The idea that every village has an idiot is an old one. Oddly enough, the term itself wasn’t seen in print until 1907 where it appeared in George Bernard Shaw’s “Major Barbara.” 
“I myself have had a village idiot exhibited to me as something irresistibly funny.”
Folklore has us believe that the village idiot served an important purpose in his community. Some say it was his “down-home”, uneducated way of looking at and dealing with problems that helped ground a community in reality. A wise fool. Others say that having an idiot around made people feel better about themselves. While I am not a social anthropologist, I tend to agree with the second group. After all, we tend to gauge our own worth by another person’s unworthiness, don’t we? Or is it just me?
Today’s Village Idiot
Today, when we call someone a village idiot, we are not measuring his worth to a community. Instead, we are measuring the exact opposite. These are the people depicted in movies and cartoons as the lost and maligned folks standing on a street corner spouting gibberish or holding a doomsday sign or going on at great lengths to blame the Illuminati or the Lizard People for all of the world’s ills. Sit down at a bar and some village idiot might explain that 9/11 was an inside job or that the Apollo moon landings were a hoax. While his conspiracy concepts fall apart with the slightest application of fact or science, he will always just shrug and say something about “sheeple” or retort with “That’s what they want you to think.” The number one character trait of the conspiracy minded village idiot is that he thinks he is smarter than the rest of us. With his keen eye and clever wit, the new village idiot can look at a picture of a guy on the moon and say, “Look. No stars. There’s all the proof you need. We never went to the moon.” Never mind the fact that he isn’t a photographer, doesn’t understand f-stops or exposure time and can’t get his head around the fact that starlight is actually rather dim. To him, no stars is proof enough. Because he is smarter than you. Even smarter than the guy at NASA who was running the whole fake moon landing dog and pony show.
In his own mind, he is brilliant. To the rest of the villagers, he is just an idiot. Mildly interesting, might buy you a drink if you listen while he pontificates, but still just kind of an idiot. His views never leave the village. He never gets that credit he feels he deserves.
Enter The Global Village Idiot
In the quaint old days of village idiocy, if a village idiot wanted to find a like-minded person, he had to travel to the nearest village and find their idiot. Now? We have the Internet and this technological leap has allowed all the idiots in all the villages all over the world to get together, bandy about various theories and issues and then pat each other on the back for being so much more clever than the “sheeple.” They now have a voice and a forum and this leads us to something I call the Global Village Idiot Syndrome (GVIS). Their lunacy is spreading around the globe, forum by forum, website by website. Now every single outlandish idea or thought or concept can be served up as fact and normal, non-village idiots are buying in. Don’t believe me? Donald J. Trump is the the Republican candidate for the presidency of the Unites States of America. Tell me that isn’t the work of a global network of idiots.
Historically, the village idiot (VI) was regarded as a source of humor or as generally harmless. Today’s VI is a force to be reckoned with and comes in many different flavors. Only a well organized VI group could have convinced Americans that the best way to stop gun violence is to buy more guns and carry them openly. Only a well organized VI group could be responsible for the return of whooping cough and measles. Organic food? Illuminati conspiracies? 9/11 truthers? Birthers? All contributable to the GVIS. Normal people are swept up in the VI madness, shrug and join up. In whispers and what-ifs at first. Then it’s blog posts, t-shirts and a Cafe Press page.
Global Village Idiot Syndrome is somewhat related to an information cascade. An information cascade occurs when people follow the advice and information of others while ignoring their own privately held preferences, convictions and knowledge. It is a herding effect. In even simpler terms, it’s why people don’t go into empty restaurants.
- I am in a new town and am hungry.
- I want seafood.
- The seafood restaurant is empty.
- The steak restaurant next door is full.
- I don’t want steak.
- Those people must know something I don’t.
- I will have steak instead of seafood.
While information cascade theory can be applied to almost everything including the rise and fall of the Stock Market, GVIS is strictly applied to society.
The Global Village Idiot Syndrome in Action
Transphobia is kind of a thing right now. Check the comment boards. I use the comment sections from stories posted on Yahoo! as my personal Doomsday Countdown Clock. We are 3 minutes to midnight folks. Six months ago no one cared who was in the stall next to them when using a public bathroom. Now? Panic, fear and anxiety accompany us into the bathroom. Why? Because at some point some village idiot decided that bathroom privileges are a birthright. And by that I mean, the right bathroom to use depends on what you were at birth. Boys rooms are for boys-at-birth and ladies rooms are for girls-at-birth. Throw away years of science, psychology and compassion because the Village Idiots have come up with a solution in search of a problem. Now, due to GVIS, good old-fashioned, short-haired girls are being harassed or pulled out of ladies rooms because they don’t look “girly” enough. Normal people are now peeking under the stall to make sure that someone else isn’t going to make them uncomfortable. Yes. GVIS is turning normal people, people who absolutely know better, into peeping toms. And how many trans-related molestations have occurred in these bathrooms? Exactly none. The average person is more likely to be molested in a public restroom by a republican congressman than they are a trans-person.
Village idiots love to say, “I don’t have to have a solution…it’s my job to point out the problem and present the facts.” While it’s often not their job and “facts” is an ambitious word for “stuff I read on the Internet”, without a solution, what’s the point?
So…how do we cure the Global Village Idiot Syndrome.
We don’t. We can merely manage the symptoms. Stay informed. Read everything, even things you don’t agree with. Learn what the other side actually thinks. Read their research and compare it to your own. Think and then think some more. If we can’t be critical, we end up believing that there are FEMA Camps, that we never went to the moon, that more guns is the solution to gun violence and that Donald Trump should be running this country.