Intelligence Deficit or Empathy Deficit? Of “Covidiots” and the Voight-Kampff test

Hands up if you’ve ever changed your mind on a topic after someone called you stupid?


Yeah, me neither. I am not “stupid” (blah blah scholarships, degrees etc etc etc blah blah) but omfg have I done more (far more) than my share of stupid things.

And the root cause of most of those stupid things that regularly cause me to wince/cringe? Well I’d hazard a guess, my toxic sense of entitlement (white male, privately educated in a single sex school etc). My lack of effort at looking at situations and the likely consequences of my behaviour through, gasp, the eyes of others.

Did I get less selfish as I gained more knowledge/information/baubles?

Did I fuck.

If I have gotten better (and I am not the best judge of that, obvs) it’s not from from passing IQ tests. [And omfg the history of those tests? They were rigged to have white males come out on top. [TED talk here which presumably talks to this – haven’t watched it].] If I got less stupid, it was because of kindness, forebearance, compassoin and patience of other people.

Why am I writing all this?

I am deeply deeply uncomfortable with the easy (lazy?) language of calling the anti-lockdown protestors as stupid.

In response to a tweet by The Chaser came this

And I think that is entirely correct.

I watched some footage of the Sydney protests yesterday. There was a 35ish year old woman saying that she and her fellow protestors were lawyers, teachers, health care professionals.

Scary version? She’s not bullshitting.

Today in his press conference Premier Dan Andrews was careful (and I think clever) in framing it all as a question of selfishness.

Look, I understand the anger people have with ignorant hypocrites who wolf down conspiracy theories who have never shown much concern with anyone else’s human rights. I understand fear. I understand we all want an outlet for that fear. I also understand the unwillingness to try to “debate” with these people, to sidestep the batshit craziness of their views. And the sense that by refusing to denounce, you are accepting. And I have made videos about the Gish Gallop, and how you just can’t defeat a cosmology with facts and pointed questions.

But I think we would be well-advised to try to frame this not as a question of intelligence (we have no real way of knowing the “average IQ” of those attending the anti-lockdown protests, both empirically but also conceptually (I refer to my earlier point about the dodginess of IQ tests).

And it leads to a quick dead-end in the conversation. It leads to a shouting match and mutual blocking and contempt, rather than keeping the doors open (1)

I think instead we need to Be Like Dan and frame this around entitlement. For one thing, it opens up broader and wider conversations about injustice, which turns out to be intersectional, intergenerational and interspecies…

We need people to think about not flunking the Voigt-Kampff (2)

All those inters. All those “betweens”, not so many againsts….


(1) However, it is NOT the responsibility of people on the receiving end of the toxic entitlement of toxically entitled people to be the magical patient healer. Educating their oppressors is not their job.

(2) Here you go.

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