[When you need two hands to count all the logic errors in the first couple of paragraphs, you know things aren’t starting well. For one thing, attacking your political opponents as “stupid” isn’t a way of making good-faith assumptions about their IQs. It’s trash talk. For another thing, political cries of “You so stupid!” have little if any relevance to the real, measurable impact of IQ on people’s prospects for economic or professional success. Yet Freedman garbles up these concepts as if they’re all the same thing.
[But logic issues aside, you have to think the author either (a) slept through the 1970s, the High Era of Polack jokes and Aggie jokes, or (b) wasn’t even born then. Americans have been calling each other stupid, with attitudes ranging from good-natured to punitive and derogatory, for quite as long as the rest of humanity.]
As recently as the 1950s, possessing only middling intelligence was not likely to severely limit your life’s trajectory. IQ wasn’t a big factor in whom you married, where you lived, or what others thought of you. The qualifications for a good job, whether on an assembly line or behind a desk, mostly revolved around integrity, work ethic, and a knack for getting along—bosses didn’t routinely expect college degrees, much less ask to see SAT scores. As one account of the era put it, hiring decisions were “based on a candidate having a critical skill or two and on soft factors such as eagerness, appearance, family background, and physical characteristics.”
The 2010s, in contrast, are a terrible time to not be brainy. Those who consider themselves bright openly mock others for being less so. Even in this age of rampant concern over microaggressions and victimization, we maintain open season on the nonsmart. People who’d swerve off a cliff rather than use a pejorative for race, religion, physical appearance, or disability are all too happy to drop the s‑bomb: Indeed, degrading others for being “stupid” has become nearly automatic in all forms of disagreement.
It’s popular entertainment, too. The so-called Darwin Awards celebrate incidents in which poor judgment and comprehension, among other supposedly genetic mental limitations, have led to gruesome and more or less self-inflicted fatalities.