Those who criticise the certifiable are often scolded for going after the low-hanging fruit. Whilst often valid, especially when criticising an extreme opponent rather than when holding one’s own side accountable, this tendency to dismiss criticism overlooks just how commonplace said fruit can be. When destructive idiocy lies uncriticised in the mainstream it can only worsen the social environment. We do need to criticise the worst of the worst, but that also has to be proportionate to their acceptance or influence.
To go full Godwin, rebuking Nazis in this day and age is of little value. These people exist in scant numbers and are already derided by all, even by the social outcasts typically associated with the ‘alt-right’. They are, by all definitions, beyond the fringe; powerless and insignificant. Their very mention as though they were significant raises them far beyond their station and runs the risk of promoting their harmful ideas to a wider audience in much the same way the overzealous reporting of school shooters grants the perpetrators their desired infamy and subsequently inspires the next senseless slaughter.
But what about when this low-hanging fruit constitutes a staple of the mainstream diet, when those who command authority and followings in the millions speak utter nonsense not only with impunity but quite often with the support of the establishment, certain media outlets and vocal segments of the public?
It is beyond time these fruits were addressed and as with all movements it needs a catchy epithet, or a hashtag, to gain traction. The Intellectual Dark Web and Regressive Left have proven effective terms in branding and popularising certain social issues.
With that in mind, I’d like to suggest that we label these fruits ‘pumpkins’. Without being overtly abusive, the word already possesses just the right amount of playful condescension – it is, after all, the kind of word one would use as a term of endearment for a small and naive child. This characterisation typically matches our fruits: they’re not intrinsically evil or ill-intentioned, they merely run wild with unsupported assumptions and propagate verifiable nonsense because they don’t know any better. I’m more than willing to accept that most simply haven’t thought through or understood their own position rather than they are telling bald-faced lies. (Although, I am certain this also occurs in some instances.)
My only other suggestion would be ‘peanut’, which is so low-hanging it actually grows underground. This subterranean existence option would extend the metaphor to highlight just how out of touch these people are with the greater terrestrial world the rest of us inhabit. However, peanut is already a mild slur and many would be unaware that it actually is a fruit so the reference would likely slip by unnoticed. Call someone a pumpkin, however, and they or other observers may be moved to question why such a term would even be considered derogatory. It is its subtlety and inoffensiveness that could grant the term traction and power.