Page 8, 24th January 2003

24th January 2003
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Page 8, 24th January 2003 — T he Pope is stupid: such apparently is the theme of
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T he Pope is stupid: such apparently is the theme of

a nasty little cartoon series that will launch yet another unneeded BBC channel. Many of us signed petitions at church against it. We are not certain whether this projected work of art will feature the present Pope or some future, fictional one. To portray the present Pope as "stupid" might even tax the imaginative genius of the latest brilliant young BBC producer.

The only thing of interest in this sordid escapade is the use of the word "stupid". a term constantly bandied about by people who consider themselves advanced thinkers. They find it a ready label of abuse to stick on anyone who appears "conservative" or traditionalist. Anyone who is prepared to accept an infallible Pope is "stupid" according to people who bow before the infallible wisdom of Marx. Freud, the UN or some pop singer.

John Stuart Mill, that perpetual source of delight to the ongoing undergraduate mind, propagated the view that Conservatives were ''the stupid party." To his force-fed mind, anyone who disagreed with him was "stupid" much like Mr Blair's vacuous reference to the dark "forces of conservatism." Yet the idea that conservatives are stupid goes back further than Mill. To take another Papal example. Richard Cobden, that embodiment of Victorian Liberal pomposity, was astounded that the genial Pius IX was so "stupidas not to know the name of the Vice President of Manchester's Anti-Corn Law League.

Even before that it was customary, as it still is among facile academics, to portray monarchs such as George III or Louis XVI as "stupid" in spite of the fact that both were widely read and men of broad general intellectual outlook. Both were inept when it came to expressing themselves in sudden bursts of prose. Sadly they lacked an Alastair Campbell to tell them what to say.

It is an article of faith to most intellectuals that every member of any Royal Family and anyone bearing any form of hereditary title must be "stupid". It indeed would be a cause of pain to such a merciless judge to imagine that any "privileged" person could be as intelligent, let alone more intelligent, than himself.

Those of leftish inclinations like to claim that they place great importance on rationality. They cannot imagine how anyone can disagree their views unless they are either self-interested or "stupid". Left-wing people derive much comfort from these. Those who think differently take a similar delight in the belief that most left-wingers are "hypocrites" or "champagne socialists." Surely not. New Labour drinks Chardonnay.

British politicians, in particular. are often distinguished by a facility with language. Normally they make their way up the greasy poll by impressing fellow MPs with a display of verbal dexterity midway between undergraduate cleverness and downright lying. Thus they are puzzled when they encounter someone of equal or greater power who lacks this particular skill.

In some correspondence just released, Harold Macmillan admitted to the Queen that he was puzzled by President Eisenhower's problems in expressing his policies. Macmillan, at least, well knew that this did not indicate stupidity on Eisenhower's part. Many of Eisenhower's other critics could not organise a trip to a supermarket but sneered at the "stupidity" of a man who organised the greatest military operation in history.

We are seeing this again with the charges that President Bush is "stupid." This is normally said by those who can gallop through a sentence quicker than he can and who use their one, treasured skill as a way to attack someone whose policies they dislike. It is, after all, far easier than fashioning arguments. George W. Bush is not only a graduate of Yale but earned an MBA, reputedly one of the most difficult degrees to obtain. from Harvard.

President Bush managed to make himself a millionaire and administered one of his country's most populous states. None of these achievements is a sign of "stupidity". Yet people who can have serious discussion about the foreign policy apercu of a Hollywood bimbo are convinced that Mr Bush is "stupid."

Delighting oneself with the charge that one's opponents are "stupid" is — well — stupid.




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