by Scott Erickson
In my satirical novel Invasion of the Dumb Snatchers, Miles Bennell saves America from intelligence.
Of course, the story isn’t just fictional. In real life, all kinds of people are trying to save America from intelligence.
This country is facing some incredibly huge and challenging problems. It will require a lot of intelligence to solve them.
And consider that many Americans consider Donald Trump to be the best candidate to lead this country through these challenging times. Consider that the other candidates are following his lead, and have turned the presidential election—especially for the Republican Party—into a contest of who can be the most stupid.
The powers that be
It should be obvious that “the powers that be” don’t want a population of thinkers. In Aldous Huxley’s book Brave New World Revisited, he outlined the very brief history of an organization called the Institute for Propaganda Analysis. The institute was formed in 1937, as a result of Nazi propaganda. The idea was to teach students the critical thinking skills that would allow them to analyze and debunk the propaganda. The problem was that when the United States entered the war, the government didn’t want anybody questioning our propaganda.
But even before that, there was a lot of resistance to the organization. Teachers didn’t want students who questioned what they were being taught. The military definitely didn’t want soldiers questioning their officers. The church didn’t want people questioning the authority of the church. And corporations didn’t want people questioning the claims of their advertising.
Basically, those in power don’t want people under their power asking too many questions. It might threaten their power. Or more to the point, it might threaten the benefits that come with that power.
It’s not just “the powers that be”
Of course, “the powers that be” have reasons for us to be stupid.
But what about the rest of us? Why are the presidential candidates with the most stupid answers being rewarded with the most votes?
There’s more to it than the powerful oppressors fighting to keep us stupid. We—at least a significant portion of “we”—seem to prefer it.
Why else would so many Americans actively oppose the teaching of critical thinking courses in schools?
It’s important to note that not only “the powers that be” were opposed to the Institute of Propaganda Analysis. Parents were also concerned that children with critical thinking skills might threaten parental authority. Consider: What if children came home from school demanding that their parents justify the reasons for what they did?
It gets personal
Thinking can be dangerous. It might lead us to radically question our lives—to radically question the ideas that we’ve based our lives on.
Thinking can be dangerous “existentially.”
But it can also be dangerous in more “tangible” ways. We might ask questions about our culture that our culture doesn’t want to answer. We might ask questions that get us in trouble with “the powers that be.”
Also, thinking might cause us to admit we’re wrong.
I recently read an interview with film director Adam McKay, recounting a hilarious conversation with somebody trying to argue that the United States has the best health care system in the world. Facts made absolutely no difference as the other person just came back with arguments that got increasingly stupid to the point of absurdity.
I’ve been part of many similar conversations about things like the need to end our dependence on fossil fuels.
It’s identical to what happens if you try to convince an alcoholic to admit they’re an alcoholic. And for a very good reason: In both cases, you’re trying to talk somebody out of an addiction.
Similar arguments occur with a variety of topics. Such as the need to create a post-consumer economy that’s not dependent on eternal growth on a finite planet.
But such proposals generally aren’t even acknowledged. And if they are, they’re shouted down. Why?
Protecting the Ego
Stupidity is increasing. And I think the basic reason is that we need to resort to increasing stupidity to avoid fixing the results of prior stupidity. Or to put it another way, we need stupidity to stay in denial.
The human race has done some really stupid, egotistical things. Such as steadily destroying the ability of the planet to support life. Such as creating an economic system dependent on that destruction to keep from collapsing. If we were smart, we’d go about changing these stupid things.
But that would be a threat to the idea that we’re not the most important thing in the universe. And it would be a threat to the so-called “benefits” of acting on that idea. So we’re forced to defend our stupidity with increasingly stupid excuses and rationalizations.
I really do believe that we’re in a race between intelligence and stupidity. And I’m not very optimistic about how intelligence is doing.
What do we do about it?
There’s the million-dollar question. How do we use intelligence against a force that resists intelligence? Or in other words: How do we fix stupid?
I only have one very personal answer: Mockery.
Since my thing is humor and satire, I wanted to figure out how to represent this in a humorous and satirical way. The movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers has always been one of my favorites. The movie, which came out in 1956, inspired all kinds of theories about how the story was a metaphor for McCarthyism or post-war conformity.
Since the story deals with universal fears, so it can be interpreted in a variety of ways. So when I hit on the idea of twisting the story to be about stupidity, it was a natural fit.
Is mockery enough?
There’s plenty of satire out there, political and otherwise. Of course, it’s all (or mostly) a case of “preaching to the converted.” The people most receptive to it are those who least need to hear it. And the people that most need to hear it are those who most resist it.
But what else are you going to do? What good does a satirical novel do?
Well, probably about as much good as a well-researched non-fiction book full of facts and logic.
For both, the answer is: “Probably not much.” But as least it’s something.
Scott Erickson is an award-winning writer of humor and satire. His books include the satirical novel The Diary of Amy, the 14-Year-Old Girl Who Saved the Earth, and the humor compilations The Navy Girl Book and The Best of Reality Ranch. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and describes himself as “possibly the nicest curmudgeon you’ll ever meet.”
He has recently published a satirical novel: Invasion of the Dumb Snatchers. It’s a twist on the classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The book explores the following question: If stupidity is at war with intelligence, what will happen if stupidity wins?
In the story, something is seriously wrong in America. Growing numbers of people are embracing sustainability, efficiency, common sense, and economic sanity. Only one man knows what’s really happening. Only Miles Bennell, assistant manager at Burger King, knows that aliens are replacing our bodies with exact duplicates.
The book is available via amazon.com.