Two stylish gentlemen approached a vain emperor and told him that they’d developed a fabric so advanced and so beautiful, only the most intelligent and tasteful people could see it. Tickled at the idea that these stylish gentlemen – so well spoken and obviously oozing with cool – considered him intelligent and possessed of good taste, the emperor ordered an entire wardrobe made from this brand new fabric.
The two gentlemen straight away constructed a loom – look it up if you don’t know what a loom is, you lazy boor – and started weaving their special cloth. The best and brightest in the land were invited to see the work in progress, and everyone who came was briefed about the special qualities of the cloth. Afraid to be found less than intelligent and tasteful as their reputations held, these best and brightest in the land all oohed and ahhed and sang the praises of the new cloth as it lay in sumptuous folds across their outstretched arms. Never mind that they couldn’t see or feel a damned thing.
Eventually, the cloth was done and the garments sewn and the king took his wardrobe out on parade. Before he did, though, he paid the two stylish gentlemen a decidedly tangible and obscenely huge amount of money and bid them a cheery farewell.
By the time the parade kicked off, word of the marvellousness of the emperor’s new clothes had already been leaked and the expectant crowds swooned in coordinated fashion as the king stepped out. Everyone praised the clothes – everyone except a small child who apparently didn’t get the memo.
“I can see the King’s dick!” one imagines he must have yelled, as one looks around expecting to see a nun with a bell, exclaiming “Shame, shame.”
There was no nun, of course, as this isn’t a Song of Ice and Fire. But the young child’s statement cut through the bullshit and everyone started laughing at the ridiculous emperor and his fabulous new clothes – or, to more precise, his lack thereof.
Think about this story more deeply and you will soon come to realise that every laughing jackass in the crowd was just as stupid as the Emperor, if not worse.
The Emperor’s gullibility stemmed from vanity, pure and simple. He wanted to believe he was smart enough for the cloth to be real, and so deluded himself into truly believing in the truth he wanted so desperately to be true. Everyone else, on the other hand, knew there was nothing there but deliberately pretended to see it not just because of vanity, but more importantly, because of a willingness to suspend their own faculties for detecting bullshit; and to abdicate their ability to discern the truth in favor of simply going along with what they perceived to be popular opinion.
In the end, it wasn’t just the Emperor who had new clothes. Everyone clothed themselves in that imaginary gossamer. So as Ben Kenobi once said a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, who is more foolish? The fool? Or the one who follows him?