Who are the real idiots?

A few years before he passed away in 2016, Umberto Eco, an Italian contemporary writer, said: “Social media gives legions of idiots the right to speak when they once only spoke at a bar after a glass of wine, without harming the community. Then they were quickly silenced, but now they have the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize winner. It’s the invasion of the idiots.” 

Calling people idiots shows not just the contempt that the ‘intellectuals’ have for the people at large, but also the scornful way they deal when questioned. It is equivalent of Hilary Clinton calling Trump supporters as a ‘bunch of deplorables’.  It is this contempt of the people at large by those labelled as ‘intellectuals’ (in Bharat they are called the Khan Market Gang) that has made these ‘intellectuals’ completely disconnected from society.

Having this disease of calling those who do not agree with them as idiots, is one of the characteristics of the Khan Market Gang.  In what was said to be an analysis of the results of the Lok Sabha elections, Yogendra Yadav said during a programme organised by the Centre for Policy Research: “In my constituency, Gurgaon, where I contested, I issued a very special appeal to the voters. ‘Please defeat BJP at any cost.’ I said, ‘this Prime Minister is the biggest liar of a prime minister we have ever had in the history of this country.’ Voters did not listen to me one bit. I am sad. I am angry. I am dejected. I want to hold them by their collar and say, ‘you idiots’.”

‘Scholars’ at the Centre for Policy Resarch (CPR) analyse the 2019 verdict (Credit: The Print)

Having realised the blunder he made in speaking his mind out, Yadav made a feeble attempt to make amends by saying that this is not the way to do politics. However, the rest of his ‘analysis’ gives all indications that he does indeed think that those who voted for the BJP are idiots.

What social media has done is to democratize the discussion. Umberto Eco admits that prior to social media, the ‘idiots’ were QUICKLY silenced.  Lenin had suggested this tactic of argument by label a long time ago.  Please read the following quote from a book by Arun Shourie:

Nikolay Valentinov recounts Lenin telling him, “(Georgi Valentinovich) Plekhanov once said to me about a critic of Marxism (I’ve forgotten his name), ‘First let us stick the convict’s badge on him, and then after that we will examine his case.’ And I think that we must ‘stick the convict’s badge’ on anyone and everyone who tries to undermine Marxism, even if we do not go on to examine his case. That’s how every sound revolutionary should react.”

‘Nikolay Valentino, Encounters with Lenin’, London, 1968. Quoted in Arun Shourie’s ‘Eminent Historians’, Delhi, 1998, p 209.

Lenin would be very proud of Eco, for having continued his tradition forward. Those interested on more contemporary support for the views of Eco should read:

https://comipi.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/the-invasion-of-the-idiots-and-modern-churnalism/

In this article, the following comment by one Dr. Jim West is included with favour:

“… the idiots have the right to speak but they should have no expectation that anyone with sense will listen to them much less take them seriously.  The idiots have as much right to be heard as CNN and the Huffington Post and Fox News and NBC and ABC and CBS and the Discovery Channel and the History Channel.  But like those outlets of infotainment, they have no right to be taken seriously when they speak about matters like theology or history or exegesis or archaeology. Indeed, the truth is, only idiots heed idiots.  So let them.  Those who wish to know better will seek to know better and those who are satisfied with rank ignorance, stupidity, and misinformation will never care for the truth any more than a person who watches the Naked Archaeologist really cares about the facts.  Their ignorance is invincible. They should be left to it.  To rot in the swampy stew of their own putrid mindlessness.”

When the first Shiv Sena-BJP government was formed in Maharashtra, one of the issues was to make a review of the Enron project.  When the report came out, I had suggested to Nitin Gadkari, who was then the PWD minister, that the report should be made public. He inquired whether even a taxi driver can make a comment.

I said to him: “That is what is democracy, and the government should make a response.  The comment may well be idiotic. However, as a politician, you will not label him an idiot, but give an informed answer.  At the same time, when an idiotic comment is phrased in a good language, there may be many others (even those with a highly paid job) who may buy into the argument.  So the informed answer will be available to all such people as well.  Having got an answer, the taxi driver is better informed for the future as well, and he, and all the others, will be able to think in a more rational manner in the future.  This will reduce the number of idiotic comments, and society will be enriched.” (I did not say these exact words, but I am expanding my thoughts today for better clarity.)

A British MP, Yvette Cooper, said some time ago: “The internet is an amazing way to democratize debate.  To give vote to the voiceless.  And make sure we can express our strong views to be part of big arguments, just as we were at home, or pub, or work.”

In many ways, at least in this case, Eco has exposed himself to be an idiot.


Did you find this article useful? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.

About the Author

Ashok Chowgule
Working President (External), Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bharat.