“Here’s to the Lazy Ones. The halfwits, the bumblers, the square pegs in the round holes. The ones who don’t see things at all. They’re not fond of rules (can’t remember them). They have no respect for the status-quo, which they think its Latin for Fendi. You cannot quote them, as they say little that is original. You cannot disparage those with no reputations to ruin. About the only thing you can do is ignore them. (You sure as hell cannot hire them, for they are without marketable skills). They don’t change things. They don’t move the human race forward (or even sideways). And while some may see them as lazy, or as merely lacking intellectual curiosity, we see them as eejits . . .

-Not an Apple Commercial


As a follow up to the truly wonderful RIP Facts discussion yesterday, I am compelled to point out its evil twin, something as awful as that was wonderful: Megan Garber’s In Praise of Ignorance: Why It’s OK to Tweet, ‘Who Is Dick Clark?’.

There seems to be some confusion between 1) not knowing who someone is, and 2) publicly revealing, indeed, reveling, in that same ignorance. The question on my mind is rather different than that on Ms. Garber’s: Why should we praise ignorance, laziness or just outright foolishness?

I am perplexed by the defense of this. The intellectually curious Google or Wikipedia something and are immediately rewarded with an answer. “Who is that dead guy, and why is he all over TV and the front pages of newspapers blogs?” It is a perfect example of using a de minimus amount of energy to answer your own question. “Ahhh, so that’s who that old dude was…”

Tweeting out one’s ignorance is not remotely a search for the answer. It appears instead to be a way to take slothful pride (2 sins in 1) in your own lack of knowledge. It is something else, a passive aggressive display (like an attendance badge). “I DON’T KNOW AND I’M TOO LAZY TO EVEN LOOK” is what those tweets say. Imagine what they say to a potential employer (“Sorry, you are not Pensky material.”)

I know the counter arguments: That this generation exists 24/7 in social networks. That there is no line between what they do online or off. They think, therefore they Tweet.

I don’t buy it. I question the intelligence and motivations of those displaying their own ignorance rather than simply Googling; This is not Crowd-Sourcing — nor is it an indicia of a fertile mind nor of intellectual curiosity. Sorry, but this is pure, unadulterated laziness.

I am, apparently, old school. I still think ignorance is something to be ashamed of. As in “How could I not know THAT?!”(face in hand plant). So is posting nude photos of yourself online, getting so hammered as to be the subject of a public shaming, and 100s of other really self-destructive actions online. Perhaps Tweeting ignorance about a public figure 70 years older than you is one end of the spectrum; photos of yourself passed out with penises magic-markered all over your face is the other.

Regardless, The Atlantic pseudo-intellectual defense our youth’s Tweeting their ignorance (Twignorance?) makes perfect sense in a society that is fond of giving out “Participation awards.” If one gets a prize for merely showing up, imagine what accolades there are to be had for showing up and declaring “Look how little I know!” Defending not just ignorance, but aggressive and public ignorance, worn like a badge of honor amongst those artists formerly known as Schmucks derives from similar philosophical underpinnings.

You are free to disagree with me, but I found this to be one of those writings that makes many people think to themselves “No wonder this country is in such awful shape.” The phrase that finally pushed me over the edge — the language that led to this posting — was that the Dick Clark tweeters were “reappropriating ignorance“!?! Just as African Americans have taken back “the N word” and as GLAAD has done for the word Gay Queer, so too the uninformed have recaptured their flag. Three cheers for the cheerfully clueless!

Its not just that this mental masturbation is anti-intellectual fodder — it is that THIS is what passes for deep thought at one of more esteemed literary institutions.

Which reminds me of a little story.

Years ago, I worked on the Sell Side at a brokerage firm. A similar passive aggressive pride in their lack of knowledge existed amongst some of the retail brokers. They earned their money by “Smiling and Dialing;” Doing anything else meant they were earning less money. Anything that resembled craft, hard won experience, or learned insights were badges of dishonor. It was literally true that the less these guys knew, the more money they made.

The equivalent back then of a “Who Is Dick Clark” tweet was a simple question revealing similar prideful ignorance. That was accomplished by asking what the symbol was for a well known stock. It used to say “I am so busy I don’t have time to learn basic symbols.” We used to mock the dumbest of the retail brokers by responding “What is the symbol for EMC?” — which, of course, is E-M-C.

The Atlantic opines “These people refuse to be ashamed of the need to question something.” And that’s their problem — they should be.


In Praise of Ignorance: Why It’s OK to Tweet, ‘Who Is Dick Clark?’
Megan Garber
The Atlantic, Apr 19 2012, 2:30 PM ET

Category: Philosophy, Psychology, Really, really bad calls

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

46 Responses to “Here’s to the Lazy Ones . . .”

  1. stonedwino says:

    That in essence is the problem with a large swath of the American population – You cannot fix stupid!

  2. lunartop says:

    You have a point – but, I’m on my phone, I’m not from the US, my Wikipedia app is crap, Twitter is about quick hits, why not tweet who the hell is dick Clarke (or sick Claire as my phone smart text wants me to write), I’ve no idea, maybe it’s time to stop judging people by there online presence..


    BR: Or by THEIR spelling
    (Yay! I don’t know grammar!)

  3. Mike Radigan says:

    Who is Barry Ritholtz? Sorry, couldn’t help myself. :)

  4. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    Couple of comments, one tangential, and the other more appropriate.

    Tangential – if I recall correctly, GLAAD took back the word “queer”, not “gay”.

    More appropriate – I think you are taking one view of why someone says, “Who is Dick Clark”, and ascribing that view to all people who say it. As an example of another reason why someone might say it, I offer the following — during the World Series last fall, someone asked me if I knew the score of the game that was in progress. I replied, “Oh, is the World Series still going on?”. I didn’t say that because I wanted to profess my ignorance, I said it because I wanted to let the person know that my world does not revolve around the World Series and what the score happens to be at any given moment.

    Those who say, “Who is Dick Clark” may actually be saying, “I am tired of all the fuss that I am being subjected to over someone I care little about.”

    Taking this further, isn’t Megan Garber guilty of showcasing her own ignorance by writing that article?


    BR: It would be kind to assume her editor assigned this . . . (I fixed queer for gay)

  5. rd says:

    When I have new staff working for me on something, I am looking for three fundamental things if they are going to last longer than a week:

    1. Attention to details (also implies ability to concentrate and to work);
    2. “Velcro” (If they haven’t been exposed to something before, I don’t expect them to know it – it had better stick though once they are exposed); and
    3. Curiosity (To excel at engineering, you have to be able to make non-obvious links between apparently unrelated concepts)

    As a result, people who do the equivalent of tweeting at me “Who or what is this?” don’t survive. The ones that survive at least do a Google or Wikipedia search.

  6. ssc says:

    Wonder if anybody asked who Don Cornelius was when he committed suicide a couple months ago..

  7. retrogrouch says:

    While being wrong, and not knowing something are different, I still feel this message fits in here -(pay attention to her saying what it REALLY feels like to be wrong):

  8. PeterR says:

    Tweeto, Ergo Sum.

  9. flu-cured says:

    It is some of the youth’s way of saying “Why all the headlines? This person doesn’t seem relevant to [us].” The question rallies the group that feels out of the loop. It also calls out to their peers or elders to try to explain the person’s importance to gauge the justification for the headlines. Also, some of the youth may sense their elders are sentimental over this person and their question poses as the statement “don’t disguise your missing of an era as the missing of a particular person.” Maybe we retwit to the youth “D.C. participated in and condoned [our] good time.” The burden does not rest solely with the recipient of the headlines and in fact Twitter presents an opportunity for engagement in live research. Who was Dick Clark [to you].

  10. bmz says:

    This goes a long way towards explaining why I am a conservative Democrat: I hate Republican dishonesty; but I also cannot suffer fools gladly.

  11. Lariat1 says:

    When my brother and I were growing up, anytime we had a “who, what, when or why” question, we were told to “look it up” and then come back and discuss the question. That meant going to the reference books in our home or stopping in the library the next time passing by. We were expected to be able to find ways to become informed on our own. Today in my house the quick response is ” google it”. Naive as it sounds, I am still amazed at all the information that is just waiting for me to find while sitting comfortably in my home.

  12. JMH says:

    Another possible explanation – The people tweeting know they easily look up “Dick Clark”, but would rather hear what his life might have meant to some of their friends. As information becomes more abundant, and erroneous, for that matter, personalization becomes more important. The magnetism of Facebook is an example of this.

    If the S&P makes a big move, or XYZ does, or there is a big economic story, I know I could go online to see what people think about the event. But I am going to be more interested in what people like Barry Ritholtz, Doug Kass or Gary Schilling have to say because of the credibility of what they have said before.

    With a life story, most people would like to know what their friends think. Some maybe willfully ignorant, but they are probably a minority. I would not indict everyone as the article does.

    As for retail Wall Street, however, I look forward to the day this group of rent (what’s the symbol for IBM?) seekers goes the same way as the corrupt European monarchs of old. Information technology will allow the minority of ethical people on the street to bring valuable products to the retail investor, instead of the fee-skimming trash retail firms have pushed for decades.

    Call me an optimist. Full disclosure: Occasionally naive.

  13. Bill Wilson says:

    Those who tweet “Who is Dick Clark?” may value the responses of their twitter followers more than they value what they can read on Wikipedia.

    The nightly news will give me the monthly payroll report, but if I want to understand the importance, I’ll read a blog like The Big Picture. Are some of these tweeter’s just wise a**es, who are basically saying, “Who the f*ck is that, because I don’t care to know.” Sure they are, and that’s dumb. Do some of them just want to here about Dick Clarke from a friend, because they value that friend’s perspective? I think so.

    I do have a pet peeve with Twitter, and that’s the tweeted apology. If you are famous enough to make the nightly news, and you need to apologize, go on camera and apologize. Tweeting an apology is really lame and not sincere.

  14. jaymaster says:

    Profit from it!

  15. ook_boo says:

    …or…it should be obvious that we all know who Dick Clark is, and this is clearly a rhetorical question, meaning “this person is no longer relevant to anything, all he ever did was host a TV show 50 years ago, and his death should not be on the news”.

  16. carleric says:

    And they are out there breeding and voting…a previous poster has it right…you can’t fix stupid…to quote RonWhite: there is no course you can take, no book you can read, stupid is forever.

  17. Bjørn says:

    I thought they were called Twits, Boneheads, Empty Containers………..
    The sure sign of life is curiosity.
    Most people do not show their curiosity because, if they ask, (God forbid), they may have to take action of some kind.

  18. b_thunder says:

    “Wall Street is the only place people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from people who take the subway” (W. Buffett.)

    Barry, Big Thanks for once again pointing out *The Truth* about what really moves the markets – the ignorant, often dumb and high on drugs Wall St. salespeople. If you could only share with us how can an “intelligent investor wanna-be” profit by riding along with those morons and then jump off the train before the Big One? Any quick pointers?

    On the subject of ignorant tweets (twits?): I’m not so much interested in people finding another way to show how ignorant they are (btw, the last President was mighty proud of that and along the way defeated one and was awarded a win over two “intellectual” contenders.) I see this as a slowly emerging reflection on Twitter itself: as we realize that the vast majority of Twitterers have nothing worthwhile to say, that will be reflected in the value of Twitter. I believe we will see exactly the same effect with most so-called “active” FB users and the rest of “social media.”

    Thanks to the ignorant Sell Side, the incredibly flawed Groupon was pumped to unbelievable valuation. But within 2 years we’re realizing how profitable shorting GRPN could have been. Twitter and FB are about to experience the similar effect: the value of the eyeballs that read FB and Twitter are not that much more valuable than the eyeballs that were previously browsing theglobe.com and myspace.com.

  19. VennData says:

    OK, enough already. So who is he?

  20. Bob A says:

    hmmm….I had to look up eejit. hope that doesn’t make me one

    Urban Dictionary: eejit
    thesaurus for eejit: … Look what you’ve done now you eejit!” “George W … 3. eejit. person frequently involved in foolish acts, or person posessing little sense.
    4. – 3. – 6.

  21. bergsten says:

    The few times they let me anywhere near teaching kids, I tell them that if they learn “why” things work (followed closely by “how”), they will be in control of their world instead of their world being in control of them.

    Having said that, there are facts that are beneath knowing. If my wife conversationally says that blah blah blah got voted off the island of Dancing with the Has Beens (or Never Were’s), I will, out of politeness and sociability ask, “who is blah blah blah?” and promptly forget the answer. I don’t see this as intellectual laziness, I see it as being friendly and not wasting my (allegedly) finite memory store on useless information.

    I just spell-checked this comment. I could have looked up every word or squinted closer to manually catch typos, but why invest the time? I don’t dig holes with my hands because I need exercise.

    I also abhorrer the (to misquote Jerry Pournelle) “aggressively misinformed,” but see this Twitter Dick Clark as a poor example of a valid issue. And besides, didn’t he die years ago?

  22. 873450 says:

    (You sure as hell cannot hire them, for they are without marketable skills.)

    True, but we sure as hell can elect them POTUS … twice!

    “He is unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things.”
    - Christopher Hitchens on George W Bush

    “Rick Perry is a clone of George W. Bush, only not as smart.”
    - Too lazy to research attribution

  23. bergsten says:

    Two other things…

    If I know someone who can answer a question clearly and succinctly, I will ask that person the question rather than invest the time to find (and vet) the information myself. I try to reciprocate also, and never tell people “RTFM” unless they ask the same question more than once.

    Secondly, I don’t at all appreciate people using the argument of “you are ignorant because you don’t believe what I believe.” Even if I do. Maybe especially if I do.

  24. dougc says:

    At least half of the American “computer Generation” has an IQ <100 and they believe that if Dick Clark was important Khloe will inform them.

  25. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    On the “look it up,” theme:

    I love how the internets-tubes allow a cascading learning event to take place. In researching any given topic, any unusual word, phrase, or concept encountered can be immediately researched. I frequently begin researching one thing, only to find myself immersed in an entirely different subject. I usually have lots of open windows/tabs and back tracking to the original query.

  26. SOP says:

    ” If my wife conversationally says that blah blah blah got voted off the island of Dancing with the Has Beens (or Never Were’s), I will, out of politeness and sociability ask, “who is blah blah blah?” and promptly forget the answer.”

    That sounds familiar. “Honey, blah blah-1 won the immunity idol in the Iowa Caucus and blah blah-2 got voted off …”

  27. chartist says:

    I can believe that the tweeter of “who is Dick Clark”, is really expressing why should I care? He was an 82 year old guy and I am 12 years old. Like, the guy has no relevance to me or anyone I know. In a broader sense, unless you’re going to be a contestant on Jeopardy, there’s no reason to know Dick Clark or the myriad other trivia in the universe.

  28. Conan says:

    The old saying from the Communist was that religion was the opate of the masses. This can still be a decisiive issue, but the new version is popular culture. It is better to have the masses watching reality TV than worring about deficits. It is better to be on Facebook and Twitter than trying to improve yourself by reading a worth while book. It is better to be imitating a Rapper and imitating a street thug than to be improving your place in life.

    So woe to those that are too lazy and don’t try to improve themselves. Too Bad, SOOO SAD. Life is tough and even for those that try to compeat there are no gaurenteses. So sorry for those that think that there are owed or it is fashionable to imitate the lowest performes in whatever field they are looking at. To grow and improve yourself you should be studying the ones that you want to be like. If it is eejits and miscreats then so be it it is a free country and you should be careful what you wish for. The last laugh will be on you!

    Life is a struggle, the complacent and unagressive will get out of it what they put into it. Sorry, but much of luck is hard work and taking advantage of oprotunities. SNOOZE YOU LOOSE!

  29. deanscamaro says:

    Good post, Barry. The “Dick Clark” post is just an example. There are a lot of other examples of really important people or events that get a blank stare from the latest generation. They are too busy on their social networks to pay attention to the important things….he said as the U.S. slips downhill.

  30. Julia Chestnut says:

    The Atlantic opines “These people refuse to be ashamed of the need to question something.” And that’s their problem — they should be.

    But there’s the problem: I would rejoice from the mountaintops if the American people would actually QUESTION something. That requires real thought: it requires you to examine what you’ve been told, why you believe it, and what the alternatives are. How many “youth” do you know who still go to that trouble? Doesn’t it pretty neatly sum up why “higher education” isn’t any more — that they no longer force kids to really do that systematically, but instead tolerate all manner of unexamined manure.

    Instead, these kids are being unashamed at their naked belief that there are no stupid questions. Actually, kid, there definitely are.

  31. philipat says:

    I hate to imaine what the consequences of such group-condones intellectual nonfeasance will be for Crowd Financing. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  32. Stan Klein says:

    The big question: Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?

  33. Greg0658 says:

    square pegs in the round holes
    Extreme – Hole Hearted
    ok with a “yeeha” (from the original)

  34. frodo1314 says:

    Alleluia Barry! And it all started with “everyone gets a trophy” and parents encouraging their kids to play soccer instead of little league baseball. But I digress….

  35. cdeuce says:

    Barry, I don’t know if you did this on purpose but it sure drew a wry smile on my face. Surely you must have noticed as you wrote this lament on the intellectually lazy amongst our younger generations that it came immediately after you wrote your WP column extolling the energy, savvy and creativity of our future entrepreneurs…? Youth will always amaze us one moment then leave us incredulous the next.

  36. jackjames77 says:

    We shouldn’t spend so much time thinking and discussing people who really are not worth it. To get frustrated with it is in a way to show ones own ignorance. Fools and degenerates have been around since the beginning of time, but perhaps never before has the world been so under their sway. The ultimate reality is they have a place in the world too, and its our responsibility to get on with it. They will take care of themselves, or not.

  37. Greg0658 says:

    cdeuce thanks for reminding me – by the time I got to the end of this thread I forgot the 1st thing that hit me
    that being:
    sure the world needs food for the human machine & fuels for the mechanical machines .. but what else do we need the kids to do – its all been done – been said before / oh right – Earn Your Keep – its the way – no siesta for you

    THERE is the elephant, the 800# gorilla; in this room you kids – Invent a System that doesn’t need that destructive force .. but best of luck with these things we call words – its very deep in our dna as a species – a remainder from our animal days .. our white board at birth gets dry erase marked over and over and over (and over) again, that free market capitalism is the best path to prosperity

  38. NoKidding says:

    Wow, not one “Who is John Gault”?

  39. TransWarp101 says:

    No industry exploits ignorance so effectively as the law, especially the Law Firm. Think of the young associates, the epitome of arrogant idiots, billing exorbitant rates while learning the basics of the practice of law. If only they would Google their questions first instead of billing $20,000 of Westlaw time, plus double that for what the client pays.

  40. drtomaso says:

    I am guessing that 90% of those asking “Who is Dick Clark?” on twitter really mean “yeah, ok I (maybe even only vaguely) know who Dick Clark is, but why is he relevant to my life, and why does his death have to dominate the 24 hour news cycle for multiple days?”, but thats over the 140 character limit.

    You better stay off of fark.com- some of the Anne Frank/Helen Keller discussions might make your head explode.

  41. wannabe says:

    Personally, I think anyone who managed to grow up in the US without knowing who Dick Clark is SHOULD be proud of it.

    Since when did knowing mundane details about television celebritys become something to brag about among the educated classes?

    Our trifling, celebrity/youth/sports/scandal-obsessed popular culture is a disgusting disgrace to our splendid enlightenment heritage. Anyone who grew up here, yet managed to avoid buying into it (having it pollute their minds with sordid rubbish) has something to be proud of.

    BTW, did you see the Jones/Evans fight on Saturday night!? Wow! The pre-fight hype was off the charts *snicker* :)

  42. ToNYC says:

    I see that this post-80′s, Reagan generation wants to be educated as always. Whatever “Who is Dick Clark?” is, is only valuable in so far as it can be expressed in one sentence only and usable to speed through and score the eventual multiple-choice test points.
    No child left behind in repeating second-party information best available as a result of clicking on an icon or by touching a screen somewhere.
    They’ll be jumping off the turnip truck before it completes its journey when they wise-up.

  43. hkent says:

    So which political party has the “awards for participation” embedded in their DNA and why do you choose to belong to it?

  44. bergsten says:

    @NoKidding – I almost did that, but figured it wasn’t worth the resultant abuse.

    Here’s another theory — someone once told me (probably incorrectly) that a way to “pick up women” was to ask them for help — something to do with the maternal instinct or some such.

    Perhaps whoever was tweeting “who is Dick Clark” was trying to get something that rhymes with paid?

  45. kewpiedoll99 says:

    This reminds me perversely of the election in 2008, when we saw Sarah Palin leading a pack of the proudly “ignant.” I found that time really frightening, because there’s nothing to aspire to, nothing to glorify, in ignorance!

    I say perversely, because I don’t see a natural affinity between tech users and the Tea Party. Typically I view the use of technology as a banner for intelligence. But maybe I’m elevating Twitter too much. Maybe Twitter is technology that is so dumb that any eejit can use it. Maybe it really is the Tea Party of technology.

    I also am reminded of the wonderful site “Let Me Google That For You” (lmgtfy.com). When you received a link from that site it was *supposed* to make you feel stupid for having asked a question you could have easily Googled.

    Ignorance is not something to trumpet. Lack of initiative or curiosity is not something to be proud of. If you don’t know something you could easily look up, and you don’t have anything besides that to tweet, maybe you should just shut up.