After watching YouTube videos on Bonhoeffer’s and Cipolla’s theories about the dangers of stupidity, I had to do it. With some trepidation I took a test to measure my stupidity. I came out in the bottom third—for stupidity, that is. That means, inversely, that I’m in the top third—but just barely—for intelligence. In other words, I’m no genius, but I’m not stupid.
Moral Stupidity Is About Choices
So, I’m smart enough to recognize that I’m sufficiently smart to avoid being harmful to society. For harm or benefit to society is, ultimately, what both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Carlo Cipolla were referring to in their separate examinations of stupidity. Stupid people are, by Bonhoeffer’s and Cipolla’s definitions, not necessarily intellectual dullards. Rather, stupid people are morally stupid because they choose to believe—and act upon--theories or dogmas that are demonstrably false. And they choose to believe in and act upon those false theories and dogmas for perceived personal gain. However, more often than not, stupid people’s perceptions are incorrect, resulting in both personal and societal loss. Hence, they are morally stupid.
Stupid people tend to think and behave in ways that harm themselves as well as harming society.
Cipolla’s Five Laws of Stupidity postulate that humans fall—to varying degrees—into one of four categories or quadrants: In the upper left-hand quadrant are helpless (overly kind) people. In the upper right-hand quadrant are intelligent people. In the lower right-hand quadrant are bandits. And in the lower left-hand quadrant are stupid people. When I took Cipolla’s test for stupidity/temperament, I learned that my kindness/helplessness (upper-left quadrant) kept me from being categorized fully in the intelligent category.
According to Cipolla, intelligent people think and behave in ways that concurrently benefit themselves and society in general. Bandits tend to think and behave in ways that benefit themselves, but do so at the expense of society. Helpless people tend to think and behave in ways that benefit society, but do so at their own expense. Stupid people tend to think and behave in ways that harm themselves as well as harming society.
Can Trumpists Be Deprogrammed?
I began this research as I pondered my last post, The Sky Really Will Fall, on a friend’s site: I ended that post with this statement:
The threat to our nation—and the entire world—of a second Trump presidency cannot be overstated. Americans of goodwill and dignity must learn how to deprogram members of the Trump cult. And then we must be diligent in countering the grave threat of Trumpism.
How can we deprogram people who have chosen to think and act in ways that are harmful to themselves and society? In other words, how can people who are very or mostly intelligent convince stupid people to abandon their stupid and harmful Trump-cult ways?
Steven Hassan—an expert on mind control and cults, and a former member of the Moon cult—says,
To get your loved ones or friends out of Trump’s cult, you need to reach out to them strategically. Don’t start with saying how stupid you think the Trump cultists are. And I would also appeal to people who are Trumpists to stop being so hostile to people who do not support Donald Trump. To try to get people out of Trump’s cult we should first try to engage them in an intelligent conversation about the psychology of influence. We should also talk to Trumpists about how to better discern facts from opinions and beliefs.
One of the universal techniques that I teach my clients is that you want to focus on another group initially, and not the group in which the person you are trying to help is a member. Focus on China, for example, or some other country that is engaging in brainwashing of its population.
To extricate someone from a cult such as Trump’s, you should also ask the person to think about people who have lied to them or people who took advantage of them. Ask them to reflect on an experience where someone hired them and then refused to pay them. Would they want to work for someone like that again? Would they trust someone like that again?
Hassan says, “To extricate someone from a cult such as Trump’s, you should also ask the person to think about people who have lied to them or people who took advantage of them.” But to do that, Hassan first says, “You want to focus on another group initially, and not the group in which the person you are trying to help is a member.”
So, because we’re discussing Trumpism and not the National Rifle Association, we might begin with something like this this—even if the Trumpist is an NRA member:
Recently, National Public Radio (NPR) gained access to a phone call held by several members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) following the Columbine High School mass shooting in 1999. The NRA had already scheduled their annual convention to be held in Denver (Columbine is a Denver suburb).
The NRA phone call reveals that the group’s primary concern was not about how to prevent future school shootings. Nor was it about how to help the families who lost loved ones, nor about any policies. Rather, the NRA leaders focused on how to deflect any criticisms of the organization. They then weighed the pros and cons of holding or canceling the convention. Their primary concern was that if they held the convention in Denver so soon after the Columbine massacre, most of the attendees—the members they represented—would be “hillbillies” and “idiots” who would cast the organization in a negative light. In other words, the NRA leaders saw their dues-paying members—the folks who paid the leaders generous salaries—as “hillbillies” and “idiots,” pawns to profit from.
If you were—or are—an NRA member who learned that the leaders of your organization thought of you as a hillbilly idiot, how would/do you feel?
Then, sometime later, perhaps we might note that Donald Trump referred to his followers as “disgusting,” and that he said the Christian pastors who pray for him are “full of shit.”
Tucker Carlson: No Honor Among Bandits
Ultimately, the goal is to get stupid people—and remember, stupid does not necessarily mean intellectually deficient—to recognize the bandits who are taking advantage of them for who they really are. Trump is one clear example of a bandit; Tucker Carlson is another.
Those who inhabit the upper quadrants of Cipolla’s diagram (the intelligent and the kind/helpless) can plainly see that Tucker Carlson inhabits—with Trump—the bottom right quadrant of “bandits,” those who think and behave in ways that benefit themselves, but do so at the expense of society.
I point to Carlson now because there is no honor among thieves and bandits. Carlson hitched his wagon to Trump not out of any personal regard for the goofy reality show host. No, Carlson saw in Trump a means to elevate himself. And now that Trump is out of office, Carlson sees—I firmly believe—an opportunity to vault past Trump and establish his dominance over the Trumpist movement.
Carlson is watching for any weakenings in Trump’s base of support. When they appear, he will find ways to drive in subtle wedges, to draw supporters over to him. He craves the cult-like devotion Trump’s supporters have lavished on their messiah. Tucker Carlson could supplant Trump as the new cult messiah—and as the Republican presidential nominee. So those who inhabit the upper quadrants of Cipolla’s diagram need to be ready to shift our deprogramming efforts from Trumpists to Carlsonites.
But, regardless of the cult leader, the goal and methods are the same: to deprogram the cultists through, as Steven Hassan says, “engag[ing] them in an intelligent conversation about the psychology of influence.”
Can Americans of goodwill and dignity learn how to deprogram members of the Trump cult? Yes, we can. And we must carry those efforts over to the Carlsonite cult, should it emerge. We mustn’t be stupid; nothing less than the future of humanity is at stake.