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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Are there limits to Stupidity?

Snoopy T. Goon at Simply Jews has a friendly dispute with Norman Geras of Normblog. The question at issue is whether there are limits to stupidity. Geras asserted that there are limits to stupidity. His own contribution however, was not encouraging for his theory. He found a stupid quote by George Bush, but promptly found an even stupider distortion of the quote by a Guardian writer.  Presumably one could find a stupider (according to that definition of "stupid") discussion of the stupid distortion of the stupid Bush quote, and then someone would misunderstand the discussion and write up their misunderstanding and so on in infinite progression.   

Indeed, in Beg pardon, Norm 2, Snoopy insists there are no limits to stupidity,  He gives the example of Richard Silverstein equating all of the following: Palestinian Poet Mahmoud Darwish, Israeli dovish leftist poet Yehuda Amichai, Robert Frost and Ezra Pound. Amichai and Pound??? Darwish or Amichai as great as Robert Frost?  Give us a break.

But I have the temerity to differ with both learned gentleman. The examples they give are not examples of stupidity, but of arrogance, perversity, hypocrisy, bad taste or intentional and malicious distortion. All of these are unlimited. Stupidity must be limited, at least in Web logs.  If a person is sufficiently stupid they would be unable to write a Web log, so we are generally spared the worst examples of stupidity. Of course, one can alway argue about whether stupidiy exists independent of an observer, like the question of the tree that may nor may not exist if nobody is looking. If a stupid Web log is not written, is it still stupid?  But that is a question for metaphysicians.
Likewise ignorance, an element whose natural abundance should never be underestimated, must be limited. A theoretically totally ignorant person would know nothing at all - there is a finite bound to this quality. 
These are each different qualities. I will illustrate some of the differences. 
1. Arrogance - In a private e-group, someone, an American,  insisted that knew all about the The Balfour Declaration and proceeded to "explain" it to me. That was arrogance. I often get lectured by such persons on the history of my country and my people.  I don't presume to lecture Chinese people on the history of the long march or the Ming Dynasty, but everyone seems to think they know more about Israeli history than I do, and they are always willing to impart their "knowledge." I have 'learned" some very strange things from such people.
2. Perversity - The first point made by our would-be instructor was that contrary to Zionist propaganda, the purpose of the Balfour declaration was equally to protect the rights of the Palestinian Arabs as well as to grant a state to the Jews in Palestine. Since the declaration was quite soon rejected by the Arabs and immediately hailed by the Jews, and since everyone including Balfour himself as well as the League of Nations understood it as granting a national home to the Jews, it is perverse to claim that the declaration had, as a major purpose, equal to the promise to grant the Jews a state, the defense of Palestinian Arab rights. If it was so wonderful for the Arabs, why did they oppose it?
3. Ignorance - At this point I asked our would-be mentor what he thought the Balfour declaration was. He averred that it was a letter from Lord Balfour to a British colonial officials in Palestine. When the Balfour declaration was issued as a letter to Lord Rothschild, head of the Zionist organization, there were no British colonial officials in Palestine. There wasn't even a Palestine. The Turks did not call it that. General Allenby would not reach Jerusalem until over a month later. Of course, had our lecturer known that the declaration was a letter granted as a favor to Lord Rothschild and the Zionists, he could hardly have believed that it was about protecting the rights of Arabs in Palestine.
4. Stupidity - After admitting that he had no idea what the Balfour declaration was, the man nonetheless continued to insist that he knew more about the Balfour declaration than the rest of us, me included, and that his interpretation had to be correct! This also illustrates the quality of Chutzpa, which is not lacking either.
5. Hypocrisy - This element is probably present is super-abundance, and in limitless quality as well. Consider that many of the very same people who insisted that Israel's reaction to the Hezbollah was "disproportionate" in the Second Lebanon War, now insist that Russia was perfectly justified in invading Georgia, inflicting massive casualities and commting war crimes because Georgia invaded South Ossetia. Where are all the shocking photos of dead Georgian civilians? Where are the protests and condemnations of rights groups? The silence is defining.
There is also a lot of bullshit of course. Intellectual bullshit has always been available in limitless quantities and in any desired quality.
Ami Isseroff

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