The laws of stupidity

The laws of stupidity

What did the bombers who targeted Kathimerini and Skai ultimately accomplish? Sure, they caused damage, which will be repaired, at a time when every euro counts. But beyond that? Did they think that they would terrorize the journalists into silence, make them stop talking and writing? As if we would. We will not weep or be intimidated. Condemnation of the act, meanwhile, was universal, coming even from the lips of Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas, who has often referred to Skai TV in the most insulting terms. The violence of the explosion contradicts whatever noble or socially minded causes the terrorists may invoke when and if they claim responsibility for the attack – unless there are other nefarious motives.

Terrorism cannot be explained without economic history professor Carlo M. Cipolla’s third and golden law of human stupidity: “A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses,” he wrote in “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity” (1976). In the case of the terrorists, this will not just come down to personal losses – because they will be arrested and have to answer for their actions one day – but it will also damage whatever cause they may represent.

According to the German poet Friedrich Schiller, the problem with stupidity is such that even the gods themselves contend against it in vain. It is an incurable thing because, as Cipolla argues, “the fact that the activity and movements of a stupid creature are absolutely erratic and irrational not only makes defense problematic but it also makes any counterattack extremely difficult – like trying to shoot at an object which is capable of the most improbable and unimaginable movements.”

But terrorism can be politically and socially isolated. The fact that this is not happening is because “non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals.”

Bearing these lessons in mind, there are certain questions we need to be asking. Such as, does Panagiotis Lambrou, a member of ruling SYRIZA’s political secretariat, still have contacts with jailed members of the urban guerrilla group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire? While verbal condemnations of terrorism are great, it would be even better to see them putting terrorists in their place instead of promising to address their complaints, as the official has done.

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