Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Who Are You Calling Stupid?

PZ Myers with a great little essay on the hidden racism of elitist sci-fi stories. This is what my Dad calls the politics of "what's wrong with everyone else". The basic premise of pretty much every show on Fox News and Talk Radio.

On his blog, PZ decries the notion of a moronic underclass that is threatening to overpopulate and overthrow the intelligent upper class:

I detest "The Marching Morons."

[In his essay, Sci-Fi writer Ben] Bova gives an accurate summary; it's also the primary plot point of the movie Idiocracy. It's also the premise behind eugenics and behind a lot of right-wing phony elitism. It's wrong. It was a very popular story, but the reason isn't complimentary: it fed into a strain of self-serving smugness in science-fiction fandom, the idea that people who read SF are special and brilliant and superior, we are the technological geniuses and far-seeing futurists, while the mundanes leech off our vision. The eugenics movement built on the same us-vs.-them mentality, that there are superiors and inferiors, and the inferiors breed like cockroaches.

He concludes:

...no, eating brie, going to Harvard, and reading the Wall Street Journal are not indicators of ability — they are properties of class. Drinking beer, learning a trade, and reading Sports Illustrated doesn't mean you're dumber, or that there are genes driving your choices — it means you are the product of a particular environment. Yet we all practice this fallacy of judging someone's intelligence by how they dress or their entertainment preferences, and society as a whole indulges in the self-fulfilling prophecy of doling out educational opportunities on the basis of economic status.

Just an excellent take-down of the right-wing strain in many sci-fi stories and well worth reading in full. Also a timely moral stand for someone who is on the front lines of the Christianist war against science.