Problem with Stupid, The
How has 'people are stupid' become a political argument, and what does it mean?
In the past two decades, the rise of a particular commonplace in public debate has emerged on both the Left and the Right: the threat of 'the stupid.' Far from a throwaway ad hominem, stupidity has become a key trope for both explaining and criticising the election results, culture wars and the advances of post-truth. But how do we negotiate 'the stupid' in a meaningful way? Does critique and resistance depend on the mobilisation of intellect, and what does the prevalence of stupidity as a commonplace suggest about the risks of such a mobilisation? What are the resources to work through it outside of condemnation or insult?
Taking 'the stupid' as a primary figure in today's cultural rhetoric, Tom Grimwood uses internet memes, film and media, alongside philosophical inquiry, to present a series of interventions in the assumptions of what makes 'the stupid' dangerous and how to move beyond these assumptions into effective resistance.
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In a post-truth era, how do we deal with democracy? Why do we encounter so many stupidities in politics, media, and culture these days? Through stimulating analyses of public discourse and engagement with thinkers such as Foucault and Groys, Grimwood offers a surprising but convincing diagnosis: the problem is not that we or “they” become stupid, but rather that we live in a society that prompts us to deploy “stupidity” as a rhetorical weapon. ~ Nabutaka Otobe, Osaka University
With the deftness the topic deserves, Tom Grimwood pulls back the curtain on the cultural deployments and assemblages of “stupidity” rhetoric. In doing so, he offers a fair analysis unbound from ideological presuppositions (from “sheeple” to “Covidiots,” the left and right have their own thorny practices), inviting readers to slow down and reflect on how stupidity claims serve as both sites of political struggle and foundations for mobilization. Between the always tricky poles of the earnest and satirical, The Problem with Stupid contributes to interdisciplinary literatures a masterful and lucid examination of this key trope and the interpretive boundaries it (re)produces. Not content to let “deeply persuasive and utterly cynical” stupidity discourse simply run amok, Grimwood ultimately points readers toward a hopeful politics of irony that can help us navigate the fractures and fissures of our times. ~ Don Waisanen, City University of New York
This striking book affirms and seeks to demonstrate Tom Grimwood's remarkable thesis that what we are living through today is the plague of ignorance as our pandemic. His very original contribution to this dialogue reflects on how the experience of the plague of ignorance renders us helpless, showing ways that the epithet of stupidity contributes to the medicalization of ignorance and its corporeal aura as an inevitable condition that seems immune to influence much like a chronic disease or even death. In tackling the conventional epithet of stupidity and its prevalent use today, Tom Grimwood does a sociological analysis of this mood in popular culture or contemporary society that laments the ‘fact’ of collective impotence in the face of a widespread disease, seeing it as a feeling that the prevalence of ignorance seems unalterable. In this respect, Grimwood challenges the conventional sense of stupidity as an inarticulate insult in response to another opinion by using such a pejorative occasion to raise the question of how we might characterize work that we contrast from our own in dialogue that overcomes the temptation of polemic to set up discussion. This book succeeds in making such a meeting of minds possible in our society and at this time, as a hint that inquiry could be a vaccine. ~ Alan Blum, York University, Toronto, Canada