Millimetre.
There is no point. This is the maddening part.
Of course, I know this is not about a virus anymore. I don’t want to trash the guy either - he might hate it as much as I do. Or, more likely, he loves his job more than he hates the mask.
Screaming sarcasm and humour brings out a little bit of compassion. About that much:
Not every one that behaves like a total idiot is a total idiot. Some people can’t afford to act intelligently if they want to keep their jobs.
But somewhere higher up, some Australian sports bureaucrat ordered the relentless virtue signalling around masks to continue. Surprisingly, I can feel some compassion for him, too:
The good news is that the Australians seem to be the only mask wearers left at this event, which makes them look even more stupid in front of the world.
However, nobody is laughing. Nobody is calling them out for it. Everybody is oh-so respectful around it.
So why bother? Because for each one that thinks this is ridiculously stupid, there are at least three stupid people who see the same scenario and
a) don’t even notice anymore that two guys are pretending to wear a mask in a packed velodrome where everyone else is maskless
b) don’t question or wonder how stupid this is
c) see the stupidity of it but don’t care about it anymore
d) think it is no big deal
e) think it can’t harm
f) think it is “the right thing to do”
g) think this is a good coach who cares about the health of his athlete
Almost everyone would feel puzzled and ask hard questions if the same had happened four years ago. After all, these guys represent Australia at the World Championships, so there is some public interest in not looking stupid.
But it gets worse.
Two days ago, I saw a man wearing a mask driving alone in his car. Here, about 200 m from my house in a small town in Australia. In August 2023.
We all heard of it. We all saw the jokes about it. But seeing it with your own eyes is just mind-boggling.
No one tells him to do this. He won’t lose his job not doing it.
No compassion, sorry.
It is incomprehensible to me in what kind of world a man lives that wears a mask driving his car all by himself.
Someone would have sectioned him under the Mental Health Act four years ago.
I really want to stop him and ask him (and maybe one day I will). Tell me, good man, why? Why? WHY ???
There is no way you are that mentally retarded that you think it will protect you from a virus that somehow sneaked into your car and is waiting to infect you.
Maybe he got traumatised by the relentless fear propaganda over the past three years. If that is the case, I feel compassion. He is simply an extremely helpless person. Then somebody should tell him to stop reenacting his trauma and get proper help. He belongs to this club:
A more scary explanation is that this is an extreme virtue-signalling statement: “Look at me. I am doing the right thing. You all should do that. You are non-caring, dangerous people and should all go to a camp for “re-education”.
Another reason to wear a mask while driving alone is to hide an ugly face. This article sums up a university study that concluded that people who rate themselves more ugly than others are more likely to use masks.
“Masks were a game-changer for me. I feel so much more attractive wearing one.”
Ok - enough sarcasm for now. What else can we do to cope with stupid people?
Let’s Study Them Scientifically !!!!
Maybe if we understand them better, we can handle them.
Stupid people didn’t just appear with COVID-19, although it was one of the most notable side effects of the virus. Stupid people have been around for a long time.
So, it is no surprise that intelligent people studied and wrote about them before COVID exposed them in their billions.
In 1976, a professor of economic history, Carlo M. Chipola, published an essay on the laws of stupidity. The article “The five universal laws of human stupidity” gives an overview.
Law 1: Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
No matter how many idiots you suspect yourself surrounded by, Cipolla wrote, you are invariably lowballing the total. This problem is compounded by biased assumptions that certain people are intelligent based on superficial factors like their job, education level, or other traits we believe to be exclusive of stupidity. They aren’t.
So what are the numbers? It depends on how deep and wide you want to look. While you might be well aware of the mask and COVID stupidity around you - because you became an expert in that field - stupidity is not restricted to this area.
Someone could be very switched on and a real warrior of truth in Covid but still quite stupid in other fields.comes to mind. He is acutely aware of the Covid trickery and propaganda and is a hero to some because of it. Yet, simultaneously, he is astonishingly stupid about the drug propaganda.
Worse, he uses similar fear-mongering and exaggerated statements as the Covid nudge units to make his case against marijuana.
I am using Alex to illustrate two facts about stupid people:
You can be alert and intelligent in one area and totally stupid in another area
Despite being stupid in an area, you can still be famous and successful because many people are always more stupid than you.
How can an intelligent man get it so wrong? It is called the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.
Neoliberal Feudalism, in THE RISE OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AMONG THE MASSES, points out our general dissonance to mass media propaganda:
Normal people often experience cognitive dissonance to mass media propaganda — but only in their own area of expertise. They compartmentalise their dissonance and refuse to apply it to other areas of life. Michael Crichton created a term for this, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect:
“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I'd point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. […]
But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper when, in fact, it almost certainly isn't. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.”
Suppose there is any truth to the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. In that case, the logical conclusion is to disregard anything as accurate that comes from the media, including social media, the internet in general and from politicians and experts.
Another example of the Gell-Mann Amnesia are often overly religious people, especially the church-going type. Acutely aware of the COVID lies and propaganda not trusting any expert, they become naive children as soon they turn to the religious pages. Grown, educated men and women believe all sorts of religious rubbish presented by the priest or a particular book.
When stupid religious people, especially the converting Christian types, get challenged with spiritual arguments based on the words of mystics, their responses are often mind-boggling, ridiculous and anti-spiritual. More on that topic in:
In case you missed it:
It is almost impossible to find any compassion for so much dumbness. But I digress.
Maybe I subconsciously wanted to avoid facing this terrible next question: How many stupid people are around me?
Why does that matter?
Because “Ignorance”, a fancy name for being stupid, is the source of all suffering.
Buddhism and other Eastern spiritual teachings recognise the colossal damage mass stupidity causes. Their solution is to raise the self-awareness of all these stupid people through mediation and self-inquiry. In my opinion, it beats praying, but how realistic is it that a significant part of the population “unstupify” themselves through these practices?
To do these exercises, a person needs the ability to activate a so-called “witness state” outside of themselves to observe their habitual unconscious way of thinking and living.
They enter an internal dialogue where a witnessing part of their consciousness is identifying and coaching automatic habitual traits to become more self-conscious. In other words, they learn to become aware of their stupidity. It’s very humbling. And that beats it.
It is not an easy task, as many meditators will attest. To face your stupidity is challenging, at best. Without this reflective ability, there is no hope for any behaviour change in stupid people.
Most people who have this ability of self-reflection and inner dialogue often wrongly assume this is true for every human. Hence, the total underestimation of the number of stupid people by non-stupid people.
But how many non-curable, stupid people are we talking about?
Once again, Neoliberal Feudalism has some interesting contributions:
DO NORMAL PEOPLE HAVE INTERNAL DIALOGUES?
Before criticizing the masses for failing to investigate and organize societal trends in their own minds, let’s first ask if the masses of “normal people” have any thoughts at all or simply verbally regurgitate whatever they hear, with no associated thoughts behind their statements. The concept is astonishing, but the latter is how most people actually live according to a 2007 University of Nevada Department of Psychology study on college students. Per the study, regarding the frequency of common phenomena of inner experience (inner speech, inner seeing (aka images), unsymbolized thinking, feeling, and sensory awareness), only between 22% to 34% of the individuals studied had frequent internal dialogues:
If this study is accurate, most people may simply be meat robots, lacking thoughts inside their heads, and they react to stimuli as they experience it. […]
If this study is correct, only 22% to 34% of this cohort have a self-reflecting capacity and are maybe able to combat their stupidity with spiritual practises.
Interestingly, this amount roughly matches the one-third of people who apparently can see through and are unaffected by mass formation psychosis, according to Mattias Desmet.
This also is in the same ballpark as the 25% that didn’t give into the group pressure in the Asch experiment.
This is a grim outlook. To sum it up:
Roughly 75% of people are stupid and lap up and believe authoritarian propaganda in times of social unrest
They can’t be convinced by logic, facts or better arguments
They don’t know what they are doing. They don’t realise how stupid they are
They think that non-stupid people are stupid and want to destroy them
They do, Dude
And this was just the first law of stupidity Are you ready for more?
Law 2: The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
Cipolla posits stupidity is a variable that remains constant across all populations. Every category one can imagine—gender, race, nationality, education level, income—possesses a fixed percentage of stupid people. There are stupid college professors. There are stupid people at Davos and at the UN General Assembly. There are stupid people in every nation on earth. How numerous are the stupid amongst us? It’s impossible to say. And any guess would almost certainly violate the first law, anyway.
We found some answers about how numerous they are, and the Covid crisis was a worldwide case study in Law 2.
In certain social conditions, highly educated and apparently intelligent people act incredibly stupid and do not even realise it.
It was ungraspable and highly unsettling to me to watch how certain family members and highly-regarded friends, whom I considered very decent and quite intelligent, had no defence against this propaganda and turned into stupid, heartless and scared people I did not recognise anymore.
No logical argument, indisputable fact or emotional appeal would affect them. I could only withdraw from them to protect myself and my sanity.
Law 3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
Cipolla called this one the Golden Law of stupidity. A stupid person, according to the economist, is one who causes problems for others without any clear benefit to himself.
In other words, stupid people gain no benefit from their stupidity - to the contrary - they harm themselves while driving you crazy. That’s why they are so dangerous - they are totally unpredictable. Their stupid actions have no rhyme or reason and are random. More about this later.
This law also introduces three other phenotypes that Cipolla says co-exist alongside stupidity. First there is the intelligent person, whose actions benefit both himself and others. Then there is the bandit, who benefits himself at others’ expense. And lastly there is the helpless person, whose actions enrich others at his own expense. Cipolla imagined the four types along a graph, like this:
Stupidity in a graph
The non-stupid are a flawed and inconsistent bunch. Sometimes we act intelligently, sometimes we are selfish bandits, sometimes we act helplessly and are taken advantage of by others, and sometimes we’re a bit of both. The stupid, in comparison, are paragons of consistency, acting at all times with unyielding idiocy.
Law 4: Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
Intelligent people often feel sorry for stupid people. They wrongly believe that they can educate and help them.
The non-stupid person thinks: “Surely, they can be convinced of something intelligent if we only try in a friendly and patient way long enough?”
No. It won’t work. Haven’t we all tried with friends and family during Covid?
Stupid people think we are the stupid ones, call us conspiracy theorists (because they don’t understand our theories) and turn patronising, if not hostile. It is a total waste of energy that will only drag us down.
And it gets worse. Stupid people are more dangerous than evil people.
Law 5: A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
And its corollary:
A stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit.
We can do nothing about the stupid. The difference between societies that collapse under the weight of their stupid citizens and those who transcend them are the makeup of the non-stupid. Those progressing in spite of their stupid possess a high proportion of people acting intelligently, those who counterbalance the stupid’s losses by bringing about gains for themselves and their fellows.
Declining societies have the same percentage of stupid people as successful ones. But they also have high percentages of helpless people and, Cipolla writes, “an alarming proliferation of the bandits with overtones of stupidity.”
“Such change in the composition of the non-stupid population inevitably strengthens the destructive power of the [stupid] fraction and makes decline a certainty,” Cipolla concludes. “And the country goes to Hell.”
As if Cipolla, in 1976, witnessed our current perfect storm:
A large number of helpless people (Gen Y, Gen Z, Woke, Victim Culture)
It is an explosion of stupid billionaire bandits that not only enrich themselves in perverse ways but are incredibly stupid to believe the world can be ruled successfully with top-down private bureaucratic power structures.
As if history doesn’t show us time and time again what will happen when the stupid mob is agitated and used to push a nefarious cause:
It never ends well to wind up the stupid.
Why Stupidity Is More Dangerous Than Evil
In the article “Why Stupidity is More Dangerous than Evil,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer goes deeply into why stupid people are so dangerous. And he would know. Stupid people killed him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew more than you or I are likely to ever know about the line between stupidity and outright evil. The Lutheran pastor and theologian had a front row seat as he watched the Nazis—history’s evilest stupid people (or stupidest evil people)—ascend to power and come to rule through terror during the 1930s and ‘40s.
He plotted and tried to assassinate Hitler but failed and sadly got executed in the last days of the war.
“Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice,” Bonhoeffer wrote, “[Evil] can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless.”
Bonhoeffer makes a subtle but important point here. Evil is centre stage, brazen and out in the open. It can easily be identified and mobilises immediate and instinctive resistance.
Stupidity, in contrast, is often laughed about and not taken seriously. People underestimate this slowly grinding, restrictive and destructive force. Nothing is alarming and scary about it, and it evokes resistance. The coaches wearing the masks in the velodrom is the perfect example. Stupid people don’t understand how destructive and evil these nonsensical mask rules are for society.
Firstly, being forced to hide our faces disrupts proper emotional human contact (especially for children) and isolates us. If masks become the new normal, they will stifle and freeze human interactions. Further, isolated people are more fearful and easier to manipulate by the propaganda of a totalitarian ruler.
But more importantly, the very act of making people follow rules that make no sense is a subtle but extremely powerful tool for absolute submission under totalitarian power.
In one of my very first substacks, Mask Madness, I wrote:
The same principle is at play when breaking people’s will. Rules that make sense are easy to follow. No enforcement is needed. It doesn’t divide the people. But mad rules and unethical rules are very difficult to follow and therefore divide people into three groups: People that love [or fear] authority and power and want to be part of it [or submit to it], people that are indifferent and politically lazy and just go along, and people who object and resist. How people react to authoritarian illogical and non-sensical rules gives an indication of which group they belong. The people in power can then play the different groups.
A nonsensical, illogical rule flushes out the non-stupid dissident. A crafty, evil tyrant can then play the stupid majority against the non-stupid minority. It is the same with forcing a nonsensical vaccination that didn’t prevent transmission to people who didn’t need it because the virus was harmless for the healthy younger population. It separated the dissidents and critical thinkers from the stupid people. Then they wound up the stupids against the non-stupids with lying propaganda: “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
While evil bandits run the show, they couldn’t do it without the stupid people. Evil bandits don’t have the numbers. They are a select few. They play the “useful idiots,” and the “useful idiots” are simply too stupid to recognise until it is too late.
During the Covid crisis, I struggled with the authoritarian overreach of the powerful bureaucrats and politicians, no doubt. But what upset and scared me the most was the stupid people who didn’t question any of it but supported it. Instinctively, I identified them as the dangerous ones. They were the ones recruited for the SS and concentration camp guards back then.
Consider this description of the typical stupid person from Bonhoeffer:
“He is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being.”
Stupid people use their fickle minds to make stupid decisions. Non-stupid people don’t think or believe much at all. They are tuned in to what IS right in front of them right now. And the right decisions happen spontaneously, instantly, without thinking - from their hearts.
Some say They trust their guts. Sadly, trusting our guts has been bred out of us for many generations now. Many people have lost the courage to trust their guts. So they trust corrupt idiots and do the stupid things they are told.
Like fighting viruses with masks and putting them on their little children so the children learn to be stupid very early.
Bonhoeffer identified the cause of societal stupidity like this: “Every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. It would even seem that this is virtually a sociological-psychological law.”
Which links back to Mass Formation Psychosis. Despite being a Pastor, he rightly identifies upsurges in religious power as stupidity-inducing phenomena, too.
How Do We Combat Stupidity?
Firstly, we have to recognise it in ourselves.
It is straightforward to see the stupidity in other people and extremely difficult to see it in ourselves.
“What? I am stupid?” Yes, you are.
Seeing and admitting our ignorance and stupidity is the first step to not being stupid. And don’t worry about your reputation. You are in good company:
Therefore, first, we must catch up with Socrates and realise our own stupidity, which is painful.
Until we truly understand that we “know nothing at all”, we will be stupid, at least sometimes in some areas. Remember the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect? To be safe, question anything as untrue until proven otherwise. No matter what, no matter who said it.
It is painful to wake up. It hurts to see how stupid we have been all these years. What fools we were. It's so embarrassing to admit how naive we were. We were lied to, ripped off, and manipulated most of our lives. Our blind trust was abused—it is time to open our eyes and see.
Everything is less painful than facing our pain. But getting conscious of our suffering is a great teacher. It raises awareness and sets us free. And the taste of that freedom and courage is worth the struggle and pain.
We must find out—each of us for ourselves, in our own way and method.
Or we don’t. And stay stupid and suffer more.
If we can’t do it for ourselves, maybe we can do it for our children because they suffer most from our stupidity.
Before you apply the “stupid” label to whatever group you disagree with and move on, consider the possibility that you are the stupid one. Stupid people don’t think they’re stupid after all […]
“It is in essence not an intellectual defect but a human one,” he writes. “There are human beings who are of remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and others who are intellectually quite dull yet anything but stupid.”
How can we avoid being infected and blind to our stupidity?
If stupidity is a sociological condition, the people who are most likely to avoid it are the those who are isolated from others—or so said Bonhoeffer: “[People] who live in solitude manifest this defect less frequently than individuals or groups of people inclined or condemned to sociability.”
Not to put words in the guy’s mouth, but it seems like social media and the internet are simply additional methods of infecting the masses with stupidity, maybe made more effective because it excises flesh-to-flesh human interaction altogether.
But what about the other stupid people?
Only after we become more humble and aware of our stupidity can we think about how to combat stupidity in others.
Assuming for the moment that you and I are not stupid, and that we would be personally brave enough to even try: What can we do about the scourge of stupidity? According Bonhoeffer, you can’t fight stupidity with reason, facts, protests, or your fists, because, to the stupid, “Reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed… and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.”
In terms of a “solution” Bonhoeffer offers the following:
“Only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person.”
I’m not sure how “external liberation” can be achieved without the kind of “upsurge of power in the public sphere” that leads to stupidity in the first place—after all, how many seemingly righteous and just social and political movements have ended in bloodshed, oppression, and stupidity throughout history? I want to say “all of them,” but I’m too stupid to really know.
To Bonhoeffer, the answer [is] to stupidity is provided by God: “The word of the Bible that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom declares that the internal liberation of human beings to live the responsible life before God is the only genuine way to overcome stupidity.”
But Bonhoeffer’s God is clearly different from the one worshipped by most German Christians during the War—few Catholic or Protestant congregations were as opposed to the Nazis as the “Confessing Church” to which Bonhoeffer belonged, and plenty of Christians saw no contradiction between worshipping God and being a Nazi. But even if everyone in Germany had agreed that Bonhoeffer’s God was the one they believed in, it wouldn’t account for all the non-Judeo-Christian expressions of spirituality in the world, nor does that leave hope for the those of us who think all religion in bullshit.
I agree with the author that Christianity, and especially the churches, have no answer to the stupidity of the masses. On the contrary, they fan it and, more often than not, support mass formation psychosis. Not only in Nazi Germany but also in the latest “Corona Crisis”.
So are we fated to endure another horrible oppression, followed by revolution and bloodshed?
Is there any cure? Or is suffering and pain the only remedy to wake stupid people from their stupidity?
It is futile to muse about or explore social interventions. Even if we would find the right interventions to break the destructive circle, what is it good for? Neither of us has the power or means to implement it.
The only little power we have is in our own lives. That’s where we can make a difference. If enough people focus on that, who knows?
We can set intentions not to be so bloody stupid. And set an example. And see what happens.
I can’t see any other way.
To break this cycle, billions of individuals must wake up to their stupidity. It’s not a social movement, a revolution, or a new leader or political system that sets this world right again. It is all about stupid people waking from their trance-like stupidity and understanding what really matters.
How do we wake up? We do what Jesus and countless other mystics have tried to tell us for about 10,000 years: Look within, stupid.
When we start looking within, what do we notice first? We notice the pain of suffering. That’s probably why 8.4999999 billion don’t do it.
It’s easier to pray and do some wishful thinking, go back to the mind and create a fantasy world or distract ourselves by doing an endless succession of “stuff”: Hobbies, Shopping, Working, Researching, Freedom Fighting, Accumulating things, TicToc, TV, Video Games - you name it.
Anything will be done to avoid facing our own stupidity.
Apart from growing our self-awareness, it is essential to stay safe. Nothing lasts forever. The only thing in the universe that doesn’t change is change itself.
While Bonhoeffer was good at analysing the Nazi situation and general aspects of stupidity, you have to wonder how wise his actions were. You could call him a hero for trying to kill Hitler, but he did pay the ultimate price.
I wonder if his Christian beliefs caused this martyrism. And I wonder if martyrism is a heroic form of stupidity.
If you are on Substack and read this, you are likely much less stupid than them. Unless you are a martyr and want to be killed, I would advise: Go for cover, act stupid if required, resist in the dark as much as possible, prepare for the worst, keep yourself and your loved ones safe and wait it out.
Stupid people are so stupid that they eventually turn against each other. Just stay out of the line of fire.
Until then, try to survive and never say or do something intelligent in front of stupid people. It will make them feel inferior. They already feel inadequate. That’s why they crave authority. And they can’t think for themselves, that’s why they crave authority.
But never underestimate them. They can be very dangerous.
Evil people are predictable. Idiots are unpredictable. You can’t trust them. They betray you. Be careful.