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Rant #49
(published July 19, 2001)
In Praise of Close-Mindedness
A Manifesto for the Thoughtful Asshole
by Lucas Kovar

Imagine you are engaged in heated debate with a nitwit. Perhaps he insists that the tiny amount of electromagnetic radiation produced by small appliances is life-threatening. Maybe he claims that science— science!— proves that ancient, unprincipled medical practices are still relevant today. Possibly he asserts that telepathy and ESP are firmly grounded in modern physics. You've probably been taught to suffer such brainlessness, to be "open-minded" lest you endure the scorn of a society that ham-handedly stuffs tolerance down your throat. Maybe you've even managed to convince yourself that there is benefit in listening patiently to views that conflict violently with common sense. After all, how can you accurately judge a person's ideas unless you hear their entire line of reasoning? Didn't everyone call Einstein crazy? Don't you risk missing out on a superior and revolutionary way of thinking? It's best, it might seem, to simply hear them out before passing judgment.

My friends, do not fall into this trap. These people are not latter-day Einsteins. They are the slobbering, gibbering cretins you believe them to be. Do not be tricked into equating unbiased thinking with uncritical thinking. Do not be ashamed of dismissing them out of hand. No! Break free of the chains of open-mindedness! Throw down the shackles of undiscriminating tolerance! Refuse to endure another instant of sanity-eroding idiocy!

This all assumes, of course, that you are not a moron. If you are a moron, you should listen to your betters. You should also go far, far away— this very instant, mind you— and never trouble us again.

How, one might ask, did close-mindedness get such a bad rap? The root problem is that idiots vastly outnumber clear-thinking souls such as you and me. They have so deeply infiltrated our society that their presence is no longer even remarkable. Intelligent design theory, evolutionary psychology, Star Wars missile defense— we are awash in a flood of filtered, purified drivel that erodes our ability to think critically and leaves us gasping for rational exposition. The loonies are everywhere, demanding our attention in a compulsive need to spread their viral stupidity. They decry our haughtiness when we rightfully blow them off and froth over our unreasoning hatred of different points of view. In this manner they have fought to make discretion unfashionable. With this incessant badgering it's no wonder that an otherwise reasonable individual might be tempted to hear them out. This impulse must be resisted! Nothing is to be gained by listening to a dolt's ravings, and you stand no chance of helping them understand the many ways in which they have fundamentally misunderstood the matter at hand.

The solution is to aggressively, assiduously ignore the slack-jawed hordes. This requires developing rules of thumb for identifying those who are likely to be wastes of time— psychiatrists, goateed self-described philosophers, Bush voters, and so on. Some people have a hard time accepting this. They point out that such generalizations may fail when applied to a specific individual, thereby revealing their need to bone up on the definition of "generalization". "How can you say that all sociologists are fatuous blowhards?" they say. "That's a sweeping generalization— surely there's some sociologist who conducts useful research". This is not the point. While it turns out that in this particular example the general rule is never violated— all sociologists truly are fatuous blowhards— the idea is that even if this were sometimes false, probabilistically speaking one would still come out ahead by tuning out whenever a sociologist opens his or her mouth.

"Good day, sir. I have recently completed research wherein I demonstrate that a complex set of human behaviors can be divided into an ad hoc set of complementary categories. The ingenious twist is that particular behaviors— in fact, all behaviors that anyone has ever specifically mentioned to me— are allowed to posses properties of multiple or even all categories, thereby ensuring that my hypothesis is safely unfalsifiable."

[fingers in ears] "Oh say can you see / By the dawn's early light..."

"Hm. I would characterize your actions as being a mixture of both the Aggressive and Passive prototypes. Well, I would enlighten you further, but I see you are otherwise engaged. Good day."

While you may on rare occasion fail to give a fair shake to one who deserves it, you free up years of your life that would otherwise be wasted on imbeciles. Moreover, in the unlikely event that they have inadvertently said something worth hearing, it will eventually leak out. On the other hand, think of what you suffer through wanton tolerance! You miss out on time with your family and friends. You lose the opportunity to enrich yourself with quality art and culture. You throw away time which could be spent producing great things and contributing to the world at large. Blowing off a fool is nothing to be ashamed of. It is to be praised. As a contributing member of society, you are to be commended for avoiding the poisonous influence of the yammering fatheads that crowd you, that suffocate you, that stifle you.

So, my brothers and sisters, unburden your conscience! Revel in your dismissiveness! Roll your eyes, sigh loudly, and shake your head with exaggerated sadness! It is not your responsibility to extract reason from another's drivel.

Thank you.

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