Wednesday, April 7, 2004

N <= (1172 + X) British Citizens

Memo to upwards of 1172 Britons. YOU ARE DUMB.
Actually, we need to add in an unspecified number to that, but we'll get to that in a bit.
It's all the fault of an odd little study in Britain, which involved interviewing 2,069 people and quizzing them on various historic or fictional people and events to see which ones the interviewees thought were real and which they thought were fake. From this, we can determine that Jay Leno could have a career waiting for him as a British sociological researcher if he ever stops being the last person not to realize he isn't funny.
It's an important exercise in doofus-hunting, though, and the results were astonishing in two ways.
The first group of astonishing results were, for example, 57% of respondents believing that King Arthur was real. * Or 38% thinking that Genghis Khan was fictional. Or a situationally whopping six percent who believed the Martian invasion from War of the Worlds actually happened.
Now, some of this you can understand and excuse. The phrase "Battle of the Bulge" has been co-opted so extensively by the dieting world that it's not entirely disheartening when 52% think of that first, instead of World War II. Heck, the 63% disbelieving in "Ethelred the Unready King of England 978 to 1016" makes enough sense to me that I didn't use it for the number in the first line. 
But come on. 27% of the respondents thinking Robin Hood was real? ** They should have asked how many people also thought he was an anthropomorphic fox. 32% thinking the Cold War was fictional? Barring some peculiar political statement, that leaves over 650 Britons with their heads up their asses. Which I'd think would make all the Arsenal chants muffled, but I don't really follow the football.
Unfortunately, the precise number of British morons was not determined by the news story about the study, as it completely failed to count THE RESEARCHERS.
The following answers were stated by just one percent of respondents: Edmund Blackadder: REAL. Xena: REAL. Apes rule Earth (a la Planet of the Apes: REAL. The defeat of humanity by cyborgs in Battlestar Galactica: REAL. And two percent said the Battle of Endor was real.
What kind of crap sociologists are these? I don't have a degree in anything, but I guarantee you if you pick 2,069 people at random ANYWHERE in the First World, you're gonna hit 20 or so geeks. And geeks will fuck up surveys for comedy. There are twenty guys in Britain even as we speak who have been waiting for MONTHS for the survey results to be made public, just so they can snicker at the Blackadder thing. Does nobody else remember "putting Jedi on the census"?
Note that of the real people and events, the lowest percentage was nine percent for Winston Churchill. That's gotta all be idiocy, because I don't think you could find 187 people who'd think Fake Winston Churchill is funny if you tried to do it on purpose.
Of course, this theory does present one conundrum. The 62 people who claimed the Battle of Helm's Deep actually happened. I, for one, am torn. As "The Passion" has shown us, people will believe all kinds of stuff in movies actually happened. But at the same time, Lord of the Rings nerdage is near its cultural peak, the Geek Survey Joke Theorem could account for all 62 of them. I'd have to see the interviews themselves to be sure. I mean, if you've got people saying that "Oh, that definitely happened, except for the bit where the blond guy rode down the stairs on his shield, I suspect they threw that in for dramatic effect"... that actually wouldn't settle it either way, now that I think about it.
So, what have we learned? We've learned that British historians, having visited all the castles and read all the scrolls a couple dozen times already, are getting bored. We've learned that there actually was a dude named Ethelread the Unready. We've leraned that geeks amuse easily. And I've learned that I'd better wrap this up soon, as Imperious Leader has demanded my presence. By your command.
* Don't. I know you want to, but don't. Stop composing the e-mail in your head. You know the one I mean. Don't play innocent. The one where you compile obscure evidence from webpages and books and Discovery Channel specials to point out that King Arthur was sorta kinda based on this one dude who REALLY LIVED in the ancient times and that's the guy they're basing that new movie on, you know, the one where Kiera Knightley wears blue paint and two strategic pieces of leather. Don't do it. We'll both feel better in the morning.