Dumb and Dumber – by Richard Sale


I am writing in praise of Pat Lang’s recent post and his keen observations into politics.

We must remember that the majority of the American public elected Trump President.  That is where the real blame lies. Trump says he doesn’t like poor people, but says he loves uneducated people.  Why? Because uneducated people are basically uninstructed mobs. They are suggestible. They are like sponges – their destiny is to soak things up. They can’t think except in a group.  the French poet Baudelaire hated the Belgians because he said “They were born to think in unison.” On CBS Sunday Morning this week, one of my wife’s favorite shows, (not mind,) Ted Koppel did a bit that made clear that not only we do we know same things in common; we get that knowledge the same way at basically the same time. Such a thing is drastically retarding to the mind’s development.

In other words, we are in the grip of hideous uniformity. This means that what we claim to know is a very superficial brand of knowledge. It doesn’t help either that we are also a nation drowning in data.  If you want to hear a weather report, it goes on for five minutes, many of the facts reheated over and over again to the point of stupefaction. What should be an alert or a heads up becomes an instance of tedious self display in order to be favorably noticed. Bah, humbug.

People are more and more like schools of minnows who swim in the same direction, then suddenly swim in other direction. They don’t break ranks, there are no minnows that desert the pack and strike out for themselves.  To me that defines politics.  Most people do not grasp that politics exists only because of the indifference of the majority. I won’t belong to a political party for tat reason. Whoever embraces a political party is giving up their intellectual; sovereignty and independence. A political party is a school of followers, all swimming n one direction for the sake of unity. The people I mostly talk to are usually liberals, liberals by habit, inclination, and conceit. Liberals assumed their ideas are superior to any other ideas.  (I am not a conservative.) They don’t vote on the basic of evidence. They don’t vote for merit. They vote in order to admire their views because those are the most enlightened views, and their views make them extremely self-righteous about what they believe, as if no other beliefs could possibly be as compassionate, foresighted or charitable as their own.

My own views are simple – I try to vote for merit. I try to vote for honesty, for people of heart and vision. I am suspicious of politicians because most are devoured by a lust for power.  That lust comprises them from the beginning. The lust for power has always destroyed the society it lives and rules in, but that is ignored. I have ideals, but I don’t take them for granted; I remain skeptical of them. I try to refine and improve and perfect them all the time.  Recently, I had a discussion with two young women who voted for Hillary, and we still angered over her loss, and when I said I didn’t vote for Trump or Hillary, one was affronted.  She said, Well one of them was going to run the country, so you have to vote for one of them. I told them I didn’t vote for either of them because I did not want that on my conscience. A very bright young man who wrote in Bernie Sanders on the ballot felt the same way. I asked the young women if they had studied the email scandal.  They hadn’t.  I said I had a file of one hundred pages showing what a conniving, heartless skunk Hillary was and would be happy to forward the file to them. I doubt they will read it. They have already been convinced.

But was my view correct? I thought it was or I wouldn’t have aired it. In any case, I dislike collectivities.

To me, the chief evil in today’s political scene is the decline of the critical spirit.  What is that? It means a capacity for analyzing things in order to accurately determine their value.  What does this require? You must be observant. You must be unhurried. You must be studious. The video image dominates our culture to our detriment. These images flash before us in less than a second.  We have no time to examine their meaning, their accuracy or their worth because the rapidity of sequence denies us this.

What I see today is a clouding of mental alertness, a growing insensitivity of personalities because of our cultural decline. We put up with all sorts of nauseous smells, deafening noises, abrupt accidents and crashes and atrocities. Modern man is becoming increasingly insensitive, ever more addicted to constant excitement and novelty, requiring harsh stimulants, disdaining any sort of repose of the mind in order to develop it.

Our thought has its basis in perceptions. We see or hear something that strikes our mind, and it makes us curious. What was it about the sight or sound that made us want to know more about it? So we begin to investigate. We view similar perceptions.  After a while we develop a sense of hierarchy, putting the most worthwhile at the top of the list.  It takes critical capacity to do this.  We have to observe, compare, compare again, gather more examples, and finally begin to hammer out an order of value. The brain is key to this, (I almost said, "to this process," a phrase widely overused.) The brain is always busy. It takes nothing for granted.  It questions, it cross-examines. We come to our own conclusions by thinking things out.  Thinking is a precarious activity. Thinking doesn't deliver certainties or ready made conclusions.  Thinking simply requires we take more thought before we can rest on our opinions. We are never sure we are right in what we think until we have gathered more incidents, experiences and examples, and even then, the mind is left in suspense.  What if a new experience upsets your carefully constructed hierarchy?

But the chief virtue of thought is that acts to deepen us, to widen us, make us more open to the unexpected, the unfamiliar and the novel, less able to reject things that are odd or strange. Thought keeps open the door to learning. Conceit and ignorance seal it shut.

But who today thinks of such things?

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49 Responses to Dumb and Dumber – by Richard Sale

  1. Imagine says:

    An answer to monolithic news is to have distributed local news–at least one channel for each country. Harder to subvert that way, and countries can battle it out on the airwaves, instead of in the streets.

  2. Degringolade says:

    Mr. Sale: An excellent piece.
    As always, fiction sometimes states the issue better than many.
    “We have no idea, now, of who or what the inhabitants of our future might be. In that sense, we have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which ‘now’ was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents’ have insufficient ‘now’ to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile. … We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenarios. Pattern recognition”
    ― William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

  3. Donald says:

    This was good. And at last, a topic I can comment on–for the most part I recognize that I don’t have that much to add to the conversations here, dealing as they do with issues where you need to know something about military affairs or intelligence agencies and how they work. But knee-jerk political allegiances–these days anyone who pays attention can see this firsthand
    I’m on the left and what I have noticed ever since the 2000 Nader campaign is that the Democrats and their vehement online supporters take it as a matter of faith that all decent people have an absolute moral obligation to vote for the Democrat–this is the view your female acquaintance was pushing. No longer are politicians obligated to earn our votes. The duty here is almost entirely on the ordinary person. The Democrat who wants your vote is only obligated to be the lesser evil. I don’t think I am exaggerating.
    And it’s worse than that. In the 2000 campaign some people on the left (I am only speaking about the Left here–people on the Right can describe their own problems) said that what Nader should have done was to run in the primaries and make his criticisms of lobbyists and corruption and our foreign policy within the Democratic Party and pull it to the left from the inside and then support whoever the nominee was. So along comes Sanders in 2016 who follows that advice to the letter. And he is still denounced. The truth is, they don’t just want the votes. They want people to line up and all say the same things in praise of the candidate.
    People who are obsessive about supporting mainstream Democrats and become very angry if the Clintons are criticized accuse others of having a cult of personality. And they are much more upset by someone not voting for the Democrats than they are by, for example, the support the US has given to the Saudis as they bomb Yemen. Now that Trump is in charge there is a shift towards that becoming a partisan issue. You need to have a Republican in the White House these days in order for most liberals to support an antiwar movement. Obama supported the Saudi bombing for nearly two years and very few liberals cared. What upset them much more was Susan Sarandon saying she wouldn’t vote for Clinton.
    Personally, I do find the logic of lesser evil voting convincing, so I voted for Clinton, but if someone disagrees I can respect that and in fact acknowledge that there is an argument against it. But with most online Democrats, that is the worst heresy imaginable. You will be labeled a moral purist and held responsible for every bad thing that the Republican does, even the things that the Democrat would have done if he or she had won. Right now I see some Democrats criticizing Trump for inching towards war with Syria, as though this wasn’t what Clinton would have done.

  4. EEngineer says:

    The brain is indeed always busy, but an overloaded brain cannot THINK. When someone becomes over stimulated they loose the ability to reflect on any of it.
    Adam Curtis did a 4 hour mini-series called Century of the Self that goes into how we’ve collectively allowed our subconscious desires to overwhelm us. It’s out there on YouTube and torrents for those interested.

  5. dilbert dogbert says:

    “We must remember that the majority of the American public elected Trump President.”
    Didn’t the Electoral College elect Trump?
    I have read that about 90,000 votes elected Trump vs the almost 4 million for Clinton.

  6. David O White says:

    Correct. He lost the popular vote. Also,the total number of votes accorded to all Democratic members of congress also greatly exceeds that of the Republicans. I know that’s how the “system” works but there is something rotten in the state of denmark.

  7. TonyL says:

    Thank you. Beautilully written essay. I wish more people would think like this:
    “I try to vote for merit. I try to vote for honesty, for people of heart and vision. I am suspicious of politicians because most are devoured by a lust for power.”

  8. David E. Solomon says:

    This is an excellent article (as was Colonel Lang’s). I see the real problem as the result of the total degradation of our educational system – (from the ground up).
    Of course, we are all about the same age. That is to say, “old”.
    Possibly the old always see the current environment as awful. Nevertheless, I am glad I will not be around in the long run.
    That said, I hope not to have to live through another war with anyone.
    Thanks for you effort.

  9. turcopolier says:

    And you learned that up in Canada. pl

  10. Cee says:

    Another fine piece.
    I was a Perot campaign chair, a Nader voter who went on to vote for Trump Because I’m sick to death of both parties. Pat Buchanan is right to say they are two wings on the same bird of prey.
    What you said brought to mind a quote from They Thought They Were Free by Milton Mayer.
    And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

  11. There’s the morality of ethical conduct, and there’s the morality of belonging to the proper identity. The former is difficult because it requires you to do something notable, while the latter is much easier, since all you have to do is be something (meaningful action is voluntary). I believe that the growing political tribalization and groupthink is skewing the public’s perception of what is acceptable from its political leadership. When two ostensibly different teams each think that anything is permissible so long as their side does it, we wind up the situation where power is shared between the kind of people who get elected when merit and ethics have become minor concerns in comparison to identity.
    Notably, I received at least 20 flyers in the mail prior to election day from the Clinton campaign, which showed a picture of Jill Stein with a line drawn through her and something to the effect of, “A vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump.” It was a big flyer and had plenty of room to list reasons why I should vote for Hillary, yet it did not devote even a single line to why I should vote for her. The message was clear: if you have have a liberal identity, you don’t need to think about anything else.

  12. Huckleberry says:

    You say you want critical spirit, but I don’t think you do. Not really.
    If you did, you’d heck out the Alt Right.
    You might think you know what it’s about – but you don’t.
    For better or worse, whites have begun to wage identity politics. No amount of constitution-worship is going to put that genie back in the bottle.
    Get on board or get out of the way.

  13. Cortes says:

    Thanks for the stimulating essay.
    My old dad used to tell us that there’s a big difference between having no money and being poor. On reflection and in the light of experience I’d rather acknowledge that he was right.

  14. Jack says:

    A very nice post Richard.
    I’ve got a question for you. In the long arc of history do you think we’ve seen other epochs similar to our contemporary behavior patterns?
    There’s no doubt that the current frequency, even frenzy of information update leaves a frantic response. Everything is Breaking News. Twitter updates throughout the day. There isn’t much time for deliberation and consideration, let alone reflection and contemplation. Is it possible, that all that we’ve changed is our environment, however we’re the same human in our behavior. Has human behavior changed significantly in five millenia?

  15. turcopolier says:

    You don’t get it. If “white people” as you call people of the majority culture take up identity politics, the only thing that will protect ohers is the constitution. Without that they would be kicked back to the curb where they were before the present constitutional protections developed. pl

  16. Lars says:

    Actually, things are just fine in the state of Denmark. According to surveys, the happiest people on the planet live there. Of course, the most astonishing thing about the country is that they are providing players to the NHL.
    What is rotten is the US election system that was created to support slavery and has now been thoroughly corrupted by large amounts of money.

  17. turcopolier says:

    You have never grasped or accepted the concept of state sovereignty. The electoral college was created to protect states like Rhode Island and New Hampshire. The states created the Union. Remember? You and Fareed Zakariyah like the US but wish it were another country. pl

  18. Bill H says:

    Thank you, Colonel. Another voice heard from who understands the relationship between Congressional legislation, and the presidential election. A consensus of the decisions by the sovereign states.

  19. kxd says:

    whites have begun to wage identity politics? that’s a nice hallucination you got going on there.
    What whites have begun to do is get sick and tired of being told about their so called privilege and being made to feel guilty for “the sins of their father” because of course white people were the only group of humans in the history of our species to be oppressors right?(irony alert)
    Nah, the ones who started this identity politics BS were the college marxists back in the 60s who realised they couldn’t justify their support for the massacres happening in the Soviet gulags and the Chinese countryside and so switched the narrative from ‘bourgeoisie and prols’ to ‘oppressors and oppressed’.
    The so called ‘Alt Right’ is a direct response to that identity political BS.
    I got an idea, how about minority groups stop victimizing themselves, and stop blaming ‘whitey’ for everything. Maybe then your boogeyman of the ‘Alt Right’ will go away.

  20. wisedupearly says:

    An excellent and very timely article. Research suggests that we are killing our intellects by becoming dependent on dramatic visual content and well crafted apps. We are training ourselves to become good consumers of images/videos even as we walk and if the app makers have their way, our personal world will be fully delineated by their interfaces. I would love to halt all smart phones in NYC for one and check how many people would become completely flummoxed. Unable to distinguish East from West. Unable to judge for themselves the best way from A to B. Unwilling to try some place new unless some app gives it 4 stars.

  21. LeaNder says:

    thanks, Donald. were I American and had voted for Nader in 2000 I might have voted for Clinton too. But more basically the two basic offers felt like a ‘no-way-out’ scenario for this foreign observer.
    Concerning intelligence. There was a rather good document available on the web by Pat Lang in the larger Jeffrey Sterling context. Strictly I think “intelligence” in the context of the military is as old as the world or wars, and at no point something like the invention of the wheel happened in this context.

  22. LeaNder says:

    The brain is indeed always busy, but an overloaded brain cannot THINK.
    EE, and that’s why you meditate occasionally?
    Maybe I should watch it. Been mentioned before. Much of what he seems to look at would fit into the larger box of what a German art historian defined as UN-aesthetic versus aesthetic. On first sight, or superficially. The constant bombardment with a flood of information via, colors, logos, slogans, AND news(?) ads we have to live with.
    Maybe a US President slightly reminiscent of our earlier POP stars who said it like-it-is, although in his case in slightly higher frequency, is some type of natural civilization development after all?
    And our “collective subconsciousness” has what exact desires? Freud’s Eros or his Death Drive? Or are they mysteriously joined at the hips as some assumed over the ages?

  23. Fred says:

    I take it you think the other 136,000,000+ votes didn’t matter.

  24. Fred says:

    It may be news to you but slavery was ended a century ago. It is the legacy guilt that lives on.

  25. Fred says:

    “…wage identity politics” .
    On that note we should end the legal race based discrimination policies known as “affirmative action” in all its forms.

  26. Lars says:

    Then there is this from the (TIME) history books:
    “Standard civics-class accounts of the Electoral College rarely mention the real demon dooming direct national election in 1787 and 1803: slavery.
    At the Philadelphia convention, the visionary Pennsylvanian James Wilson proposed direct national election of the president. But the savvy Virginian James Madison responded that such a system would prove unacceptable to the South: “The right of suffrage was much more diffusive [i.e., extensive] in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.” In other words, in a direct election system, the North would outnumber the South, whose many slaves (more than half a million in all) of course could not vote. But the Electoral College—a prototype of which Madison proposed in this same speech—instead let each southern state count its slaves, albeit with a two-fifths discount, in computing its share of the overall count.”
    It was more than protecting Rhode Island or New Hampshire and the election system has still been corrupted by too much money.

  27. richard sale says:

    Excellent insights.

  28. richard sale says:

    To me, that is a nitpicking point that adds little insight. Yes, the Electoral College elected him.

  29. richard sale says:

    Tank you.

  30. richard sale says:

    You wield a very dogmatic, authoritarian tone.
    In what was do I not have a critical spirit?
    Explain. I gather you like white identity politics.
    And I am not going anywhere.

  31. Mikey says:

    On a positive note:
    “Supreme Court unanimously reaffirms: There is no ‘hate speech’ exception to the First Amendment.”
    “A law found to discriminate based on viewpoint is an “egregious form of content discrimination,” which is “presumptively unconstitutional.” … A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society.”

  32. richard sale says:

    I think he was.

  33. richard sale says:

    Hear, hear.

  34. Bobo says:

    You like minnows I like cattle. We are all in a herd and are allowed to occasionally drift but eventually steered back into the pack. As we have reached a point in life we have more time to ponder what’s to come of our nation, life or our world. Those are big things. Who is in office today is only temporary, I did vote for the winner but that is no honor badge. I still kick myself as when it came to the bottom of the ballot to select who to vote for Soil Conservation Board I was lost as I had not done my research so eerie, meanie…….won out. Put me in the Dumber class an Independant.
    I look to our future with great hopes as this younger group has their act together better than we did as they see what we thought were obstacles as challenges to overcome. Just look at Musk, Bezos et al and their herds they have no time to waste. Great things are coming so either get up and join or sit back and enjoy as there is a purpose in all them electronic gadgets.
    I greatly enjoyed your essay as I always need to read your work three times. The first I always get enraged, the second I dwell on its value and the third I better understand the intent.
    BTW these political parties are evolving and may not be around in a generation or less.

  35. fanto says:

    Thanks for your beautiful, clearly written thoughts. I feel like I had those thoughts, but could not put them in words. I feel that nothing else need to be said, but let me add here my personal reminiscences with the background of your essay.
    The subject of leading a society, or politics, is very old. Plato’s Republic is a good start. So, humanistic education, including philosophy, ethics should be high on the list of priorities. Now, I may tell something about my old Dad, who was educated in the humanistic “Gymnasium” in Germany, and he finished it just in time to be a soldier in the WW1. (he knew the gas warfare up close and spent time in the trenches and dugouts, smoking and not thinking beyond the length of the cigarette…). He praised to heavens the excellent education he and his generation received. As a youngster I have queried him, how it was possible that the so wonderfully humanistically educated elite could allow the rise of the brutal Nazi regime and Hitler in particular. How was it possible for such well educated elite of his generation, to allow the rule of mob. Here my father was at a loss, and was saying, “…youngster, you don’t know what it was like, you did not live through it…, the educated people were not that many, the masses were stronger…, the poverty, the inflation after the war…, it is hard to explain to a person who did not live through it…”. He gave me a novel by Frank Thiess “Der Leibhaftige” (“The Devils Shadow” and “Design for living”) written in 1920’s. It is fascinating how history seems to repeat itself, because the novel describes very same events as we see today, including drugs, sex, political murders, society in downward spiral. Thiess was not liked by Nazis and his books were burned. Your description is so accurate, of young people who seem to know it all better, the need to assimilate with the trend, the need to conform are all over the world, but some societies are “worse” than others, it seems to me.

  36. turcopolier says:

    I understand that as a left leaning immigrant to the US who basically has no “skin in the game” of American history, you have no sympathy for the losing side in the War Between the States. the editors of Time history books (whatever that is) are preaching to the choir for you. But, there are other points of view, often held by people who live around you and who deeply resent the insult now daily heaped on the ancestors who they belive fought to preserve constitutional government in a country created to establish a government of limited purposes and powers. Do you have any sympathy for those Americans or do you just think them bsckward racists? Do you favor the destruction of the memory of the Confederate side in the WBS? pl

  37. richard sale says:

    Thank you.

  38. richard sale says:

    Throughout history, passions and reason have been at war. Reason is always weak in the face of passion which is why civilizations collapse.

  39. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think that civilizations die when their ideology informing the minds of its inhabitants no longer reigns supreme.
    In the Wesrern Fortress, in Ltin America the Enlightenment Tradition still reigns supreme (in the minds of men) – while a much-diminished Catholic Church serenly waits for its opportunity to step in things go south.
    This pressnt moment is imbued not by impending doom but rather with Hubris informed with a profound sense of Judement about men and the affairs of men.

  40. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Meant to say:
    “…Hubris informed with a profound absence of Judgement about men and the affairs of men.”

  41. Peter AU says:

    Critical capacity.
    Is this something that is suppressed in higher education. Many people in professional positions that should require a high IQ seem to lack this trait.

  42. Lars says:

    Maybe, for the reasons that you claim, we immigrants could be more objective about American history? There should not be any doubts that the Confederacy lost their insurrection and now seem to be losing stature in the public square.
    It should be obvious that slavery played a large part in starting that insurrection and the legacy of it plays a part in what is happening now.
    I am aware that for many, American history is more mythical than factual. As has been pointed out occasionally in these pages, that can create some considerable dysfunction to the detriment of the nation.

  43. turcopolier says:

    How truly arrogant and condescending. This is especially sad coming from a Swede whose mother country oppressed both the Finns and Norwegians. Southerners will dispute the notion that secession was an “insurrection” since the constitution mentions nowhere then or now that the Union was indissoluble. pl

  44. Lars says:

    Since then, Sweden has set a world record: It has been over 200 years since Swedish soldiers killed anyone in combat, unless sanctioned by the UN. Comparatively, the Finns and the Norwegian were not all that oppressed.
    It may be disputed by some that it was not a insurrection, even if it sure looks like it was. Just as the American Revolution, was not quite one. It was also an insurrection, with the losers mainly retreating to Canada.

  45. turcopolier says:

    The WBS looks like an insurrection if you don’t care what the “deal” was in creating the US and have a nationalist view of what resulted. As for whether or nor the Norwegians and Finns were oppressed, the oppressors always believe that the “little people” were better off under imperial rule. We believe that about the Filipinos (those of us who know the islands were once US possessions) The British believed that about the Irish, Indians, etc. I suppose you know that there were several hundred Swedish volunteers in the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking. pl

  46. Lars says:

    The Constitution refers to the “United” States of America. As I said, if you compare with other historical examples, including those you mention, Sweden did not suppress much and those volunteers were not wearing Swedish uniforms, nor were there many of them.
    My Dad was about as conservative as they come, but after spending 6 months studying in Germany in 1937, he came back very anti-Nazi. My Danish grandmother was active in the resistance and after a relative married Hermann Göring, the rest of that family changed their last name.

  47. turcopolier says:

    “The Constitution refers to the “United” States of America.” That does no imply indissolubility. It denotes a condition after ratification. Who cares if some of your fellow Swedes were anti-Nazi. The country was not sufficiently ant-Nazi to join the fight against the Nazis. Were Swedish volunteers treated as criminals after the war? your assertion that you Swedes do not think you oppressed your colonial subjects is pathetic. pl

  48. Fred says:

    I guess Lincoln had it wrong in 1863 when he gave that speech in my birthplace and said America was conceived in liberty”. If only those yankee soldiers, like my ancestor, had known that legacy guilt is forever and that they and their posterity would be forever tarnished with sin by those without it – the one class of people who never shared any of the burdens of creating and sustaining the Republic and thus have no inheritance of guilt to be imposed on them: the new immigrant Americans.

  49. optimax says:

    “There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them.” – George Orwell

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