Eleven years ago the film Idiocracy was released. I have only seen portions. I am not a great fan of the comedy of errors. It is difficult for me to watch Seinfeld because of the George Costanza character. Jason Alexander did a brilliant job in making Costanza almost utterly disagreeable. Nevertheless, evidence seems to be mounting that Idiocracy was prophetic and that perhaps I should make myself watch it. Apparently it has not taken 5 centuries for the Idiocrats to assume power.
I call the grammar and writing column “Grammar Guerrilla” in part because guerrilla (or guerilla) is a homonym for gorilla (i.e., they sound similar when pronounced) but the two words, obviously signify very different things. A grammar gorilla would be a silly thing indeed. A grammar guerilla, however, could be a very useful thing indeed. A guerilla is an irregular (not in a standing army) paramilitary resistance fighter: The Heidelblog is conducting a guerrilla war against bad theology, bad history, and bad grammar. A gorilla, however, is a great ape: The gorilla exhibit at the Wild Animal Park is one of my favorites. I did not expect that I would have to explain the difference but apparently I was wrong.
Doug Adler, a tennis commentator, was recently fired by ESPN for describing Venus Williams (a female African-American tennis player) charging the net and winning a point as a “guerrilla effect.” The commentator was referring to the suddenness of the act and its decisive effect during the match. It is true that the words guerrilla and gorilla are homonyms, i.e., they sound the same when pronounced, but it is also true that there is no such expression as “gorilla effect” or “gorilla tennis” nor is it clear what those would signify. “Guerilla Tennis” is an expression in tennis, however. In 2012, Sports Illustrated ran a story on “Guerilla Tennis.” In 2004 the estimable New York Times itself published the expression “guerrilla tennis.”
A tennis reporter for the New York Times, however, has illustrated for us how quickly the idiocracy has descended. On Twitter he denounced Adler as a racist for using the word gorilla in connection with Williams. I did not see or hear the broadcast—watching tennis on television is exceeding dull—but I am confident that had I heard it (ESPN has apparently scrubbed the video and audio from the web) I would not have assumed that Adler was comparing a human to an animal. Who is the racist here? Is it not the one who assumes that is the connection being made? Adler is now suing ESPN to clear his name.
The idiocy here is that NYT writer immediately (as is evident in his tweet) assumed that Adler was referring to animals rather than to warriors. The latter category never occurred to him. He was not alone. The social media echo chamber resounded with virtue signalling (posturing on social media to let everyone know how socially conscious one is).
I am sorry for Adler. I hope he wins his suit and vindicates his name. Nevertheless, I am glad this episode happened because it illustrates an important truth: the people who form our culture are not special. They are mostly just pedestrian refugees from middle America. I myself am just a kid from the Plains (Nebraska and Kansas) trying to make it in the big city. On occasion, however, I have had opportunity to rub shoulders with influential culture makers (some you know and some you probably do not) and most of them are just like me. Most of them are not from elite families and private prep schools but some of them want us to think they are. They are frustrated with their middle-American upbringing. Like Sally Field, they want to be accepted by those whom they regard as their social betters.
As it turns out, nothing has changed since high school. There are the cool kids, the nerds, the athletes, etc. For those who cared, the cool kids determined what was socially acceptable but the truth is, the cool kids were just as uncertain about themselves and their futures as the rest of us. They were just a little more skilled than others at hiding their insecurities.
Culturally, the cool kids in America live in Manhattan, DC. and Hollywood. Having fled Des Moines for the big city, they now sneer at and lecture the rest of us for shopping at Walmart shopping and watching NASCAR. Just beneath their sneering and lecturing, however, is the same nervous kid, who does not know as much as he wants the rest of us to think he does. Sometimes, however, the reality peeks out from behind the curtain of cool. Is it not of the essence of intellectual superiority to know the difference between guerilla and gorilla? Clearly, however, the virtue signallers did not know the difference. The Adler case is just another, small piece of evidence that the many refugees from Des Moines who populate DC, Manhattan, and Hollywood are not really more intelligent than the rest of us. It is just a cheap façade.
Please bear this in mind when the refugees from Moline or Scottsbluff create the impression (via your favorite television program) that everyone who is anyone is transgender or at least gay or that half the population of America is homosexual or transgender. The truth is that these shows are being written by illiterates who want nothing more than to shock their grandmother back home. The people writing our television programs have neither seen nor read Shakespeare. The days of serious writers making a few extra dollars writing for television are past. The days of real, craggy-faced journalists, who knew how to write, are gone. What you see on television is really all there is. Our culture is being formed by the ill-educated, who really do not know the difference between guerilla and gorilla. You need not be intimidated. They live in Manhattan, DC, and Hollywood not because they are better than you but because they repeat socially acceptable opinions in socially acceptable ways.
Our culture is being formed by an idiot Greek chorus.