Using the word ‘idiotarian’ has some obvious disadvantages. It is inherently insulting, and hence potentially misleading in a context where one is trying to make factual statements. It has unintended connotations: users of the word do not mean to imply that idiotarians necessarily have low intelligence. It looks frivolous, and is therefore distracting in any serious piece. It is new and may soon be obsolete. Also, as a general rule, consideration for the reader should make one reluctant to use terms with which many people are unfamiliar.
Nevertheless, we use the i-word from time to time here on The World. Why?
Because there is no alternative. The fact is, there is a huge and influential segment of Western public opinion which systematically sides with evil without itself adopting the evildoers’ objectives. That's an approximate definition: as with other terms such as ‘left-wing’, ‘right-wing’ or ‘anarchist’, there are about as many definitions of ‘idiotarian’ as there are users of the term. But there can be no doubt that idiotarianism is a distinctive political stance playing a major role in contemporary politics. As we have said before, it is mind-boggling that such a significant strand of political thought did not even have a name before 2002 when Charles Johnson coined the term ‘idiotarian’.
We don't see any option but to use it. For instance, although idiotarianism is predominantly associated with political parties of the left, ‘idiotarian’ is by no means synonymous with ‘left-wing’ or ‘Democrat’: one has only to consider the likes of Tom Lantos (or perhaps Tony Blair),
or, on the right, Pat Buchanan or Matthew Parris. Likewise, idiotarianism usually involves, say, moral relativism, yet there are moral relativists who are anti-idiotarians, and there are people who believe in right and wrong but think that idiotarian policies are the morally right ones. The term “useful idiots”, allegedly coined by Lenin, has a similar though narrower meaning, but it also has similar disadvantages; and the term “cicadas”, coined by Oriana Fallaci, has gained little or no currency.
So until someone tells us a better idea, we are going to have to live with the disadvantages of ‘idiotarian’. And there are consolations: OK, it's insulting, but it's insulting something bad. (And even idiotarians might take consolation from the fact that long-lived terms often become detached from their original meanings: ‘Tory’ was once a term of abuse meaning ‘thief’; ‘hysterical’ meant ‘affected by one's womb’.) Its psychological connotations are not wholly inappropriate: it is a psychological stratagem more than a political theory. A lighthearted touch is no bad thing in political writing. And as for the term being unfamiliar: well, this very item will put an end to that, won't it?
UPDATE: We're still hoping that someone will do this study.