SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2021
But also, Gene Robinson's column—and that Northwestern professor: By way of full disclosure, we've never seen an episode of Squid Games, a current "hit series" for Netflix.
Until yesterday, we're not sure we'd ever heard of Squid Games, although we probably had. Helpfully, a news report in yesterday's Washington Post explained what the show is about.
The report was based on a surprising or perhaps unsurprising fact. Some viewers of Squid Games seem to think Squid Games is real.
It seems that these people don't understand that they're watching a fictional show. The news report started like this:
HASSAN AND MOON (10/8/21): Netflix is to edit scenes of its hit series “Squid Game” after large numbers of viewers began dialing a phone number that appears in the production—much to the despair of those on the other end of the line.
The dystopian series sees hundreds of people who are experiencing the misery of financial ruin, invited to an undisclosed location where they play childhood games in a bid to win a billion-dollar prize. The rules are clear: If they lose, they die.
When protagonist Gi-Hun flashes his games invitation card, an eight-digit number is seen. That number, however, just so happens to belong to a South Korean woman who says she has been bombarded with calls and messages from strangers ever since the show first premiered.
“I’ve been unceasingly getting calls and texts 24/7 to the point where my daily life has become difficult,” said Kim Gil-young, a dessert shop owner who has used the number for 10 years.
Dating at least to the 1960s, even the dumbest creators of TV shows and Hollywood films have known that they have to use phony phone numbers in their worthless productions. A special set of inoperative "555" numbers are often used.
In the current matter, it's unclear who is dumber—the people who began bombarding Kim Gil-young with calls, apparently thinking Squid Games is real; or the producers of the dystopian show, assuming they didn't do this deliberately to create a publicity incident.
How many viewers actually think Squid Games is real? There's no way to know from the news report, though it did include an unverified statistic:
HASSAN AND MOON (continuing directly): She explained that the flood of calls during the day and night was constantly depleting her cellphone battery.
“I’ve had to delete more than 4,000 numbers,” she said, adding that she was “quite taken aback” by the whole experience, which has resulted in some people swearing at her over the phone and others telling her about their financial woes.
“I’m trying to participate in Squid Game, is it possible?” read one text shared by SBS News.
According to this unverified claim, thousands of people may not have been clear about the fact that Squid Games is fictional. We'd score this as an instructive fact about the human condition.
Contemporary politics has taught a somewhat surprising, somewhat similar anthropology lesson. That lesson goes like this:
There's nothing so dumb that you can't get millions of people to believe it.
Many people seem to believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Many people seem to believe the darnedest things about various aspects of the Covid crisis, or about the last election.
Why do so many people believe the darnedest things? In large part, it's because we live at a time when the peddling of misinformation is extremely big business, partly due to the rise of unregulated new industries.
Otherwise mediocre people are paid millions of dollars per year to perform this function on "cable news" TV programs. Very large sums are accrued elsewhere in the misinformation racket—through social media and talk radio, to cite two other major branches of the disinformation industry.
These people say the darnedest things—and other people believe them! This has become extremely common since the rise of talk radio, "cable news" and Internet activity in general.
Anthropologically, there's nothing so dumb that we humans won't believe it! This doesn't mean that we're "bad people." It simply means that we humans aren't exactly "the rational animal" when all is said and done.
Speaking colloquially, you have to be extremely dumb to believe Squid Games is real. Putting it more charitably, you may simply have to be human, with the sins that flesh is heir to.
In truth, we humans believe dumb things of many descriptions. This brings us to the column by Gene Robinson in yesterday's Washington Post.
We live at a time when "dumbness" is an extremely big business. In that sense, Robinson's headline spoke to what may be an existential question:
How dumb can a nation get and still survive?
That was Robinson's headline. We'd say that headline asks a good question. His column started like this:
ROBINSON (10/8/21): T.S. Eliot wrote that the world ends "not with a bang but a whimper,” but I fear our great nation is careening toward a third manner of demise: descent into lip-blubbering, self-destructive idiocy.
How did we become, in such alarming measure, so dumb? Why is the news dominated by ridiculous controversies that should not be controversial at all? When did so many of our fellow citizens become full-blown nihilists who deny even the concept of objective reality? And how must this look to the rest of the world?
Read the headlines and try not to weep...
Robinson fears that "our great nation" (such as it is) may be dying of dumbness. We regard that as a very serious point of concern. Indeed, we've been offering that suggestion for at least the past ten years.
Our nation may be dying of dumbness, Robinson warns. But as he continued—as he cited those headlines—his specific meaning became clear:
The dumbness to which he refers doesn't belong to "the nation." Inevitably, every example of dumbness he cites only belongs to The Others!
For ourselves, we've been marginally biased against Robinson since June 1999, when he served as editor of the Post's Style section during The Clinton/Gore Hunt. That said, we take it as obvious that he's a good, decent person, as most people are.
We'd also say that columns like his are part of the general sprawling dumbness which may be our nation's end. We'd say that those Squid Game callers are caught in a certain lack of cognition. but we'd say that columnists like Robinson are caught in a dangerous lack of awareness too.
It's the oldest story in human history—the dumbness, idiocy and nihilism are all found Over There! Traditionally, this is the story we humans tell ourselves before we start our human wars—in Germany, in Rwanda, in Cambodia, but also within "our great nation."
The idiocy is all Over There, we're told. We liberals are fed this ancient tale every hour of every day through our tribal media. Our cable stars get obscenely rich as they ladle this pleasing porridge, and our doomsday hurries on.
We liberals! Quite routinely, we believe and say the darnedest things too! This creates The Way We Look to Others—and we're inclined to grade on the curve, adjusting our grades for "educational level" and for status within upper-end media or within the academy.
What sorts of Uniquely Dumb Things do we liberals say on a daily basis? Our scripted dumbness is simply astounding—catch the statement by the Northwestern professor in this report in this morning's Washington Post—and our dumbness tends to come at the world from the top of the heap on down.
Is it possible that we "liberals" are part of the dumbness too? Human brains are wired to reject such claims, despondent top experts all say.
The dumbness is all Over There, we liberals are constantly told. That's one part of the sprawling dumbness which has become a major threat to "our great nation," such as it actually is.
The Dumbest Thing Ever Said: It may be the dumbest thing ever said! Live and direct from the Washington Post, we highlight the statement below:
FOSTER-FRAU ET AL (10/9/21): Susan Graham, 70, identified as White until she took one of the popular DNA tests a few years ago. According to the results, she was 97 percent Ashkenazi Jewish—and 3 percent Black and Asian.
Graham, who founded an organization to advocate for biracial children like hers—her husband is Black—marked all three races on the census, and now identifies as multiracial, not White.
“If anybody asks me, ‘Are you multiracial?’ I would have to say yes, I’m multiracial,” said Graham, of Los Banos, Calif.
The popularity and ease of at-home DNA tests has led to a problematic conflation of genes and heritage with race, sociologists said. This has contributed to an unknown number of people marking multiple races on the census, despite having grown up identifying as one race, being perceived as that race and living in a culture that reflects that race.
“To say that translates to somebody identifying as White, Black and Asian because their genetic ancestry points to those places on the globe is just really wild and super problematic,” said Nitasha Tamar Sharma, a professor of Asian American and African American studies at Northwestern University. “I find this to be in some cases a really racist role of peak Whiteness.”
In truth, Graham's reaction to her DNA test may have tilted a bit toward the slightly dumb side.
That said, the professor's reaction to Graham's reaction qualifies as Dumbness On The Grand Cosmic Scale. We'd have to say that such reactions are just really wild and super problematic!
Our professors do and say the darnedest things every day of the week. Every time these professors speak, more than 4,000 new Trump voters are said to earn their wings.
Some people think Squid Games is real. Other people are employed as professors at schools much like Northwestern!
We humans beings are all just alike. We tend to be captives of our tribes, top major star experts all tell us.