A little while ago something flashed across my Twitter feed:
“Polls show that 92% of Afghans have never heard of 9/11.”
I read that and my immediate thought was, “you have got to be fucking kidding me.”
My second thought was, “I bet that came from Tumblr.”
Now, understand something, if you are not the sort of person who is all that terribly plugged in to the internet culture: Tumblr is basically the worst thing in human history. You thought the internet itself was bad? Tumblr is the internet’s evil transporter twin from The Enemy Within, only in addition to being made of carbon atoms and pure malice it’s also incredibly, unbelievably ignorant. Tumblr is where thought and reason and knowledge and meaning go to die. It is the gaping maw of the giant vagina monster Ozymandias drops on Manhattan: a mindless, insensate primordial annihilator.
Of course this idiotic horseshit came from Tumblr.
I eventually backtracked through the reblogs to find the original piece. I’m not going to link to it here, because the author is an intellectually dishonest asswipe to an extent I hadn’t previously thought possible and I’m not giving the site any more traffic. I found the “polls show that 92% of Afghans have never heard of 9/11” claim and – lo and behold! alas and alack! – there was neither source nor attribution of any kind.
That’s not the good part. Hell, that’s just Tumblr: the Mos Eisley of the internet.
No, the good part came in a follow-up piece I found where our brave author with no name says, and I quote:
“I do a lot of research on the information I post, but at the same time I avoid citations. My reason for this is that I find the common internet phrase ‘citation needed’ to be somewhat dismissive.”
That right there is your “intellectually dishonest asswipe” money shot.
You don’t want to put your name on your bullshit ravings? Fine. It’s cowardly, and hilariously melodramatic, and is just one more sign that you are not someone to be taken seriously, but fine. Write anonymously. But to willfully, purposefully refuse to cite your own sources because… why? Because you live in some sort of self-aggrandizing fantasy world where you think citing your sources is beneath you?
Do you know what that means?
That means you are a charlatan. That means you are a fraud. That is the final, overriding proof that you are not someone to be taken seriously.
Let me explain something here.
You say “polls show that 92% of Afghans have never heard of 9/11” and anyone with an ounce of fucking sense in their head is going to realize that statement as presented is almost certainly untrue. It’s not DEFINITELY untrue, but it is, to say the least, extraordinarily unlikely. To accept a statement like that on face value requires one of two scenarios:
1) You are profoundly ignorant of how polling is conducted, how polling data is generated, of statistics, logistics, simple geography and the last 35 years of world history, in which case you shouldn’t be throwing around statistics at all, much less statistics that purport to provide valuable insight into a complex and important issue.
2) You are willfully ignorant of all those things, and thus possess at best a casual relationship with the truth, in which case you are, as mentioned previous, a charlatan and a fraud.
You say “polls show that 92% of Afghans have never heard of 9/11.”
I want to see the sample size of the poll. I want to see how respondents were selected. I want to see the error. I want to see the response rate. I want to see the exact questions that were asked. I want to see the order they were asked in. I want to see how the integrity of the polling questions was verified. I want to see the exact methodology of how the poll was taken. Sweet zombie Jesus do I want to see the exact methodology, because the notion that a country where 92% of the population doesn’t know why the United States has been blowing them into smithereens for 12 years can somehow be polled accurately is so ludicrous it defies rational belief.
And if you can’t show me or point me at every single one of those things, YOU DON’T GET TO TOSS THAT NUMBER AROUND, because you are a charlatan, and a fraud. You are lying. What’s more, you know you’re lying, because you have already stated that from the start you weren’t interested in presenting the truth.
Extraordinary claims, jackass. Extraordinary claims.
You want to sit there and wax rhapsodic about the Oscars or LeBron or Game of Thrones or whatever, go for it. You want to write long, prosaic treatises about how awful our colonial misadventures make you feel, knock yourself out. They make me feel pretty awful too. Express your feelings however you like.
But you want to make claims of fact? You want to make an argument? You want to use numbers? You make sure they’re right. You make sure they’re solid all the way down to the bedrock. You make sure they’re unimpeachable and unassailable. You make sure they’re incontrovertible. You make sure, or you keep your mouth shut. Facts are for the big boys. Arguments are for grownups. Numbers are for the folks responsible enough to know how to use them right. We’re not screwing around here. This is the NFL, goddammit.
Why am I so angry about this? A couple reasons.
Partially because, broadly speaking, I agree with the politics behind it. Though I don’t have firsthand experience of it I am willing to believe the journalists and soldiers and diplomats and analysts who tell me that Afghanistan is in terrible shape, and that our continued presence there isn’t helping. I’m a pacifist, for Chrissakes. Of course I want us to not blow people up if we can possibly avoid it.
I’m angry because it makes the rest of us who share that viewpoint look bad. We’re not talking about the Phillies’ starting rotation. This is life and death. This is empire and history. This is the difference between wrong and right, and recognizing that, and working to make sure the right choices get made. This is the good fight, and it’s that much harder to fight it when Steve the Drunk is shouting obscenities from the back row.
The other reason, though, the big, major, roiling mad reason is that the person who wrote that is not stupid. They are, as I said previous, intellectually dishonest, incredibly so, made all the worse by the fact that they are so willingly and purposefully – but they’re not stupid. They are a charlatan: an intelligent person who uses their intelligence to prey on the fear and ignorance and hopes and desires of others. A person who uses their gifts solely to enrich and to advance themselves at the expense of people they should be elevating and ennobling. A person who takes the single greatest gift you can be given when you enter this world and corrupts it for nothing more than their own gain.
Like I said: a charlatan. I learned that word from Raistlin Majere when I was ten years old, it’s been burned into my brain ever since and it makes me angrier than anything on earth, because for unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required, motherfucker.
This is the NFL, and we hit.