I haven't really felt compelled to write anything as of late, and I've been too busy with finals and turking, anyway. I also haven't really done much out of the ordinary, so the monotony of it all doesn't inspire ideas.

However, I watched an interesting documentary called Stupidity yesterday which really raised some good ideas. Not the best documentary in the world, but it points out how few studies there actually are on the topic. The actual scholarly books on the topic would barely fill up a shelf. Most of the books on the topic rather cite examples of stupid behavior so that we can all get a few chuckles.

I will attempt to summarize some of the points of the documentary, though I will no doubt fail to do its content justice considering it's about an hour and a half long. First of all, there is an interesting comment in which a person interviwed states that calling a person stupid is one of the worst insults possible. In many ways, stupidity is a very taboo topic. We have IQ tests which look at a certain form of intelligence, but this documentary was also looking at cultural and social factors. For example, the vast majority of people cannot properly define stupidity. It appears to be a subjective classification to begin with, even though the definition itself is a person who exhibits behavior that lacks intelligence. An important thing also was noted, that it has nothing to do with rank in society, because you can have university professors who are really...stupid.

As far as cultural factors go, the documentary focused on how stupidity is rewarded in our society. In fact, there is absolutely no pressure or encouragement to become intelligent in any way. Not a single thing that we see on television is really all that intelligent. Numerous reporters and journalists were interviewed and all stated how they were forced to write at the level of a 12-year-old because this was believed to be the average mental age of many readers. Essentially, this consists of limiting vocabulary and sentence length. You have to assume that your readers don't really knwo that much. The fact is, if it's too complex, they will simply go elsewhere for their dose of information. This phenomena is even more present on television than in print.

Also, the documentary looked at trends in programming like Jackass, and the Steve-O show and ensuing riot that happened in Montreal a few years ago. It was noted that many people like Adam Sandler and Steve-O, are in fact not stupid at all, but are simply aware of what their audience wants. At the time, Steve-O was reading a book on the Rwandan genocide. However, the appeal in "dumb" programming is that it offers us a quick and easy laugh, and it is also related to the superiority complex. By seeing people do far dumber things than we might be or are doing, it essentially makes us feel good. In regards to television, one of the interesting quotes was that, if you are wasting a beautiful day to instead sit down and watch television, you don't want to be enlightened, you want to see crazy shit. The bottom line is that, considering the increased ease of access to information that we have, we still choose stupidity over it all.


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