Films and history books warn us of the dangers of evil geniuses coming to power. Skillful orators like Hitler, we are told, are able to trick masses of people into following them, with dire consequences. But the lone evil genius is not as big a danger as a horde of mediocre people. Understanding the midwit phenomenon is crucial to understanding Clown World.
A ‘midwit’ is someone of middling intelligence. They are higher than lackwits, halfwits and fuckwits, but are lower than any genuine wit. They’re not dull, just not bright. Although this sounds very ordinary, the sheer mass of humanity at the very centre of the bell curve creates its own phenomena that we have to be wary of.
Psychologists have observed a curious phenomenon that is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This is when a person with a low level of ability or knowledge heavily overrates themselves. It’s a specific example of an area of Psychology known as illusory superiority.
A person is most liable to fall victim to the Dunning-Kruger Effect when they know a little bit about a subject. This is because a person who doesn’t know the boundaries of a field of knowledge will not know the limitations of their own knowledge either. The tendency in such cases is to discount the volume of the knowledge not known.
When someone uses the term ‘midwit’ they are referring to this kind of person. They don’t mean a person of merely average intelligence, but rather a person who is utterly incapable of recognising their own intellectual shortcomings. The midwit secretly thinks he might be the smartest person who ever lived. This is because his understanding of his limitations is minimal.
Central to midwit psychology is their tendency to go along with the herd. Midwits can’t actually see ahead, much less beyond, but they like to give the impression they can. They only way they can continue to give this impression is by expending great energy determining what actually smart people think.
The problem here is that midwits can’t generally tell the difference between people smarter than them and crazy people. This leads to three characteristic midwit errors.
The first is dismissing people smarter than them as crazy.
Midwits don’t have the academic acumen to read scientific journals, much less conduct scientific literature reviews. As such, they are dependent on the word of experts in order to understand anything. Of course, if a person doesn’t have any expertise themselves then they have to rate those who do on trust, and that is a crapshoot at the best of times.
Any genuine scientific or cultural advance will, at first, only be understood or appreciated by the genuine experts and geniuses in the field. From them, it filters out to the merely brilliant, then to the bright and then finally to everyone else. So any really interesting scientific advance will only be appreciated by a minority – until it stops being interesting.
Because the midwit follows the herd, the midwit will always dismiss the genius as crazy on account of his low number of followers. When the genius becomes recognised by the masses, the midwit will follow along, up until the point where the genius becomes unfashionable. Then the midwit will drift into the next intellectual trend.
The second characteristic midwit error is following a crazy person out of the belief that that person is smart.
The archetypal example of this is the Manson Family. Charlie Manson was certainly capable of sounding smart, but his was more of a carnival storyteller’s glibness than the wisdom of a sage. He could take people for an enjoyable ride and show them some incredible places, but at the end of it they were left with regret.
Manson was certainly capable of expressing advanced spiritual insights. After all, if you hang around the psychedelic drug scene long enough you will come to hear some profound insights into the nature of reality from genuine shamanic adventurers. All he had to do was parrot them accurately enough and a couple of dozen Southern California midwits decided that he was a guru.
Because midwits are mediocre, they’re especially prone to mistake convoluted insanity for profundity. Consequently, there are all kinds of lunatics who have followings on account of that their babblings have become fashionable. Most of these lunatics are mainstream media figures – television celebrities are to the midwit what the gods were to the ancient Greeks and Romans.
These errors are magnified by the sheer number of midwits out there. Because there are so many of them, most midwits are used to the experience of encountering others who agree with them. This leads to the third, and most characteristic error of the midwit: groupthink.
Because the midwit knows that they are not distinguished in any fashion, being entirely mediocre, they come to prize the bare average above the exceptional. From this they develop a tendency to ignore anything vaguely controversial. If the herd thinks it, that’s good enough for the midwit. As the midwit is right on the centre of the bell curve, their opinions are the most common. Therefore, they conclude, they must be correct.
Related to this, midwits are especially fond of labelling any explanation they cannot understand a ‘conspiracy theory’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they fall for all sorts of conspiracy theories themselves, especially ones that get popular in the midwit’s circle, or which may have been pushed in the mainstream media.
The traditional solution to the midwit problem was beating them into submission with a Bible. In recent years, control has shifted to a combination of psychological abuse (at school) and pacification (through the mainstream media). The contentment of the midwit is the dam protecting Clown World from the waters of change. If it goes, we fall into chaos.
This article is an excerpt from Clown World Chronicles, a book about the insanity of life in the post-Industrial West. This is being compiled by Vince McLeod for an expected release in the middle of 2020.
If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2019 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 and the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 are also available.