Comedian Jamie Loftus is best known for stuff like methodically eating an entire copy of Infinite Jest, co-hosting the Bechdel Cast podcast, and making a lot of funny videos. Recently, Loftus also released a podcast mini-series as a gonzo journalistic project that came about after, as first detailed in a series of articles at Paste, she got into Mensa and decided to see what the society of brainiacs was like from the inside.
A New Yorker article by Cat Zhang runs down some of what Loftus learned about Mensa, beginning with her finding “a reactionary, proudly unmoderated official Facebook group of American Mensans called Firehouse” that plays host to stuff like “crude memes mocking Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, bad-faith anti-trans bathroom opinions, and support for building a border wall.” Zhang mentions other horrible shit like a post arguing for the benefits of American slavery and human trafficking, all of which was terrible enough to make Loftus want to “understand this ‘living, breathing hostile comments section’” by going to last year’s Phoenix-held American Mensa Gathering.
My Year In Mensa’s episodes attempt to unravel the origins of Mensa’s far-right tendencies, detailing the organization’s roots in early 20th century pseudo-science, which have long been “adopted by eugenicists and racists to attempt to prove innate differences between social groups,” as well as the current memberships’ outlook. At the American Mensa Gathering, Loftus “overhears a drunken Mensan ... claim that ‘not all dictators have been bad,’ including Germany’s” and attends a panel where “a man [argues] that the fact that slaves were counted as even three-fifths of a person led to the demise of the American South.”
Zhang quotes an episode where Loftus says that “a society with murky goals whose selling point is superiority is not a healthy place” to find a sense of community, which helps provide some explanation of ho the awful opinions entertained by Mensa members might come to be. For more on what Loftus has learned in her time with the organization, read the entire article over at The New Yorker or listen to My Year In Mensa.
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