Suffering Fools is OK. At First.

David Brooks has a quirky column today saying we should do better at suffering fools:

Smart people who’ve thought about this usually understand that the habits we put in practice end up shaping the people we are within. “Manners are of more importance than laws,” Edmund Burke wrote.

All I can think of is the political application and I have to object. How long are you supposed to be polite and respond in good faith to, say, a pundit who demonstrates zero concern for facts? For a politician who dismisses science? Perhaps rudeness isn’t the answer, but you certainly shouldn’t dignify those people by taking them seriously.

That doesn’t mean his column is worthless. I think we should do a better job of treating interlocutors politely and talking to them in good faith. But as the evidence mounts that they’re not worth taking seriously, or that they’re not operating in good faith, they ought to be accorded less respect. Here’s my theory in graph form:

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