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What if Stupid People Organized?
What would happen if stupid people figured out how to organize their vast numbers into a cohesive political force? It’s a scary thought. Luckily for Earth, stupid people have always had trouble grooming effective leaders from among their ranks. Historically, that simple fact has always kept their power in check. But now it looks as if stupid people have discovered a workaround – one that requires no leader. We’re screwed.
Don’t jump ahead and assume I’m talking about one of the major political parties in the United States. That would be too easy. Sure, every major organization has its share of stupid members. But the smarter members of any group almost always bubble to the top and run things. Historically, smart people have always found a way to jump on any runaway horse and get ahold of the reins. But lately, thanks to the Internet, there are far too many runaway horses.
I’m talking about a site called Change.org. It allows anyone (gasp) to start a petition and gather millions of virtual signatures. How much research do you think those millions of people do before piling on? Answer: not enough. And how much impact do those petitions have? Answer: Sometimes a lot. You see the problem here.
I assume many of the petitions at Change.org are worthy and helpful. As the saying goes, a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut. What we don’t know is how many times stupid people have used Change.org to leverage their ignorance and multiply their power. Does that represent 5% of the petitions on Change.org or 95%? There’s no way to know.
Regular readers of this blog might recall that members of the LRC (low reading comprehension) community went after me on Change.org last year. An LRC activist took something I wrote out of context, started a petition, and duped thousands of stupid people into piling on. I assumed at the time it was an exception, and an annoyance, but nothing more sinister or important. That was until I heard that over two million people signed a petition on Change.org to prosecute the killer of Trayvon Martin. Amazingly, millions of people who know they don’t have the full facts of the case have demanded that the shooter be prosecuted.
It’s possible, maybe even likely, that every signer of the petition is 100% correct. There’s plenty of circumstantial evidence in their favor. But anyone watching the slow trickle of changing “facts” in this case understands that none of us really knows what happened that night. One thing we know for sure is that the people who have the most information – the police investigators and prosecutors – apparently don’t think a jury would rule out self-defense. That situation could change, obviously. The point is that the circumstantial evidence is fluid, and it points in at least two different directions.
I don’t know if the good work that comes out of Change.org offsets the bad. In any case, I don’t think free speech should be curtailed. My point is that Change.org is a tool that can empower both smart people and stupid people, and that only one of those situations is good.