Since the Scam Banking Fraud fiasco in the crypto world, I have looked a bit more into cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Not much, just to satisfy some curiosity. That curiosity brought me to the YouTube channel Coffezilla (which I recommend). And today I would like to mention a bit unsavory and unfortunate thing that crops up in just about every discussion about cryptocurrencies and associated scams – comments along the lines of “People this stupid deserve to be scammed”. Sentiments akin to this are very prevalent and I must say, I disagree with them now although I do have an inner tendency towards such thinking too and I have to reason myself out of it in some specific cases and I would possibly say these things too about twenty-five years ago.
Why is that? I mean, why is this sentiment so prevalent? I do not know of course, but I can speculate.
I think it is in part because a lot of people in the west are conditioned to believe in the Just World Fallacy. In most fiction, the villains get their just desserts and the good guys more often than not win. We are taught that hard and honest work is rewarded and that crime does not pay. This cultural bias is everywhere and unavoidable. And it is inherently ableist because no matter how difficult it is to actually meaningfully measure intelligence, it does exist, it does wary among people and some people are innately, with no fault of their own, less capable and thus more susceptible to being hoodwinked. There is a reason why so many e-mail scams have appallingly bad grammar and spelling and why so many phone scams are targeting elderly people.
It is not all though. Another part of this is in my opinion that a lot of people enjoy the warmth of a slightly smug feeling of being superior to someone in some way. “Haha, how those poor suckers could fall for THAT.” This is understandable to some degree in insecure people who are still finding themselves but not appropriate for well-adjusted adults. As for myself, today I have plenty of personal experiences to put me down from my pedestal whenever I feel like climbing one – the most recently my tribulations of obstinately plugging the wrong cable into the wrong hole for two days and wondering why things do not work. I know I am not completely stupid and still, my brain sometimes does things that a duckling would deem daft. Not to mention the GIGO principle, which can lead even the best of the best minds astray.
And even when one knows that the world is not just and that smart people can do daft things for a variety of reasons, I guess many people also know at least someone who is definitively willfully stupid and simply cannot be reasoned with because they refuse reason on principle. The most egregious examples of these people are all those creationists, flat-earthers and Q-anoninsts out there. But is it OK to say that someone deserved to be scammed because they ignored warnings and information given to them?
I still don’t think so. If they really were given credible warnings and ignored them for example, then they are to be blamed at least in part for their misfortune in such a case, but they do not deserve it. Saying that someone deserves to be scammed implies that scamming is an act of justice.
It is not. It is an act of malice, a betrayal of trust, and nothing is gained by it. The victim may become less naive and trusting as a result, but that is only a good thing in a society where there are scammers. And whilst being naive and trusting is unwise in our world, it is not malicious or harmful, and punishing it thus makes no sense. A scammer deserves to be judged and locked up. A scammee deserves help.