Yesterday, I was reading a Twitter thread that my friend Ed Bott had linked to on his timeline to show how outrageous and pathetic it was. (Early hint: he was right.) His comment about the thread was -- "I just can't even."
The discussion had to do with the far right tearing down John McCain, which apparently is their favorite thing du jour to do. Because, after all, he's a war hero who spent five years as a Prisoner of War after being tortured, refusing to be sent home until all his men were released -- and is now battling brain cancer. So, sure, why wouldn't you? What began the thread was a sick comment from a questionable, local radio host named Bill Mitchell whose tweets are the sort of things psychiatrists use when Rorschach tests aren't available. I won't repeat this particular one out of deference to common decency, but it had to do with thinking that maybe John McCain had really been a spy for Vietnam. No, really.
Anyway, that fortunately brought a barrage of criticism, but alas also some far right support for McCain Bashing blood sport. But one in particular leaped out, which was the point of what Ed had highlighted. If I wrote it, you wouldn't believe me. So, here it is.
I must make a disclaimer here first. This above tweet is NOT a parody account. Oh, dear heavens, I wish it was. No, this is a real human creature who actually thinks this. Someone checked out her account and wrote what he found. That she was, indeed, very real. Not a parody. And actually is allowed to drive motorized vehicles and use sharp instruments
Happily, there were people who dove in to correct her, some pointedly, others in an "Aw, honey, come here, you need a hug" sort of way. One person very graciously took the time to give her the whole, long history of the prison in Hanoi and how it was called the 'Hanoi Hilton' out of dripping sarcasm, even posting a screenshot from a history page describing its background.
Yes, it's creepy the level of ignorance. But what's perhaps worse than the comment is that 3,016 "Liked" it.
As I often will write back to people who post their own equally-egregious ravings: Willful ignorance is no virtue.
I do understand that the Vietnam War was 50 years ago, and there are a lot of people in the world and posting on social media who weren't born then and might not know all the references of the period. Not knowing something is not unreasonable. But this isn't about being ignorant of something, even if it's a particularly well-known fact still in the vernacular. People don't know everything. I get it. I don't know everything. I don't know a lot. But this is about willful ignorance. A level of ignorance where you aren't even trying. Where you're ignorant, and probably know you're ignorant and want to stay ignorant because knowing something will hurt the point you're in a frenzy to make.
If you know that John McCain is always referred to as a war hero. And you know that he's always referred to as having been tortured. And for some reason known to you, you want to ridiculingly refute that. And you don't bother to find out why he was a war hero, and you don't bother to track down that he was, in fact, tortured. And you read somewhere that he really instead had just been put up as a guest for five years in a luxury hotel by America's Communist enemies during the Vietnam War. And if that doesn't strike you at the very least as...well, incredibly odd and contradictory to basic common sense and everything you've heard about John McCain -- like throughout when he ran for President of the United States only eight years ago. And you just accept it on face value that not only a war hero who was tortured, but that ANY FREAKING SOLDIER ON EITHER SIDE FOR ANY IMAGINABLE REASON during the Vietnam War spent years living at a Hilton Hotel -- but especially a prisoner of war, who you know was a prisoner because Trump himself gallingly demeaned him during the election by saying "I don't like people who were captured" then you are willfully ignorant.
And being willfully ignorant is no virtue. Same for those 3,016 who "Liked" the comment. Who apparently believed it was real.
This is the high wall at the top of the mountain you have to get over.
Happily, the reality is that if the rock solid wall is too impenetrable without the proper tools, it's only about 20% of the populace. And yes, that's a sickeningly high number. But if a politician is relying on 20% of people to get him anywhere, that ship won't sail and will remain in dry dock before eventually rotting and sinking.
Is this elitist to call people willfully ignorant? God, no. They are willfully ignorant. It's not just that they're factually wrong . That can't be argued. It's that they're literally gloating about being factually wrong at someone else's expense about something historic and easy to know, concerning a recent presidential nominee. And if they don't know it, easy to learn about before you speak in an effort to smear someone -- for his war heroism and torture. It's the picture book definition of willfully ignorant. Open up a dictionary and it will have a graphic of this tweet. Besides which, it's not elitist because I actually want all these people to know the facts. I want them to learn and grow and be as educated as possible. To join their fellow beings all together in the bright nurturing sunshine of knowledge. That's the opposite of elitist. Indeed, having a world with so many willfully ignorant people in it hurts us all. I want the best for everyone! Let's raise up the willfully ignorant and at least just get them to basic ignorant. That's fine. That's at least a starting point. We're all ignorant about a wide range of things, after all. All of us. And so that's where the concept of wanting to know, wanting to learn, wanting to take the next step starts. Hosannah!
But willfully ignorant, that's where humanoids go to elect sociopathic, misogynistic, ego-maniacally narcissistic, pathological lying racists as their god-force.
One final word for these willfully ignorant to prove how willfully ignorant they are for really, truly thinking this about John McCain. Consider: if John McCain actually spent five years at a real Hilton Hotel in North Vietnam -- where were all the little bottles of shampoo he would have brought home with him?!!