Stop The Stupid: A Simple Punter’s Guide To Separating Weak Lies From Hard Truths


Alex Vickery-Howe may not be following his doctor’s orders, but he does have an invention for taking the stress out of the looming US electoral race and a world bursting with crazy conspiracy theories.

My GP warned me, recently, that I cannot outthink or outwill my current illness brought on by Long COVID. Obviously, my internal response was ‘Oh, you just watch me!’, but, on reflection, it was an excellent point articulately made. My GP knows me well and knows I will hide symptoms, put on a brave face at work and in public, and even play down the situation when interacting with specialists. This is all quite absurd and stupid, of course, but stupidity is the subject of this article so I may as well start with my own.

Colleagues have noticed I’ve kept writing, not seeing me fall asleep for two or more hours in the middle of the day immediately after completing a draft. Friends have said I seem more alert via email, not realising I struggle to recall their names through the fog. Last week at work, a short walk around the lake saw me smiling happily while struggling to breathe. I’m not painting myself as a hero; I’m a stubborn moron. On some level, I really do think my body will submit to my will. My body finds that amusing.

My GP has given my partner a ‘red card’. It’s not a literal card – although some wrapping paper with tigers printed on it has become its symbolic representation. The point is that my partner has the power to say ‘Stop! Now!’ and wave that authority in my face. It doesn’t always work.

When I’m rational, I agree with her… the problem is that I’m so often irrational, and dismissive, and agitated, taking on multiple tasks, covering other people’s jobs, drafting plays and novels that may never see the light of day, planting palms that are slowly dying on my balcony, attending the gym (look, I’m not doing that very well, but attendance has to count for something), demanding accountability from public institutions, slamming shock jocks and roasting politicians, stressing about neo-Nazis and those who enable them, and insisting that I will solve all the world’s ills (or complain about them in digital ink) before collapsing to watch Cush Jumbo and Peter Capaldi kick actorly ass in Criminal Record. Let’s just pause briefly to do that right now.

A red card is necessary. It’s a way to make me pause at my most stubborn and stupid. And it’s given me an idea… I think we all need to consider incorporating a stupidity card into our daily routine.

Sometimes a stupidity card is useful for ourselves – I’m sure many people reading this have bigger stressors in their lives than my own megalomaniacal, self-inflicted issues – but often it will come in handy to stop others in their tracks: ‘Enough! I’m playing the stupidity card!’

Over the past 10 or more years, we’ve seen a global rise in stupid conspiracy theories. The latest toxic drivel about Taylor Swift being a secret agent or President Biden in a brilliant disguise, or whatever the US Republican sociopaths have concocted is easily one of the stupidest to pick up mainstream steam in a while… but there’s a lot of competition.

I’m not letting Kellyanne Conway get away with her Bowling Green Massacre nonsense. I’m not letting Charlie Kirk get away with his dangerously stupid vaccine lies. I’m not letting Jack Posobiec – this lonely guy is a sad case, even by Seb Gorka standards – get away with his Pizzagate fantasy and accompanying ‘exposé’. When Alex Jones apologises for sharing your stupidity leak, you know you’ve left sanity several years behind.

Most of all, I’m never, ever, ever, ever letting Rudy Giuliani get away with pretending that the hilarious Four Seasons press conference was ‘deliberate’. Nice try, Rudy… give my regards to zombie Hugo Chávez.

That’s right. I’m still not letting it go. This is some stupid shit. It’s also wimpy shit.

They’re scared of Taylor. She hasn’t even endorsed the president. In a free country, she of course has the right to endorse whoever she likes, whenever she likes, and those who claim to believe in freedom should support and applaud her for doing so. But they’re too scared to remain ideologically consistent.

Taylor is popular. Her popularity threatens them. Recently, Trump claimed he was more popular... which is a little like Ted Nugent trying to energise the youth vote, or Elon Musk claiming his success is based on charm.

All Taylor has done is simply, and very reasonably, suggest that the American people should get out there and vote. For this, she has been branded a ‘witch’ and her fans have been accused of ‘idolatry’. When they’re not inventing massacres, rejecting lifesaving vaccines or stalking random pizza parlours, the conversative base is engaged in a proxy religious war against those they perceive as supernaturally evil. Now. In the present day. 2024.

This is why we need a stupidity card.

Professional actor Tucker Carlson decided a short time ago that interviewing Vladimir Putin would be a canny career move. Republicans think Putin is their guy now, or worse they think the ex-KGB agent is being ‘manipulated’ by the ex-host of The Apprentice. This guy – the one easily duped into saluting a North Korean General for their state media when he’s not too busy dancing with chickens on Saturday Night Live – is going to outmatch one of the most brutal global leaders in anything other than a truffle shuffle contest? People believe that?

This is why we need a stupidity card.

To be clear, disengaging from conspiracy theories doesn’t mean disengaging from real socio-economic problems. The stupidity card is handy to dissuade people from talking about paedophilia in random restaurants or Pentagon-recruited popstars, or lizard people in Buckingham Palace, or windmills causing cancer, or Democrats being responsible for an anti-Democrat riot.

It’s not, however, designed to avoid difficult conversations with a class of people who have been systemically neglected, gaslit by their leaders – Republican and Democrat alike – and raised to believe in an American dream that was never intended for them.

I’d love to see the world talking less about conspiracies, hurt feelings, token gestures, ‘winning’ and settling scores, and more about education, health, welfare, environmental protections and a liveable wage for all. We need to stop the stupid in order to engage with the genuine.

The MAGA cult, revving up for another toddler tantrum if they lose again – or maybe another violent attempted coup – are wallowing in ‘alternative facts’. Whether it’s ranting about ‘godlessness’ in a nation founded on the separation of church and state, glitching completely when confronted with actual biblical quotes, degenerating into unhinged paranoia about the phantom menace of the ‘deep state’, referring to verified facts as ‘opinion’, gloating happily at how gullible they are, or screaming their revisionist history at anyone unlucky enough to be walking nearby, the sheeple who still call Donald Trump their shepherd are ready for anything.

Other than the truth.

It’s staggering to me that someone can bemoan ‘godlessness’ and yet blindly follow a man who is both an insurrectionist and a rapist… yes, I do know the difference between a civil trial and a criminal trial, but a jury of your peers doesn’t swipe $5 million from your bank account if you’re innocent… and that’s before we get to all the other accusations.

It’s equally staggering to hear these Trump supporters claim: ‘You take the guns, you take the people… it has been proven in Australia!’

Um… no, it hasn’t, you sad dingus. Do you know anything about other countries?

Trump has learned, from being a shonky businessman, that if you lie over and over again people will believe you. Goebbels knew the same thing. Unsurprisingly, Trump is lying right now, pretending to care about defending the border while his minions block bipartisan legislation to address the issue. For a nation that has been a global leader – not the global leader, but a global leader – for so long to fall into such a state of smug confusion is sobering to watch.

Then again, psychologists may have the answer: following the legacy of Ronald Reagan, the American ‘value’ system of avarice and competition has replaced the more regular human virtues of kindness, empathy and even objective reality. An obsession with success and failure has come to supersede compassion and dominate an increasingly facile political discourse.

This is why the US Supreme Court is squirming to find a way for this insurrectionist – I’ve said it twice now, sue me Donnie, it’ll be fun – to get away with his crimes. Some brainwashed senators are challenging the ‘validity’ of the court system itself, while unpatriotic governors are launching little coups of their own. We are all witness to the complete failure of the American experiment.

George Carlin – proving, conclusively, that he was indeed a time traveller – accurately predicted the breakdown of civil society in America by pointing to the form fascism would take. Carlin visualised an America that would punch down on women and immigrants, that would foster ‘anger and rage’, that would value ‘property over people’, and ultimately ‘sacrifice the beauty of the individual for the sake of the group’. While this last point he made could be, to an extent, a valid criticism of the far-left as well, I’m with Carlin when he says, ‘I land to the left of that line’.

The far-right is suppressing freedom and clouding truth. It’s the politics of crazed conspiracy garbage. This, again, is why we need a stupidity card.

Pivoting to another George, the dapper George Conway (much more relaxed without Kellyanne’s falsehoods festering under his roof) has some very sharp thoughts on what Trump will do next and he is leading the call to brand the aspiring dictator the existential risk to American democracy he clearly is.

“Psychologically,” Conway says, “he’s never going to support somebody who beats him.” This is an explosive recipe for civil unrest.

Trump’s narcissistic personality traits – I do think ‘narcissism’ is too liberally and inexpertly thrown around as an armchair diagnosis, but, in this case, the shiny combover fits – are compounded by his cognitive decline. It’s a little small, a little easy, to attack Trump for his advanced years, just as the many recent attacks against Biden smack of ageism. The difference between them – and forgive me for repeating this point from a few weeks ago because I’m no spring chicken myself – is that one struggles nervously in the moment while the other, quite genuinely, has no idea when he’s getting simple things incredibly wrong.

Forgetting to pay a bill is very different to not knowing you ever had one. Take, for example, this footage of Trump having zero comprehension of his legal troubles. Is this a perfect poker face or the expression of a man lost in the soup of his own synapses? (Incidentally, contrary to his ramblings, his team didn’t win ‘largely in the court of appeals’ – although I’m not confident that he actually knows that.)

Trump claiming Nancy Pelosi (or maybe Nikki Haley, he’s too jumbled to be sure…) is responsible for the rioting on January 6 may just be gold standard stupidity.

Just kidding, Marjorie Taylor Greene failing to read at a basic level demonstrates that oily fascists will always ooze into a new low. Greene has no place in political office.

It has, regrettably, become unfashionable – perhaps even ‘cruel’ – to assert that skills and credentials are important for certain roles. In our haste to avoid elitism, we have enabled a cultural environment where diligence and hard work have fallen a distant second place to popularism.

This isn’t the same as the breakdown of values that Carlin described, wherein right-wing corporate greed has come to replace the public good, but is instead the result of a bipartisan reluctance to admit that qualifications are earned and participation trophies are deceitful.

Simply put, nobody is a monster for demanding that lawyers know the law, doctors know their way around the human body, and senators know how to read.

This. Is. Why. We. Need. A. Stupidity. Card.

Returning to Conway, the enduring delusion among many Americans is that, to quote his friend David Gergen, “America is the strongest and most respected nation on earth.” This is wishful thinking in 2024; however, if America falls, so falls her allies and that is why Australia needs to watch this situation. I mean, we somehow elected ScoMo. It’s not like we’re prioritising reason among our own political candidates.

And that is why we need to stop being nice, stop being polite, stop pretending that all points of view are equally cogent and equally valid….

Stop listening patiently to friends still stuck on the Trump Train….

Stop calling the Democrats ‘snowflakes’ while Trump dissolves into a blizzard of salty grievances, somehow senile and childish all at once….

Stop going along with dumb conversations because it takes too long to unpack the conspiracy jargon that has hollowed out credulous minds….


Just stop.

Stop them. Stop yourself.

Inhale. Exhale. Smile.

Pull out the stupidity card.

Move on.

Dr Alex Vickery-Howe is an award-winning screenwriter, playwright, social commentator, rambling podcaster and emerging novelist. His work spans political satire, environmental polemic, dark comedy and fantasy fiction. He holds a PhD from Flinders University, where he is a senior lecturer in creative writing.