Laughing When Someone Makes Stupid Statements in Public


When someone with a large public platform uses his or her platform to say something thoroughly stupid, I think that laughing is a perfectly acceptable response. I'm not using "stupid" here to mean something about which reasonable people can and do disagree; I'm using it more of an absolute sense.

Want a specific example? How about David Barton's claim that the god he believes in uses bad weather to punish humanity for doing things it does not like? Perhaps such a belief would not have seemed so stupid a couple hundred (or a couple thousand) years ago, but it seems awfully stupid now. And if that's not stupid enough for you, consider Jim Bakker's claim that Pat Robertson can control hurricanes through prayer, a claim Robertson has made himself. We do not expect to find people who believe they can control the weather outside of psychiatric hospitals and prisons (which have largely replaced psychiatric hospitals in the U.S.) these days. I don't know about you, but I'm not about to ignore such statements merely because they are religious in nature.

I'm not suggesting that we should go out of our way to be mean to people who say stupid things. I'm merely suggesting that I think laughter is an appropriate way to respond to someone who makes incredibly stupid statements in public, especially when he or she does so repeatedly. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this is probably just the sort of occasion where a bit of mockery is warranted.

One of the things I find objectionable about our modern call-out culture is when ordinary people who do not have access to a big public platform are singled out and publicly mocked by someone who does. This seems unfair and at least potentially harmful (especially when it involves doxxing, trying to get the person fired, and so on). I think it is different when the person making the stupid statements is utilizing his or her large public platform to broadcast stupidity. Here, it seems that laughter and mockery are being invited.

To those who argue that nothing anybody says should ever be mocked under any circumstances, I admire your commitment to civility; however, I must disagree. I believe that there are circumstances in which mockery is warranted. And though I don't think they are especially common, I suspect that there may even be situations where mockery is beneficial. Even if it does not benefit the person doing the mocking or the person being mocked, I think it can sometimes benefit the audience. Changing minds is an example of one potential benefit.

Here are some additional thoughts on the subject of mocking stupidity: