False Intelligence

Michael Geertsma

Armond White, if you aren't familiar with his work, is a controversial film critic whose reviews often run contrary to popular opinion. While this may seem true of many film critics, White's reviews lean more towards the absurd and purposely contrarian. For instance, in his review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (a film almost universally panned by critics and audiences alike), White heralds director Michael Bay as a "real visionary."

Perhaps most controversial of all of White's reviews is this scathing piece on Toy Story 3, in which he accuses the film's fans (both adults and children) of being "non-thinking." The online reaction to White's TS3 review was swift and furious, fueled by the fact that his review (the lone negative review from a major critic) ruined its "100% Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

The whole episode is trivial, but like other pop-culture pseudo controversies, the drama is entertaining. Whether Armond White honestly believes what he writes or not is inconsequential. He is entitled to his opinion, or his trolling, whatever the case may be. However, I do believe some good has come of it. Last week, I stumbled across this "meta-review" of White's Toy Story 3 review. The author offers a point-by-point rebuttal, and the result is startlingly excellent.

But what impressed me most was not his defense of the Pixar film, but rather this brilliant insight, which hit a bit too close to home.
Reading White, I am constantly reminded that the human intellect, which we often analogize to a courtroom judge dispassionately weighing arguments and evidence, actually operates much more like a lawyer-for-hire, rationalizing and enabling our emotional narratives. What makes Armond's reviews perversely fascinating is that he is so obviously intelligent, yet this intelligence has been harnessed to the warped imperatives of an increasingly frustrated personality.
This nugget, buried deep within a critique of a critique of a piece of colorful entertainment, has somehow managed to affect me deeply. I now find myself examining other angry Internet arguments through a new lens.  And as someone who more often than not falls on the opposite side of the political fence from my fellow Christians, I've started to examine my own frustrations and all-too-frequent feelings of self-righteous indignation. If my intellect does indeed simply rationalize and enable my own emotional narrative, how is that affecting the way I interact with (and judge) others?

Could it be that our arguments get so heated because we've been falsely lured into believing that our intellect is infallible, when in fact we're being manipulated by emotions? And if so, what changes?

Topics: Movies, Culture At Large, News & Politics, Social Trends, Media