Synonyms for Stupid and Insane

The words ‘stupid’ and ‘insane’, along with their synonyms, are still not cool with me. Don’t use them in my comment section, please do consider whether there’s a way for you to write in your own spaces without using them. I know it isn’t easy, but using those words is ableist. We really ought to be trying harder.

For a brutal reminder of why ableism is bad, read Ania on The Orbit again.


  1. says

    If I may plug my theory of verbal abuse probably the most hurtful thing you can throw at another person is the truth. Calling them an “idiot” or whatever lets them off the hook, if what you’re really trying to say is “they have such bad ideas that a champion of bad ideas like Donald Rumsfeld would immediately recognize a kindred spirit” – truth hurts more than something inaccurate that causes splash damage.*

    (* You can’t splash damage Donald Rumsfeld if you invoke him regarding bad ideas; because that’s true, too)

  2. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I’ll second what Marcus said. Almost always when someone invokes “idiot”, “insane”, or synonyms, in my experience, they’re not actually attacking the person on the cause “lack of intelligence”.

    To bring in my own thoughts, people who use the word “idiot” as an attack are often attacking bad ideas, and they’re often attacking the person for having bad ideas, and especially they’re attacking the person for coming up with the bad idea and for not taking the requisite time to properly consider the idea.

    In other words, if someone makes what one might call “an honest mistake”, or a “not blameworthy mistake”, etc., then most people do not have the impulse to use the word “idiot”. “Idiot” is often reserved for blameworthy mistakes, and for the purpose of our discussion, intelligence is not the primary factor in determining whether a mistake is blameworthy. Instead, the determination of whether a mistake is blameworthy depends on the person’s honesty, integrity, due diligence and responsibility for performing critical thinking, etc.

    For example, if one is a strong anti-theist like myself, but less mindful about ableist concerns, they might use the word “idiot” in reference to a religious believer. It’s damaging to people with genuine mental problems. Worse, it’s also factually wrong, and thus it’s not a clear communication. The religious person is not religious because of a lack of intelligence, and so the speaker is just wrong to use the word (and damaging ala ableist concerns), or they’re being imprecise (and damaging ala ableist concerns). Instead, they should attack some of the following characteristics of the religious person: The lack of due diligence to vet one’s own beliefs (i.e. lazy), or the intellectual and moral cowardice to stand up for the truth against community consensus, or the intellectual and moral cowardice to stand up for the truth against personal cognitive biases and motivated reasoning (i.e. “I need an afterlife”).

    I sometimes use the word “deluded”. However, even as I write this, I realize that “deluded” and “willfully deluded” are often not the most clear and accurate descriptions. Instead, I think “irresponsible”, “lazy”, and “coward” are much better.

    “Foolish” also works quite well in most circumstances.

    I’ve been working on and off with this ideas for a while. Not sure I’m quite satisfied yet, but I like where I’m going.

  3. AMM says

    I complained about PZ’s use of the word “moron” in the title of a recent blog post of his. Most of the few responses tried to explain to me why it was (a) not ablist and (b) appropriate.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly out of character, either for PZ Myers or for his commentariat. Their love of a good verbal fisticuff often trumps any consideration of possible collateral damage.

  4. says

    I can’t disagree. Can you show me the responses?

    However non-literalisms related to someone’s behavior are abused in society generally. It would be strange if this was really the reason you don’t like the community here.

  5. Great American Satan says

    Ranum @1- Plug away, good sir.

    EL @2- Good that you’re thinking it through. Being open to changes, taking ideas on board, that’s how we move forward in life.

    AMM @3- It’s true, FtB has a lot of bloggers and commenters that are not coming correct this way. Some of it is that it’s hard to change. That’s the generous interpretation and the one I’ll grant any bloggers here until they come out and say otherwise. The commenters defending it though? Ech. I won’t have that in my place.

  6. says

    I’ve taken a stand against ablism in a way that works towards my strengths. For example I do the “indirectly criticizing” thing that is as personal as I can be while avoiding social conflict. I talk about how much it sucks when people mention it. I point out how it represents a flaw in one’s ability to describe the world when it comes to something that bothers you. I like flaws when I see them in aggressive people of the predatory+abusive cluster.

    I hope that everyone takes a real close look at how they choose to understand and describe other people. Everyone gets to demand that you unpack implicit arguments. Even an opinion contains those.

  7. says

    You may not be able to “splash damage” the Trump, but It often pays to be indirect in the criticism. Let it attract the people who elected them and then start asking questions. I do that on Facebook but I have do it in bursts. I’m trying to get more structured and prepared for it in specific terms.

  8. Great American Satan says

    Brony- It’s cool if you want to take up the issue in the Pharyngula comments but I don’t want to host any arguments here, if they track this conversation back. Hello tho. 🙂

  9. says

    I’m glad the pharyngula commentariat got over the “dead porcupine” thing. That was getting pretty cringe-worthy. One step forward, .9 steps back, we’re making progress!

  10. AMM says

    Brony, Social Justice Cenobite @4

    However non-literalisms related to someone’s behavior are abused in society generally. It would be strange if this was really the reason you don’t like the community here.


    Where did that come from?

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