Wednesday, 1 September 2004

Malice versus stupidity

One suspects that if people were more willing to give out-partisans the benefit of the doubt, contemporary political discourse would be far less painful. So, here’s some free advice for partisans on both sides of the aisle:

Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by ignorance or stupidity.

(Sometimes attributed to Isaac Asimov; a variant is known as Hanlon’s Razor. I might add “poor memory” to the list.)

This particular post inspired by this and this, but equally applies to discussions of Kerry’s exact locations in Southeast Asia on particular dates during his service there, or other campaign “gotchas” you may wish to ponder.

On the other hand, sometimes you have to go with malice because nothing else fits the facts…

Update: Diebold scaremongering would be another example that fits firmly in the “ignorance or stupidity” category, by the way.


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.

So, you are happy to entrust your vote to Diebold, a company that has opposed paper trails?

Irrespective of any bugs or glitches in the system, you don’t have to be a genius to see the security flaw in the idea of a computerised system with NO paper trail and rubber-stamp “certified” by officials that in many cases, obviously have NO CLUE and NO TRAINING in computer science. Made by a company with partisan ties.

Elections are really too important to brush aside flaws in e-voting machines based on the “malice or stupidity” dichotomy. Even if a flaw is implemented by accident, it can still be exploited with malice! And if you think vote tampering hardly ever occurs in the US you’re naive, I’m afraid, you’re naive. Bad e-voting systems just make it easier and therefore more of a concern. That is why every voter should be concerned about Diebold and the risk to democracy that they embody.


So, you are happy to entrust your vote to Diebold, a company that has opposed paper trails?

No, I’m just content to attribute their various failings to hubris, rather than dark partisan motives or a desire to encourage electoral fraud. See e.g. here and here, where I find numerous faults with touchscreen technology.

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