On Dumb Questions

I’ve heard people say that there are no dumb questions. In some circumstances, this is true. In particular, if you’re a child who can’t reasonably be expected to know much of anything, then there are, in fact, no dumb questions. However, most of us are not children. We can reasonably be expected to know some things, or at least we ought to have the capacity to figure those things out, especially in the age of Google.

These thoughts are prompted by a Twitter exchange I had with the person replying to David French in the image below:

dumb questino

David French here is tweeting about Laura Loomer’s obnoxious interruption of the Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar, which has been criticized for depicting violence against someone that looks like Trump. The criticism is mostly stupid. But even if it weren’t, charging on stage to interrupt a theatrical production you don’t like is unacceptable for the same reason that interrupting a controversial speaker you don’t like is unacceptable. Free speech, yes. But also, time, place, and manner. Spew your uninformed criticism all you want, but get your own venue to do it instead of stealing the stage from those who own it/have been invited to it/have some other right to it.

Anyhow, my main concern is not the stupidity of the criticism leveled toward the play so much as the stupidity of Mr. Bronxilla’s tweet. Anyone who is remotely familiar with David French’s work should know that he speaks out against left-wing speech restrictions pretty much all the time. He’s also a First Amendment lawyer. This is not difficult to learn. All you have to do is go to French’s page on National Review.

I quoted the stupid question and said that it was stupid, and afterwards had the pleasure of exchanging some words with Mr. Bronxilla:

bronxilla

It’s not like being sincere exempts you from being dumb. I didn’t accuse Bronxilla of insincerity, but of a combination of ignorance and intellectual laziness. Sincerity is enough if you’re in 4th grade, but not if you’re a grown-up trying to discuss grown-up things. That requires a little something extra.

And I really do mean a little something extra. It would have taken literally ten seconds for Bronx to search for David French on Google, click the first search result, and skim his author bio. But he couldn’t be bothered to do so. Instead, he made it everyone else’s job to inform him of the obvious.

There is an absurd amount of information at the tips of your fingers. If you’re not willing to look for it, then how much can you claim to care about being informed? And if you don’t really care about being informed, then why do you ask these questions?

Dialogue is supposed to be an exchange of meaningful ideas. As such, you should come to it prepared to say something meaningful. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions, but it does mean that you should familiarize yourself with the subject you’re discussing to a degree sufficient for you to recognize the difference between good questions and dumb ones. Otherwise, you’re just wasting everyone else’s time.

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