Wingnuttery,  Zeitgeist

The Stupider Effect

By Harry Storm


Sometime in the early 1990s, I was listening to someone on the radio talk about what he called “The Stupider Theory”, based on the proliferation of daytime talk shows on American TV. His theory was that when a new type of show is introduced, its imitators will become progressively stupider. The Phil Donahue Show was the first of the daytime talk shows; Phil Donahue was a very intelligent, liberal man who for the most part brought erudite guests onto his show to discuss intelligent topics and share them with his audience. Then came Oprah, not quite as intellectual as Phil Donahue (and much more popular), but still reasonably intelligent. Then came Sally Jesse Raphael, which was considerably more of an everyperson’s show, replete with revelations of affairs, lots of crying and screaming, etc. Then the stupider floodgates opened, with shows like Jenny Jones, Ricki Lake, “Maury,” (Maury Povich), and hitting absolute rock bottom with the Jerry Springer show, which required armed guards because of the ever-present possibility of live fisticuffs on air.

I bring this up because in recent years, it’s become very clear that this fellow’s stupider theory can be applied to much more than just daytime talk shows. Take, for example, the removal of words from the public sphere because they can cause offense. Originally meant for racial, ethnic and religious slurs, the list of proscribed terms began to grow in the 1980s with terms like “crippled” and “retarded” becoming verboten. In the current millennium, the list grew exponentially, so much so that by November 2021, the increasingly woke Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) published a list of the following words that it recommended people should no longer use: blackmail, black sheep, sold down the river, spooky, grandfathered in, and ghetto (offensive to black people; interestingly, ghetto is frowned upon because of its negative connotations not to Jewish people, the original ghetto dwellers, but exclusively to black people); savage, powwow, tribe, spirit animal (offensive to aboriginal people); brainstorm (offensive to “neurodiverse” people), blindsided (blind people), tone deaf (deaf people), and lame (offensive to handicapped, oops, disabled, no, people with disabilities); and, believe it or not, “first-world problem (because it “dehumanizes” people from non-first-world countries).

Could things get stupider? Well, yes. In January 2023, the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work announced it would no longer use the word “field” (because black slaves worked in the fields, believe it or not) and would replace it with “practicum.” Not to be outdone, in the same month, Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services announced it would no longer use the words “field worker” in agency communications, citing the term’s “implication for descendants of enslaved Black and Brown individuals.”

As you might expect, the stupider effect in academe isn’t limited to banning or restricting words. Many terms that once meant one thing have seen those meanings change into something much stupider. Consider “colonialism,” originally defined as “the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country or region, by militarily occupying it and bringing in settlers from the mother country and/or exploiting it economically.” Colonialism is likely as old as human civilization itself, having been practiced by, among others, the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans. In modern times, until fairly recently, colonialism described the actions of European countries such as Britain, Spain, France and Russia, among others, in settling and/or exploiting territories far from the home country, in places like the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia.

However, more recently – and stupidly – the term has been used to describe the return by Jews, first from Europe and then from the Middle East and North Africa, to the ancestral Jewish homeland in Palestine. Not only did these so-called “colonizers” not originate in a “home country,” as is the case with all other colonialist projects, in many cases they were oppressed or even expelled from the countries they fled.

In addition, since the 1967 Six-Day War, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Jewish settlements that followed have been described as settler-colonialism (though the same charge is often levelled at the entire Jewish population of Israel), even though calling the occupation and settlement of a tiny region less than 6000 square kilometres directly on Israel’s border following a war that threatened Israel’s very existence further stupefies the meaning of the word. (Interestingly, the term is rarely if ever applied to the Russian annexation and colonization of the three Baltic states in 1940).

But in keeping with the stupider effect, colonialism has now been applied to – wait for it — space exploration, where there are no vanquished people, or life of any kind (as far as we know). In a March 4, 2023 article in The Guardian, astrobiologist (whatever that is) Pamela Conrad, said space exploration, particularly efforts to mine the Moon, runs the risk of becoming an exercise in ‘colonialism’ and ‘exploitation’. According to Conrad, “if something that’s not here is seen as a resource to be exploited, that’s colonialism.”

As if that weren’t stupid enough, one Hilding Neilsen, an associate professor of astronomy of native (Mikmaq) origin at Memorial University in Newfoundland, says that in Canada indigenous peoples have rights and responsibilities to unceded and treaty land without a height limit, meaning those concerns extend to the skies above (sure they do!).


Hilding Neilson has devoted his career to “indigenizing” astronomy.


Neilsen also notes that indigenous people have deep connections with celestial bodies such as the moon. “Part of that connection is inherent to the culture and the way of living and way of knowing,” he says, so damaging celestial bodies is “a concern.’ Neilsen says people working on space missions such as establishing a station on the moon and eventually sending people to Mars “should engage with indigenous people in advance,” because “when we look at the moon in terms of the space missions and colonization it is very much as a dead object to be conquered. And that’s not how many indigenous peoples see it.” Therefore, “mining on the moon, for example, could be creating harm and cheering on the history of colonialism in ways that may be harmful to some people.” No doubt even stupider things can and will be said, but it’s hard to imagine how.

Of course, no discussion of the stupider effect can ignore the evolution of gender ideology. The notion that there were more than two “genders” – a word that until recently was a synonym for sex – was rather stupid to begin with. Then of course we had the rapid proliferation of genders, including so-called non-binaries, pansexuals, two-spirits, etc etc., leading to claims of 70, or even 150 genders – each with their own set of pronouns, of course. But was that the end of it?

Not a chance. A Florida “Tiktok celebrity gender surgeon” named Sidhbh Gallagher is hailing eunuchs as another “gender.” According to Dr. Gallagher, individuals “assigned male at birth” [i.e. males] who may not be comfortable with their masculine features.” may also benefit from “gender affirmation care, which could mean orchiectomy (removal of testes) in some patients.”

As stupid (crazy?) as it sounds, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) takes it even further down the road to the Magical Kingdom. According to WPATH, eunuchs are the “oldest recognized gender outside the binary.” You have to wonder: Do they really believe the vast majority of castrations were voluntary?

Even more stupid (and chilling): According to WPATH’s standards of care, children can “identify” as eunuchs. “Like other gender diverse individuals, eunuch individuals may be aware of their identity in childhood or adolescence,” WPATH states. (Claiming to be a “professional association,” they refrain from “making specific suggestions” due to “the lack of research into the treatment of children who may identify as eunuchs.” However, this “professional association” does provide a hyperlink to the “Eunuch Archive.”)

And what better way to end an article on the stupider effect than a discussion about “what safetyism hath wrought” in academe and how it has evolved to become stupider and stupider. Safe spaces – originally places where feminists and gay liberationists could speak freely – morphed into spaces where people could speak without hearing an opinion that differed from theirs. Always rather silly, trigger warnings also became more ridiculous: According to Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in The Coddling of the American Mind, there have been trigger warnings for lectures and reading materials that included words like “violated” because of how a victim of sexual assault might react, even when the sentence was as benign as “she violated the law.” And some woke academics now believe that microaggressions – regular unintentional or intentional verbal or behavioral slights – should be referred to instead as “exclusionary behaviours.”

But even in this regard, the stupider effect has nowhere near run its course (if it ever will), as evidenced by the actions of the eminent Oxford Union – a place where robust debate has taken place since 1823 – after its invitation to gender critical philosopher Kathleen Stock – who was hounded out of Sussex University by students and faculty over her GC views. After severe criticism and boycotts by the Oxford Student Union for inviting Stock in the first place, the OU announced it would provide “trauma counsellors” to help students who attend Professor Stock’s OU appearance cope with hearing her views, simply because they offer an alternative viewpoint to the gender orthodoxy believed by most university students and faculty.

It could be argued that the stupider effect has been around for as long as human civilization has existed, and I suspect that is likely true, though its effects became more pronounced and more immediate because of advances in communication and other technology in the 20th century. Given the absurdity of the social and cultural phenomena of the 21st century – safetyism, critical race theory and gender ideology, to name some of the more outrageous – it would appear that the stupider effect will be with us for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, the individuals and groups who best exemplify the stupider effect control many of our society’s most important institutions and could potentially block realistic solutions to the social and environmental issues still facing our society and lead us into a more dystopian future.