Thursday, November 01, 2012

Sigh … Asimov was Right

How often have you seen this? An enthusiastic newcomer to model railroading shows up on an Internet train forum on a Thursday, full of fundamental questions. These are patiently answered for the struggling newcomer over the next few days.

But then, a miracle occurs! (Or not.) By the following Tuesday, our newbie considers himself an expert and begins offering pages of (bad) advice to others. In the process, he misuses or outright contradicts the meanings of standard hobby terms and concepts, mixing his turnback loops with his reversing connections and his selective compression with his scale ratios. Talk about the blind leading the partially sighted!

What's more, our newly-minted modeling maven petulantly defends his bogus advice as valid, since it’s "his opinion."

It seems that Science Fiction writer Isaac Asimov was predicting Internet forum discourse when he said:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States*, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
From a Newsweek magazine column, January 21, 1980

*And Canada, apparently