Thursday, 06 February 2014

Calling People Idiots: A Practical Guide

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Activism is really hard, you guys.

You’re supposed to change people’s minds AND raise awareness AND come up with viable alternatives to the thing you’re protesting AND not make so much money selling related merchandise that you look insincere or money-grubbing. It’s very time-consuming and difficult and we usually have better things to do, because there are a LOT of cats doing stuff on the internet, and they’re not going to just laugh at themselves and then post a tweet about their ovaries exploding.

Traditional activism involving liking a page on Facebook or, if you’re really pro-active and outraged, creating a page on Facebook, just doesn’t hold the same righteous and helpful thrill that it used to. It’s like everybody with a computer and an emotional response to things they saw on Reddit can just like a Facebook page these days, spoiling the fun for trail-blazing cause-pioneers like us.

We have to move on to a more effective form of activism, one that will cause arguments, get people talking, get people rolling their eyes with indignant fury alone in their bedrooms in front of their rectangular glowing devices. Something that will expend effort and effect change in equal amounts, however small those amounts may be.

It’s time to start calling people idiots.

Please note, though, that merely walking up to people in the street and calling them an idiot is a silly, unnecessarily direct and confronting way to do it.


There are ways of calling people idiots, and I’ve been studying the people who already do it – the “condescending vanguard”, if you will, or the “river-crossers of outrage efficiency”, if you’ll indulge me further.

I’ve learned a lot, and I’m willing to share it with you. With the following tips, you can show that you’re every bit as political as climate change deniers, climate change scientists, feminists, misogynists, atheists, bible-bashers, gay rights activists, homophobes, racists, vegans, carnivores, homeopaths, sceptics, anti-vaccination loonies, vaccination lobbyists, cholesterol shamsters, environmentalists, mining capitalists, Labor voters, LNP voters and everybody tweeting about QandA are. Ready?

  • The internet is the best place to call people idiots. Der.
  • Calling people idiots is great fun. I and many other people, do it all the time. Put simply, if you don’t share my beliefs, you’re obviously an idiot. You have every right to call people idiots, depending on what your attitude towards having-no-effect-other-than-making-you-feel-like-a-big-hero is. I kind of love feeling like a big hero, especially around electronic equipment.
  • Weirdly, calling people idiots doesn’t actually change their minds and make them start thinking the same way you do, which is an obvious glitch in the system. In a funny twist, when people are called idiots they tend to dislike you and everything you represent, and start going out of their way to disagree with you. It’s a good thing you’re not hoping to change people’s minds or improve things. Remember, we’re here to feel like big heroes, nothing else.
  • Never forget that you also have the option of calling people who agree with you idiots if they don’t agree with you ENOUGH. Moderate opinions have no place on the internet or in opinion columns. Let’s keep it extreme and philosophically undemanding, people.
  • If your target has not yet crumbled and come around to your way of thinking (weird), and they’re brave enough to explain calmly and patiently how they came to their plainly idiotic point of view, ramp it up a notch. Perhaps start your protest with phrases such as “Can you really not understand that” or “It’s not my job to explain to people why” or merely a haughty-yet-time-efficient “So?”. Really show those idiots who’s boss/not an idiot.
  • You can call people “morons” as well. Mix it up.
  • Under no circumstances let hypocrisy slow you down. People who dig up your tweets from a year ago that contradict your opinion now, or show that you’re saying one thing on Facebook and a slightly different polar opposite thing on a blog are just missing the point. Probably because they’re IDIOTS, right? What they don’t REALISE is that this is what you mean NOW and that other stuff is just SATIRE or they MISUNDERSTOOD it and shut up.
  • Don’t make it absolutely clear what your stance is. It helps to move the goalposts around a bit. Be whimsical. If people know exactly what to do or say in order to agree with you, they might start actually agreeing with you, which may lead to a shortage of idiots. Sure, that might mean that the world becomes a better place, but a better place with fewer people to condescend to. Boring.
  • It’s really easy to get people who already agree with you to agree with you again, so keep doing that. Make sweeping, strident statements that are easy for people who agree with you to agree with, and see if you can get them to agree really loudly. Sometimes you can even take an afternoon off calling people idiots, because people who agree with you will be willing to do it for you. Have a gin. You earned it.
  • Don’t bother poking around the mainstream looking for people, things and examples that support your point of view – stick to the fringes. The thick mainstream part of the bell curve is full of people who have been blinded by the ubiquitously sinister influence of whatever it is you’re against, and can’t see the (endangered, toxic, conservative) forest for the (phallic, chiropractic, homophobic) trees. Go for the fringes. They shout louder and spit more.
  • Never forget to pick up on an idiot’s terrible spelling or grammar. Everybody knows that if you misplace an apostrophe it make’s you’re entire argument invalid.
  • Idiots are probably conspiring to silence your totally reasonable point of view. Idiots huddle together in think-avoiding clusters, talking about you, and if they deny that, it’s all part of their game. Console yourself with the fact that when idiots group together it’s called a “conspiracy of nutbags’. When you guys do it, though, it’s called a “network’. You’re fine. Go you. I like your cardigan. Chuck in a petition! Nothing shuts idiots up faster than a petition. Petitions are an awesome way to make calling people idiots look official. There are lots and lots of different words you can use in a petition, but it should essentially start with “We, the undersigned’, then some more words, then essentially “think you’re all idiots’, and then have a whole bunch of names. Give it to the people you think are idiots. It’s a bit like ganging up on people, but democratic.
  • If somebody’s being an idiot but only a handful of people have noticed it, draw as much attention to their idiocy as you can. Everybody knows that the more attention an idiot gets, the weaker and more unsure they feel. They’ll probably stop doing that thing they were probably doing for attention if they actually get attention. Science.

Go forth and ridicule people’s beliefs. It’s a whole lot easier than anything you could do standing up or opening another browser tab.

This article is from the King’s Tribune Summer 2014 magazine, which includes an exclusive extract from Tim Dunlop’s book The New Front Page and articles from Brocklesnitch, Amy Gray, Jo Thornely, Stephen Herrick, Mat Larkin, Upulie Divisekera and many others. The full list of articles and contributors is here

You can buy the limited edition paper copy here Subscribers will received a $5 discount (select Summer Issue 2014 from the drop down membership list, available only until sold out) or the Kindle version here.

Jo Thornely

Jo Thornely writes for The Daily Telegraph and The Punch, but leaves time for her day job in television, which facilitates her love of criticising people and gin. Follow her on Twitter @jothornely
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