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On Having One’s Foot in One’s Mouth

I sympathize with Scott Eric Kaufman’s confession, “My inability to stop the spigot when I see idiots behaving idiotically, however, is something I need to work on,” which he admitted Friday in the face of a threat to contact his academic department and dean to accuse him of being a white supremacist. The person made good bad on his threat, and in addition to contacting administrators at California-Irvine, also contacted his Congresswoman, Maxine Waters. The letter SEK’s accuser wrote was obtuse enough to reveal him as a crank; I hope his administrators will see as much. One can’t predict when those one engages with will be troublemakers, and the fact that troublemakers exist shouldn’t itself be reason to disengage from arguments. Yet, what SEK says is right: being able to judge when what one has to say won’t be listened to is a skill worth cultivating. I say that from experience. More often than I like to admit, I have needed to console myself with the thought that a man who never sticks his foot in his mouth gains little but the assurance that he’s never said anything interesting. It’s small consolation, yes, and not entirely true, but consolation nonetheless.

Update: Dude’s crazy. If SEK hadn’t my well-wishes before (he did), he has them now.