Oh, that’s right: liberals can’t rape

Here we go again. There’s plenty to hoist your eyebrows when a professional whistleblower ends up suddenly wanted very desperately for sexual assault charges that were first brought against him months ago. But don’t let questions about possible government conspiracies derail you from the important thing: Assange is a liberal, and therefore can’t be a rapist, because liberals don’t do that sort of thing. Yes. Repeat that to yourself while bashing your head against the wall each time. No, don’t stop. Keep doing it. Can you still hear me? Then keep going.

By Sunday, when Keith Olbermann retweeted Bianca Jagger’s link to a post about the accuser’s supposed CIA ties — complete with scare quotes around the word “rape” — a narrative had clearly taken hold: Whatever Assange did, it sure wasn’t rape-rape. All he did was fail to wear a rubber! And one woman who claims he assaulted her has serious credibility issues anyway. She threw a party in his honor after the fact and tried to pull down the incriminating tweets. Isn’t that proof enough? The only reason the charges got traction is that, in the radical feminist utopia of Sweden under Queen Lisbeth Salander, if a woman doesn’t have multiple orgasms during hetero sex, the man can be charged with rape. You didn’t know?

“Rape-rape?” Whoopi Goldberg’s cutesy term for what she felt Roman Polanski did not do to his drugged, thirteen-year-old, non-consenting victim has resurfaced.

We’re not talking about people questioning the merits of the case. They’re reaching far and wide to find ways to rationalize how Assange can’t actually be guilty of rape because it doesn’t fit their personal narrative, in which liberals fighting for good causes can’t be rapists. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying Assange is or isn’t a rapist. How the hell would I know? I am merely saying he could be. That concept should be obvious. Instead, it needs an article over 500 words, apparently.

This is so important to understand if you actually want to reduce rape rather than just blither about it until it’s Your Guy getting accused, and then switch sides. Rapists can appear very ordinary – or very extraordinary. Many rapists are particularly suited to achieving high status and positions of authority because trampling others to get what they want does not cause them to lose sleep. Many rapists realize that if they inhabit the right positions of authority, their communities will never believe they could be rapists – it’s the perfect “hiding in plain sight” cover! Many rapists are great actors, capable of pretending to be truly kind, decent – even feminist – until they get a victim where they want her/him.

And some rapists are actually sincere about their liberal beliefs. You know how sometimes people surprise you? Like, your favorite green frugal hippy friend turns out to be in favor of stopping Mexican immigration to the US or something? Well, sometimes people really want to save the planet or do something good and they think certain individuals lack the right to deny them sex. People are complicated like that.

Any liberal who refuses to get this is not really concerned about women, women’s issues, rape or rape culture.


  1. The Other Patrick says

    I’m currently having a serious spat with my girlfriend because she surprised me with an opinion I… let’s say, don’t share. At all.

    So even when you know people, that happens. And who among those really knows Assange? Aside from his OKCupid profile, I mean.

    I have no idea about the rape allegations, which is why I didn’t touch on that in my own blog posts about wikileaks other than saying he might be guilty or not. But apparently, too many people can’t understand this issue and have to jump to conclusions.

  2. M.C. says

    All I can say is that if a goverment wants to get you with fake charges they better not use rape. Because that’s highly inefficient since only about 5 % of all rape cases end in a conviction. And even then the convict gets away with like a few months on probation.

  3. Jen says

    Everyone’s sort of decided whether he’s guilty or not already… like there’s backlash to him being proven guilty, he hasn’t been tried yet.
    If it is a bogus rape charge it’s a very cleverly orchestrated one cos it’s divided the left – right wing people get a kick out of that for sure.
    Bottom line is, this should not affect wikileaks, he should be tried and punished if found guilty, but Wikileaks should continue. I’m fed up with personality politics ruining good movements. But what do I know, I love American Apparel but hate their CEO and think he should be at least sacked. I think everyone should be put under the same scrutiny which is usually reserved for people making waves against the establishment.

    • says

      That’s what I really have started hating about rape cases (in the few times they go to trial). People just assume one way or the other, and then if the alleged rapist is found not guilty that means the girl is a lying whore (when in actuality she could very well have been raped, but not by him, or a large number of other reasons). And there’s that stupid thinking that soooo man women are just liars and totally want to put themselves through all this crap, because THAT’s fun times.

      And it’s weird. I don’t hear of an other crimes placing this much stigma on the victim. In many ways it seems like people think that someone being accused of rape is worse than someone being raped. I don’t get how people can come to that conclusion.

      • DragonLord says

        To me the problem is with false accusations. IMO been falsely accused of rape is as bad as being raped, as in both cases an event occurs that changes your life forever, and not in a good way.

        • says

          OMG, I can’t believe I’m seeing this from you. This is a classic misogynistic argument. Did you miss this article and the links that went with it, perhaps? There’s a cultural narrative which insists that false accusations are common, and often result in men being put in prison. (With a little probing one can discover that by “men”, these scenarios always seem to mean “white, middle class nice guys”, of course.)

          First of all, false accusations of rape – at least defined how you mean them, with a woman who wasn’t raped by anyone claiming she was raped by That Guy Right There – against anyone are very rare, far more rare than with other types of crimes. You know how hard it is to put away guilty rapists. How low must your opinion of women be, to assume we would go around subjecting ourselves to the intense, humiliating invasion that is a rape investigation, let alone trial, because, what? Someone didn’t send us flowers? Jesus.

          From the above link, which you really should read all of:

          Consider that most men wrongly convicted of rape are men of color who have often been misidentified by victims pressured by law enforcement to say they’re more sure of identification than they really are (and also by other witnesses who have their own motives for wanting the defendant behind bars, which has nothing to do with the sexual assault in question). Because they are no more privileged than the women who accused them, juries can’t imagine why she’d be lying, and happily convict (and of course, straight-up racism plays a part here, too). Then white middle class (or higher) men moan endlessly on websites about how women make up stories about rape just to hurt them, when white middle class men are rarely convicted rightly, let alone wrongly, of rape.

          When men are put away for rapes they didn’t commit, it’s a function of classism and racism, not women lying. Did you read the recent articles about DA’s telling rape victims they didn’t have a case despite a confession (or similar damn good evidence)? You can’t seriously think we expect these guys are there for us when we want to make up a crime that never happened and will be purely “she said/he said.” And we couldn’t possibly seriously launch a rape case against someone without them. Dude, what are you even thinking? It’s so absurd as to be comical.

          And two words: ROMAN POLANSKI. How can you argue with a straight face that being accused of a rape you didn’t commit changes your life forever in a bad way within a context wherein there are so many known rapists running around having much nicer lives than 99.999% of all rape victims will ever get to experience? I mean, I’m sure being accused of any crime you didn’t commit sucks a lot, but how much it actually hurts you has more to do with your social status than anything else.

          To suggest that false accusations are the root cause of people assuming Assange can’t be guilty only shows that you’re as tragically uninformed and unengaged in critical thinking on this issue as the people I’m talking about in the article.

          • says

            Though very rare, false accusations do happen and it irritates me to see people treat it as so blase and commonplace.

            It’s disrespectful both to the victims of rapes that see their attacker walk away scot free and it’s disrespectful to the few innocent men who do deal with the accusations.

            In the only false accusation case I personally know of that was verified as a false accusation, the woman in the case was a seriously f-ed up individual who had been sexually abused enough during her life that she viewed sex as a weapon. She was borderline if not an actual sociopath. She was a full on pathological liar. She herself was a rapist. She was actually committed to a mental institution because she was determined to be a very real danger to people around her.

            Most women know full well the consequences of rape and it’s something with which we. Do. Not. Fuck. Around. The type of person who will make such a false accusation is statistical exceptional, so why the hell would anyone think that false accusations are common?

            Most ‘false accusations’ are a case of the rapist in question not considering their actions to actually be rape due to privilege. It’s a false accusation because he bought her dinner first, so it can’t be rape. She didn’t scream and claw at his face, so obviously she was willing. They were on a date, it can’t be rape. She agreed to go out with him in the first place, it’s just buyer’s remorse because it went further than she wanted. Blah de blah just because I didn’t get express consent doesn’t make it right, what did the bitch expect? I’m just a guy. How dare she try to accuse me of rape just because she didn’t consent to the sex!

            • says

              so why the hell would anyone think that false accusations are common?

              Most ‘false accusations’ are a case of the rapist in question not considering their actions to actually be rape due to privilege.

              Did you mean to answer your own question here? 😀 Because the second line is precisely exactly why many people mistakenly think it’s common: privileged men control that narrative. They’ve invested a lot in creating the impression that women routinely fool entire local power structures into believing they’ve been raped by a specific man when in fact they’ve been raped by no one, and are just pissed he left the toilet seat up or something. Why would privileged men be spreading this lie about the power women allegedly have to destroy them so easily? See also: “Heathen Indian savages are going to rape our white women” when rape was actually extremely rare in the “Indian” nations at the time but white men raped women of every description. See also “black men are going to rape our white women”, which, aside from the fact they’re no longer being lynched for looking at white women, is still going on in the form of what I mentioned in my previous comment.

              It’s all about making people afraid that a subjugated group actually has MORE power than the entrenched group, so people will support the further oppression of the subjugated group. But who’s really putting men in jail for rapes they didn’t commit? Male cops and male lawyers and male judges and male jurors – that’s right, the male-dominated power structure. No woman could send a man up without its help.

              It should also be mentioned that if there was any real truth to the idea that most any woman can get most any man convicted of rape on a whim by shedding crocodile tears to fool law enforcement, we would have fucking taken over the world by now. Like, “what patriarchy?”

          • SunlessNick says

            Doctor Science has an especially good takedown of the idea that false accusations of rape as bad as rape.

            I’d also throw in that if a false accusation of rape can damage your life in a way you can’t easily repair – which it potentially can – then so can an accusation of being a lying, gold-digging slutbitchwhore. Yet presuming innocence for the first accusation is generally conflated with presuming guilt for the second.

            And any woman who accuses a man of rape will be accused of being a lying god-digging slutbitchwhore, which by DragonLord’s assertion must be as bad as being raped in the first place.

          • says

            I was just pointing out the multiple forms of cognitive dissonance required to actually think false accusations are commonplace.

            It is a crime to file a false report. How often are charges of filing a false report actually brought and substantiated against a woman accusing a man of rape?

            Just because a rapist was not convicted doesn’t mean the charges were false or insubstantial. Frankly, given the odds, I’d say it means one of the men on the jury is a rapist himself.

        • says

          Well, the cognitive disconnect continued. DL has left a couple of comments *totally ignoring and dismissing* my rebuttal and handwringing about how false accusations discredit real victims.

          I told him in email that false accusations are conspiracies men (cops, lawyers, male power structure) weave around other men (or color or lower social status). Women are just a useful tool in these situations, and our credibility is only harmed by the same thing it always is hurt by: that men like DragonLord have a heavy emotional investment in not facing reality.

          I told him he can try to engage with this discussion again – in the past, he’s shown some signs of wanting to learn more about gender politics, but in this case he seems to think he magically knows best and can refute our facts by simply ignoring them and continuing to spout myths.

          • says

            False accusations exist, just like Munchhausen (sp) and Munchhausen by proxy exist. They are just all far rarer than TV shows would have you believing. TV would have you believe 1 in 10 cases a doctor sees are Munchhausen, when in reality most doctors go their entire lives without encountering such a case.

            A rape accusation on an innocent man makes for ‘good’ drama, thus TV portrays it as commonplace. Of course, TV and movies also portray MPD/DID as not uncommon when in reality it’s more or less the holy grail of psychology.

            ‘False’ accusations of sexual harassment are a bit more common, but only because sexual harassment is subjective. It’s not false as in ‘made up’, it’s false in that it’s misunderstood boundaries or customs rather than intended offense. To an outside observer, myself and a former co-worker having a bantering relationship similar to Morgan and Garcia in Criminal Minds could easily have been taken as sexual harassment, but in reality it was the two of us being good friends.

            • says

              The news also over-emphasizes cases where accusations against white men prove to be false, or at least distorted to the point where a case can’t be made, but the only time I ever saw tearful handwringing about men of color actually serving prison time for rapes they didn’t commit was on a reality TV show called “Dallas DNA” which followed Dallas TX’s investigation which found 18 of 40 cases to be unsound. And these were not cases of false accusations. These were cases of the white male power structure conspiring to put away anyone who was convenient (men of lower social status, particularly men with criminal records, with no access to good attorneys).

              The false accusations against the Duke lacrosse team did not cause them damage. Don’t get me wrong: damage occurred – lost jobs, families being harassed, etc. – but what caused it was the press coverage and the actions of men. Crystal Mangum lacked the power to do real damage to the accused, let alone any of the other people who got hurt in Duke’s rush to look good by firing and suspending people, and so on. From Wikipedia:

              Durham declined the settlement offer and on October 5, 2007, Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann filed a federal lawsuit alleging a broad conspiracy to frame the players. Named in the suit were Nifong, the lab that handled the DNA work, the city of Durham, the city’s former police chief, the deputy police chief, the two police detectives who handled the case and five other police department employees.

              Why sue these men rather than Crystal Mangum? The primary answer might be a cynical “because she hasn’t got enough money to pay a judgment, so it’d be a waste of time”, but it’s also because (a) she only provided the ammo, and it was these men involved in the investigation who gave it the legitimacy it apparently didn’t deserve and (b) she has a history of mental illnesses, which included taking anti-psychotics, and psychosis is exactly the sort of mental condition that gives a person a tenuous grip on reality, possibly with detailed delusions of things that never happened. While people with delusional conditions MUST be taken seriously when they claim to have been victimized, in this case, the evidence actually contradicted her version of events. Law enforcement ignored that, and that is where any erosion of credibility for assault victims occurred.

              In fact, it’s very curious to me why they jumped all over this case when there are so many solid cases law enforcement would rather just not hear about. Gotta wonder what their motives in this were. Part of the job of law enforcement is to determine what’s a false accusation and what isn’t. When they consistently do such a splendid job of getting it backassward, you’ve gotta wonder. Incompetents would get it wrong as often as they got it right. There’s something else going on, and it’s nothing to do with women, women’s rights, or concerns about rape.

          • says

            I wonder if there even are any substantiated cases of ‘false rape accusation’ where the accuser wasn’t suffering from mental illness and/or pressured by the cops to make the accusation?

            And note: The rape victim being pressured to drop the charges does NOT a false accusation make.

            • says

              Well, in the absence of data (which would be hard to get, since mental illness is so often undiagnosed), let’s come at it backwards.

              By definition, anyone who could put another person through an unwarranted rape investigation would have to lack conscience and empathy, or else be delusional and really believe the rape happened. A rape investigation is very hard on both the victim and the accused – even when the victim isn’t really a victim. To fake being a victim and take it that far – it’s a sustained campaign of terror, like stalking somebody. It goes on for months, and you have to stay in character and keep the lies straight.

              The one exception to this is teenagers, who can behave like sociopaths because they just don’t fully grasp the consequences, but still grow up to be conscientious, empathetic adults without mental health issues. So I think that actually eliminates anyone other than teens.

              And yet, as cruel as teenage girls can be, they’re not known for their sticktoitiveness. So even this scenario would be really uncommon. And, I suspect, easy to see through if investigators were troubling their brains at all.

              And note: The rape victim being pressured to drop the charges does NOT a false accusation make.

              Right. Also: getting paid to tell your story to the press, or accepting a settlement in a civil trial (like Samantha Gaimer). Those are all too often seen as proof that “all she really wanted was money, therefore there was no rape”, when in fact a rape victim may simply realize money is the closest thing to justice she has a chance of getting.

          • says

            I’ve banned him, FWIW. Email discussion was going nowhere. His responses in this thread just boil down to “mansplaining”. I provide credible sources to support my claims; he just makes counter-claims and expects us to acknowledge how right he is because… I don’t know? Because he’s a man? Or do people honestly not recognize the difference between:

            “Here is a well-rounded study with good methodology which says A.”


            “No, it’s B! B, B, B, B, B! You are oppressing me by not agreeing with me!”

            Anyway, I find mansplaining triggery, and I’m sure I’m not alone there.

          • The Other Patrick says

            It’s not mansplaining, but I hate that kind of behavior even when my mom does it – we were just recently watching a documentary about sex and the internet, where they had several researchers (psychologists, sociologists) talk about how most kids weren’t falling prey to internet predators, and they still had sex with 17, and how the internet for most kids wasn’t that dangerous (only for those who might not be as resistant or as perceptive as the average*) – and she just said, “well, I don’t believe these people who have studied it. I, who only surfs on ebay, say the internet is dangerous.”

            *which doesn’t mean the internet is bad, but I do think we should try and make it safe(r) even for those kids.

            • says

              Maybe it isn’t mansplaining – I’m starting to see more and more people of both genders insisting their uninformed opinion beats research. And yes, research is sometimes wrong and should always be questioned, but the way to refute it is not by saying “Nope, it’s wrong – because I say it is”: you bring up questions it fails to answer. You raise questions about how it was conducted. You find contradictory research. If you can’t poke holes in it OR offer contradictory research, you have to bow to it. Or you can say, “I dunno, it just doesn’t feel right to me, but I can’t articulate why.” But you cannot just say “Nope, they’re wrong.”

              As for those kids: that research result sounds very plausible to me. Predators profile kids: there have always been kids who are more susceptible to their manipulations, and those are the kids successful predators choose out of a crowd of kids. But then I always like to remind people: the majority of molested kids are, like adult rape victims, molested by someone they know, at home or in another familiar environment where they believe themselves safe. The internet sure doesn’t have anything to do with that.

  4. DragonLord says

    Sweden have already said that if he is extradited to sweden they will defer to the Americans claim in preference to their own. (i.e. extradite him to America rather than try him for the rape charges in Sweden).

    • DragonLord says

      Source for that claim here


      “I think that the Americans are much more interested in terms of the WikiLeaks aspect of this,” Stephens told the Middle Eastern news agency. If Assange is forcibly transferred to Sweden, authorities in that country have indicated “they will defer their interest in him to the Americans. It does seem to me that what we have here is nothing more than a holding charge.”

      • Charles RB says

        That’s Assange’s lawyer saying Sweden has “indicated” they’d do that, not a spokesman for the Swedish government or an independent party. He also claims there’d be charges worked out “over the weekend”, and since the weekend’s gone they clearly couldn’t work out how to do a spying charge.

        Sweden might defer to the US, sure, but the US has to have an actual charge with evidence for that to happen; they’re proving incapable of finding one. And after all this fuss, the Swedes are likely going to want to put him on trial to justify the effort and expense.

      • The Other Patrick says

        Uhm, not only is this article slanted in typical Daily Mail fashion, but this is also not necessarily what is alleged – again, in typical Daily Mail fashion.

        Read the Guardian or Washington Post – he is alleged to have held one of the women down while having sex, and without a condom (against her will). And the other woman, he also didn’t use a condom and had sex with her when she was asleep. That’s not just a one-night-stand and bad feelings afterwards, despite what the fucking Daily Mail writes.

        And as to Daily Mail:

          • The Other Patrick says

            And by that, I mean that Assange’s alleged behavior is messy, and that the bullshit excuses like “she held a party for me afterwards” (when he’s clearly the guest of honor during his visit and her making a “scene” would most likely reflect bad on *her*, not him) only make him seem like more of a privileged asshole.

        • I. Scott says

          That song is great.

          The Daily Mail is a waste of a good printing press. They get trolled by a guy in a pub and suddenly “Brussels is trying to regulate the straightness of bananas”.

  5. Rutee says

    Today my brother and step mother treated the rape victim in the Kobe Bryant case as if there were something wrong with her, and not with Kobe (Or his team for putting him back on).

    “He settled out of court. For rape.”
    “Maybe he just wanted to avoid a trial for PR?”
    “As opposed to the PR of being a confirmed rapist?”

    • Rutee says

      Oh, I’m sorry, I was so angry I hit submit without finishing my thought.

      What I meant to go on to say was something along the lines of “And here we are again, and the problem must be on the /victim/. Again. Why, oh why, is it always the victim?”

      I know that answer, don’t tell me, it’s rhetorical flourish. The answer makes me sad and I don’t want to see it out loud right now >_<

  6. I. Scott says

    I knew this would be depressing when I read that title in my feed.

    …People are complicated like that.

    One would think that’s obvious!

    It would be nice if he detached himself from wikileaks while this was going on, but I don’t know how much I can blame him for hanging on to a rock, especially given the support it’s getting him.

  7. Casey says

    @Jennifer regarding any sort of “‘Splaining'”.

    “Maybe it isn’t mansplaining – I’m starting to see more and more people of both genders insisting their uninformed opinion beats research.”

    This is true, it’s gotten to the point where I almost kind of hate the term “mansplaining” because it’s led to people (men in feminist spaces) turning around and accusing assholish women commenters who INSIST their lived experience is universal/their opinion is right NO MATTAR WAT as “femsplaining” and it just feels like a massive sanctimonious slap in the face.
    I could have SWORN there was a word for stubborn people who think they have any sort of authority insist on arguing a fallacy, but for now let’s just call it “douche-splaining”. 😛 😀 😉

    • Casey says

      Also, my mom does this all the time which is why I don’t talk/argue heavy shit with her. The last time she even got in a big fight with my dad about something was because of her arguing her (invalid) point and since I’m a wimp I ended up running out of the house to walk the dogs because yellan’ upsets me (at 20 years old LOL)…when I got back my mom told me that I shouldn’t cry and run away, but rather KEEP ARGUING YOUR POINT NO MATTER WHAT EVEN IF IT’S WRONG, UNTIL THE OTHER PERSON GIVES UP…yeah, I appreciate kinda what she’s trying to do but I’m still calling fukken’ bullshit.

    • Patrick McGraw says

      I agree on all points. Mansplaining is a (very common) sub-category of douche-splaining (along with cissplaining, whitesplaining, etc.), but EVERY TIME I see someone use the term, some ass comes along and brings up some of the other types, which of course means that there is NO SUCH THING as Mansplaining.

      The best definition of “douchesplaining” that I’ve seen goes basically: “A person holds forth as an expert about something their audience has direct experience with, and does not expect to be called on their BS due to privilege.”

      • SunlessNick says

        Sometimes with a refinement where they dismiss the audience’s experience as clouding their judgment rather than sharpening it.

  8. Charles RB says

    Some of the response to the charge is… interesting, because it seems the rape charge is being marginalised or outright ignored (as are the other two charges), with the condom charge being focused on instead. The oddest claim was a celeb supporter over here saying Assange didn’t commit what English law would recognise as rape; I assume he wasn’t that aware of what the charges are, because “having sex with someone who is asleep” would count as rape due to lack of consent.

  9. Charles RB says

    The Guardian newspaper got a look at the charges against Assange. They do charge him with coercive, and quite creepy and threatening, behaviour.

    They also, interesting, piss all over some of his defences: it turns out he deliberately blew off a meeting with Sweden, he initially lied about not knowing the alleged victims, and, quelle surprise, his legal defence team did see prosecution documents they claim they haven’t seen. I don’t know if there’s guilt here, but there’s certainly a lot of entitlement.

    • says

      There’s also a very weird thing about not using condoms, or breaking the condoms he’s finally persuaded to use. That’s not the sort of rape story conspirators would make up. It’s exactly the sort of odd detail real victims would recount.

      It’s also the sort of thing a narcissist would be obsessed with (narcissists comprising the vast majority of rapists), and a sort of crime signature. I know people think of signatures as serial killer lingo, but serial rapists operate similarly, re-enacting the same crime over and over again.

  10. Brand Robins says

    It’s because I’m an expert on everything. And even if I’m not, I’m a smart person and there can’t possibly be much more to any given point than what I know about it. The world simply is not that complicated.

    Err… in other news, there is actually a common form of logical error that North Americans are often (and according to some studies that I cannot now locate increasingly often) prone to. Its a situation where the less someone knows about an issue the more likely they are to assume the issue is simplistic and that their knowledge base is adequate to form a sustainable conclusion.

    This results in a fascinating situation where folks with different levels of expertise are asked how much they know about a subject. Folks who are true experts often know they are true experts and rate themselves quite highly, knowing what it is they know. Folks who are well educated in the field tend to rate themselves on the low end of knowledge, as they know what they do not know. But folks who know almost nothing about the subject rate themselves very highly (sometimes even more highly than experts in the field) because they do not even know what they do not know, and thus assume they know most of what is important.

    I’m fairly sure there’s a Chinese proverb about it too. 😉

    • Casey says

      “Rape apologist who goes to bed with itchy butt wake up with stinky finger”?

      UGH! Feel free to delete that, mods. V_V;;

    • says

      Huh, I didn’t know that was particularly North American. But I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with deeply stupid people who come away convinced *I* am stupid because they can’t comprehend what I’m saying. It doesn’t make sense to them, so it must be gibberish.

      This got me thinking years ago: we assume animals are stupid because we can’t understand what they’re saying (except in the case of parrots, whom we’re finding to be – surprise, surprise – way smarter than we thought). What if we are the stupidest species ever, because we’re the only ones who don’t understand what all the other critters are saying?

      • Casey says

        “But I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with deeply stupid people who come away convinced *I* am stupid because they can’t comprehend what I’m saying. It doesn’t make sense to them, so it must be gibberish.”

        Sounds like every stereotypical experience with an ignorant American and a foreigner who can’t speak English ever.

        Pardon my classism, I’m convinced Earth is the Alabama of the universe and humans are the Alabamians of the animal species until further notice.

        • SunlessNick says

          Sounds like every stereotypical experience with an ignorant American and a foreigner who can’t speak English ever.

          The British are prone to that one as well. I don’t know if the study on assumed simplicity parallels precisely, but the championing of “common sense” and concomittant absolution from thinking about an issue’s general and specific merits is alive and well too.

          • says

            Does your media put a great emphasis on the opinions of people who are not only non-experts but not even informed on a topic? We practically celebrate such opinions over here in our media. The media firmly believes the average American is less intelligent than a door knob, and the real money is in making stupid people feel smart. Hence, the rush to devote coverage to what an “average Joe” thinks about [insert complex sociopolitical issue here].

            I never thought Americans were that stupid, but I think it’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. As people see uninformed people lauded for their uninformed opinions, and even the mildest intellectual curiosity labeled as “elitism”, they try to emulate what’s praised.

          • SunlessNick says

            Our media do have “in the street” interviews, but they treated more as information about people’s reactions/concerns/feelings than information on the issue itself. So no, our media don’t fetishise the “average Joe’s* opinion” like that.

            * At the risk of further depressing you, we’re also more likely to have an even mix of Jo’s and Joe’s.

            As a social trend though, there is a suspicion any implication that an issue is too complex for “common sense” to just cut straight to the heart of it. And mnaking an effort to become informed about it might be taken as such an implication.

            • says

              * At the risk of further depressing you, we’re also more likely to have an even mix of Jo’s and Joe’s.

              I’VE NOTICED THAT. I don’t have access to much of your news, obviously, but there’s a reason I mainly watch British TV anymore: lots more women with agency, lots less sexism in general, relative to US TV. I think your media is slightly less obsessed with portraying machismo and coddling an audience that feels threatened by women being able to do anything men can’t do (that isn’t household and baby related).

              And mnaking an effort to become informed about it might be taken as such an implication.

              I think we need to encourage the use of “common sense” to mean “what any uninformed yahoo might think on the spur of the moment”, because that quality of “thinking” really IS common. Good, logical sense is more rare, and I’m a big fan of it. You can’t reach a right conclusion without the facts: you can’t even theorize without correct and complete data.

              The other media issue intersecting with this one is the advent of soundbytes: the very idea that you could learn anything worth knowing from twenty seconds of babble or 15 words scrolling across a screen is rubbish.

      • Patrick McGraw says

        But I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with deeply stupid people who come away convinced *I* am stupid because they can’t comprehend what I’m saying. It doesn’t make sense to them, so it must be gibberish.

        I discovered at a young age that many deeply stupid people, when they hear a word they do not understand, will replace it with a word that they do understand and become convinced that you said the second word. Testing this out in middle school nearly resulted in physical injury when I called a jock in the cafeteria a “masticating homo sapien.”


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