The 5 Stupidest Ways People Try to Look Smart

No one likes seeming smart more than stupid people. Unfortunately, being stupid, they're not particularly good at conveying intelligence.
The 5 Stupidest Ways People Try to Look Smart

No one likes to seem smart more than stupid people. Unfortunately, being stupid, they're not particularly good at conveying intelligence. They flail around doing all the things they think smart people do -- adopting their tastes and opinions, and, ultimately, missing the point. Because in the end, it doesn't matter what your SAT scores are or what books you've read, being smart comes down to one thing: curiosity.

The 5 Stupidest Ways People Try to Look Smart

It's also good for killing cats.

But genuine intellectual curiosity leads to a life of self-reflection, research and debate. Why do all that work when there are millions of shortcuts that the world accepts as hallmarks of intelligence, regardless of mental mediocrity? Here are five things that misguided people do in failed attempts to seem smart.

Mock the Notion of God

I know it's already too late for many readers. Being smart people, they failed to read the introduction, and now they're not even reading this. With all their wisdom, they saw the title and jumped to this numbered entry, and now they're down in the comments telling me how wrong I am before even reading. For the nine of you remaining, maybe you can tell them what they missed, because this is not some article praising Jesus or slamming atheists.

The 5 Stupidest Ways People Try to Look Smart

This attractive lady would appreciate it if you actually read this entry before commenting about it.

What I'm talking about is a pathetic and pervasive belief that somehow merely mocking the possibility of God equals intelligence. A frail, desperate hope that snorting and rolling your eyes at the notion of something more important than humanity conveys wisdom. It must, right? Because the only other alternative is being one of those feeble-minded believers. One of the sheeple, right, man? (And yeah, using the term "sheeple" is another telltale sign of not being smart.)

While there are certainly many intelligent atheists, the mere act of not believing will not increase IQ. As I've said before, reading Richard Dawkins is as likely to make you a genius as reading the Bible is to make you a saint. There are horrible believers, and there are mentally challenged atheists. Faith, or the lack thereof, has nothing to do with intelligence.

Even worse, so many of today's half-assed atheists pervert the words of older, more articulate atheists with flawed paraphrases they spew across social media. Bertrand Russell -- philosopher, logician and leading atheist -- was clearly a brilliant man, and he's famous for his "celestial teapot" argument regarding the burden of proof: "Nobody can prove that there is not between the Earth and Mars a china teapot revolving in an elliptical orbit, but nobody thinks this sufficiently likely to be taken into account in practice. I think the Christian God just as unlikely." The point is, Russell made that argument in response to Christianity. It was his way of saying, don't tell me I'm going to hell for not believing. If you're the one trying to convert and proselytize, then it's your burden of proof.

The 5 Stupidest Ways People Try to Look Smart

This attractive lady would like you to understand that Russell's teapot was a reaction to the proselytizing nature of the church.

That context seems lost on many today who feign intelligence while pimping their non-belief. After all, there are faiths that do not try to win new converts, and do not damn others for not adhering to their way of life. They don't need to hear how much smarter you think you are just because you're not open to the same possibilities. They have no burden of proof to convince you, because they're not asking you to believe. So spare them your Ricky Gervais quotes -- especially considering that he talks about God the way someone describes an ex-girlfriend they're "like totally over." And spare them your contempt. It makes you look many things, but smart isn't one of them.

Pretend to Like Jazz

I like some jazz, but I'm far from an aficionado. That's why I do something when jazz comes up in conversation: I shut up. But stupid people hoping to seem smart? Holy shit. They will go to great lengths to explain how into jazz they are. They can't wait to tell you about it.

One day, I was walking across campus as a young lad, and (what's that you say? You'd like a picture? OK.) ...

The 5 Stupidest Ways People Try to Look Smart

I'm sorry. You don't think I want to keep posting these pics of myself, do you?

Anyway, I bumped into some dude I hadn't seen in awhile, and said hi, what's up, and all that. Then he turned to me with a wise smile and said, "Y'know, man, I'm really into jazz these days."

"Oh," I said. "I like some jazz, but I'm not really an expert."

"Nah, man. It's all about jazz. It's all I listen to now," he replied.

"Well, I don't know much," I continued, "but I do like Thelonious Monk."

Now, for those of you who know even less about jazz than I do, by all accounts Thelonious Monk is one of the most important musicians of all time. He is to jazz what Led Zeppelin is to rock, what Johnny Cash is to country and what Taylor Swift is to music that sucks wide open ass all the time.

The 5 Stupidest Ways People Try to Look Smart
Stanford University

"Thanks, Gladstone. I like you, too!"

So anyway, I say I like Thelonious Monk, and his reply?

He looked all confused and said, "Wha, Melodious Funk?"

Yes. Melodious Funk. True story. I swear. And because of that he is still the poster child for a moron trying to seem smart by pretending to like jazz.

Correct Others' Trivial Mistakes

Stupid people love to show off their smarts by making corrections. It could be following up on your slip of the tongue, or disproving an old wives' tale, or playing semantics, but if it's a piece of minutia they've acquired by being awake in class for five seconds or maybe reading Cracked, then they'll be sure to seize the opportunity to make that correction. They say things like this:

Hey, man, technically, it's Frankenstein's MONSTER, not Frankenstein;

Dude, don't bother covering your eyes, it's the smell of onions that makes you cry; or

You don't have to wear a sweater in cold weather because you catch a cold from a virus, not from being cold!

The 5 Stupidest Ways People Try to Look Smart

"Technically, my name is actually Steven. Didn't know that? Well, you didn't think to ask, did you?"

And that might be true, but, on behalf of the rest of us, please stop speaking. Are you actually trying to teach us something? Do you really have a plethora of useful factoids filling your cranium from a lifetime of study? Or did you just jump on the one chance you'll have for weeks to impress us with wisdom small enough to be written on the palm of your hand in the cheat sheet of your life?

Reference Kafka

Brilliant literary scholars love to analyze Franz Kafka, but absolute poseur morons love to say his name out loud. All the time. Franz Kafka was a Czech writer who lived from 1883 to 1924. His most famous works are probably the short stories "The Metamorphosis," "A Hunger Artist" and "The Penal Colony," and the novel The Trial. Much like me, he was Jewish and thoroughly unimportant in his lifetime, but he became a wildly respected writer after his death. (Also, while working his day job at the Worker's Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia, allegedly he invented the hard hat.)

The 5 Stupidest Ways People Try to Look Smart
Random House

"Thanks for mentioning my day job, Gladstone. Remind me to tell everyone in heaven you're a weekend manager for T.G.I. Friday's when you're not writing for Cracked."

So you can see, it's pretty clear that I'm one of those terrible people who try to seem smart by referencing Kafka. But here's the way to spot people who are really insufferable in Kafka terms: They'll drop his name or turn it into the adjective "Kafkaesque" without really having any understanding of the author.

At this point, Franz Kafka has become a spokesman for the merely strange or a champion of the common man's struggle against bureaucracy. And the people who believe that that's an accurate description of Kafka's writing are the same people who've probably never read a thing he's written. The Internet is not the place to gain a deep understanding of Franz Kafka, and I'm not quite obnoxious enough to think that I'm the one to teach it, but suffice it to say that Franz Kafka might be many things, but a man whose writing fits neatly into a simple description is not one of them.

Where most people focus on the darkness of his writing, supposedly Kafka would laugh out loud while reading his works to friends. (See? I told you he was just like me. He thought his own stuff was hilarious.) And far from being some champion of the common man against the abuse of authority, there are often no good guys in his work. If you can't be bothered to read, try to dig up Harold Pinter's adaptation of The Trial starring Kyle MacLachlan. You'll see that the protagonist, Josef K., is not just a victim of rumors from a cruel system, but also an arrogant, frightened man equally responsible (if not more so) for his suffering.

The 5 Stupidest Ways People Try to Look Smart

See? Doesn't it look funny?

So the next time you see a guy in a suit riding a unicycle down the street and someone says, "Dude. So Kafkaesque," just ask them if they think that Hunter Gracchus is meant to be a Christ figure, and, if not, what his true significance is. (Spoiler alert: If they answer with anything other than "I don't know," they're wrong.)

Refuse to Argue

The world has no shortage of foolish loudmouths vomiting forth their opinions in desperate attempts to seem wise, but I don't need to tell you that. And I won't. Instead, I'd like to focus on a different bunch of game-playing imbeciles who are just as omnipresent, but somehow escape condemnation: people who refuse to argue. Sure, some people aren't worth arguing with, and some things aren't open to debate, but employing silence or a simple world-weary dismissive phrase to shut down conversations is also a trick used by the intellectually feeble who are attempting to look smart.

Most opinions that can't be debated aren't worth having. If beliefs don't stand up to cross-examination, all the raised eyebrows and silent eye rolling won't suddenly make them legitimate. Eighty percent of the people who will not engage in an argument or go toe-to-toe with dissenting voices are not wiser, more mature or more sophisticated. Most are just incapable of explaining their own beliefs. Outclassed in the marketplace of ideas, they hope that silent indifference will be mistaken for quiet reflection.

The 5 Stupidest Ways People Try to Look Smart

"In closing, my rebuttal is: this face."

And when they say, "Well, I'll debate with the people whose opinions matter," nine times out of ten all that means is "I'll debate with my closest friends, who likely already agree with me." Previously, I'd described a refusal to argue as a sign of arrogance, and it can surely be that, but just as often it's a mask worn by someone incapable of defending their views who would rather be mistaken for arrogant than exposed as simplistic.

The best way to be smart? Watch the season finale of HATE BY NUMBERS. Also, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.

Be sure to check out more from Gladstone in The 8 Greatest Eddie Murphy Movies of All Time and The Top 5 Worst Lines of Dialogue (From Movies That Don't Actually Suck).

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