December 01, 2023

Letter to the Editor: That’s a great question

Any time you hear, on talk radio, tv, or otherwise someone say “That’s a great question,” you automatically know that the question asked was really stupid and the person asked the question is trying to figure out how to answer such a stupid question without looking stupid him or herself. It takes a minute, usually the reason that the statement “That’s a great question” was made by the interviewee in the first place — to make time to reflect before answering.

Reflection really does not help though. The answer will normally be a stupid one, since the question was stupid, but, if luck prevails, the people listening to this exchange may not know a stupid answer from an intelligent one. Therefore, no harm would be done to the person asked. At least one can hope.

What is never done, but which would add immensely to the exchange and give entertainment is to simply declare that “I’m not going to answer a question that stupid and I am offended that you would ask such a stupid question for the only possible reason of making me look stupid.” One does not have to act in a stupid manner simply because one is invited to do so; in fact, one should show some intelligence if available.

Now, the person asking the stupid question may be stupid enough not to know how stupid the question is and therefore, if one were to enlighten the questioner of the stupidity of the question, one would, hopefully, be doing the questioner a service by pointing out how stupid he or she is being and maybe next time they might possibly frame their question in a manner that doesn’t cause immediate blow back; or even better, obtain another line of work and not ask stupid questions ever again.

The reader may think that this is a little over the top: not at all I say. One should not be required to appear stupid, especially when and where a number of people may be listening or viewing or otherwise able to hear the exchange. A stupid question is not for the purpose of presenting ideas nor of the exchange of ideas; it is for the purpose of making the interviewee appear stupid and ridiculous. This is a situation that the interviewee is immediately aware of, but most often, because of the listening audience, will refuse to acknowledge the stupidness of the question. It is the opinion put forth here, that the acknowledgment of the stupidity of the question and refusing to answer such a stupid question, would enhance the reputation of the person refusing to answer such a stupid question significantly. And, in addition, it may have the effect of slowing the incidence of future stupid questions by equally stupid interviewers.

Richard E. H. Phelps II