Selecting For Stupid

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020-09-14 18:00:00-04:00 No comments

Some time ago I came across an article that explained why most spam scams read like illiterate grade-school scrawls. It's not incompetence on the part of the spammers. In fact, it's the exact opposite: it's a calculated strategy. And it explains why much political grift is similarly dumb.

The idea is this: When you spam people with missives that have obvious mistakes in them, that immediately filters out a whole section of the population that's skeptical and cautious by default. You're left with the incautious, the unskeptical — in other words, exactly the kinds of people you want to perpetrate scams on to begin with.

The bad grammar and botched-looking designs of most spams are selection mechanisms. They weed out everyone who knows better, the better to focus on the ones who don't — and the better to separate those people from their money.

The same thing applies to those who grift politically. This goes whether it's running for office on a reactionary platform that would hurt the very people voting for them, or leveraging one's cred in a political movement to hock penis pills or whatnot. The dumbing-down of the pitch means that the ones who say yes to it are the ones who won't raise too much of a stink when they get ripped off. Or, if they do raise a stink, they can be safely redirected to some adjacent scapegoat, because they aren't so bright to begin with.

One fun corollary of all this is the general inverse corollation of gullibility to one's perception of gullibility. "I'm nobody's fool" is a common line in reactionary circles. Nonsense. Everyone is someone's fool sometime; it's just a matter of knowing when and dealing with it gracefully. But the reactionary mindset is not interested in things like learning from mistakes, since admitting to a mistake is in their worldview a sign of weakness (and more to one's peers than to one's purported enemies). Or, at the very least, they are not interested in creating a culture of learning from one's mistakes, one that is extended universally and not just to those in their immediate circle. Such things are best kept to one's self, like all forms of power. Or so they believe.

Tags: politics scams sociology