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Quotes / Obfuscating Stupidity

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    Anime & Manga 

Papa is not a stupid man. It takes calculation to decimate another human with a word. He measures others carefully. He only feigns being crude and dense.
Masaru "Kodama" Kodaka, Bokurano

Soyogi: She's coming up? In that case, I'm going down.
Nagi: You can't deal with her either, huh?
Soyogi: Yeah... especially when she pretends to be a fool.

    Films - Live-Action 
I can't tell if you're really fuckin' dumb, or really fuckin' smart.
Wendell Everett, The Guard

No one is as dumb as I appear to be.
David "Mo" Rutherford, The Stuff

He brilliantly lowers our expectations and then jumps without a chute. Remarkable!
Lana, The Librariannote 


All warfare is based on deception.

A truly advanced being might realize it's best to approach lesser species in a nonthreatening way — as a ridiculous-looking creature who comes across as a pompous jerk barely able to keep his foot out of his mouth. It puts you at ease, doesn't it, when you say, "This Pollisand guy isn't so scary; he's not the swaggering supergenius the rest of the universe thinks he is." You catch me making a few goofs, you throw my words back in my face, and after a while, you relax cuz you think I'm not smart enough to pull the wool over your eyes.
The Pollisand, Ascending

A certain combination of skill and ignorance is very effective, you do not suspect it, and you accede to it.

We must be so intelligent that he does not suspect us of being intelligent at all.

Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind is to come with the inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

Thinking I'm a moron gives people something to feel smug about. Why should I disillusion them?
Charles Wallace, A Wrinkle in Time

She drummed her fingers against the table, crossing one leg over the other.
“She plays it up well, the clumsiness and the slurring, but no matter how much hard liquor she puts away she’s never been more than tipsy.”
“You think she’s deceiving us,” William frowned.
“I think she’s playing it up for her audience,” Thief replied. “Isn’t that what Bards do?”
“She’s a heroine,” the Swordsman eventually said. “That much can’t be faked. Why would she bother to trick us when she’s on our side?”
The other Callowan passed a hand through her short hair, ruffling the tomboy cut as an uncomfortable look settled on her face.
“When we left for Summerholm, there were five heroes in our band,” the heroine said. “And we all knew going in that one of us would die to the Warlock – monsters like that don’t go easy. It couldn’t be you, because you have a mirror on the other side. Hunter was meant to be your right hand, ill-suited as he was to the role. You needed me to get into the city and to get out afterwards. That left…”
“Almorava and Simeon,” William finished. “Your point?”
“Both of them are bumblers,” Thief spoke quietly. “There was a redundancy. But how much of an impression did Conjurer make, compared to the Bard? He barely talked while she was always in the background, larger than life, drinking and badly strumming her lute.”

There was always something like that, Lawrence was realizing. Parson would make some mistake, be labeled an idiot for it, and then everyone would forget. Or at least, Lawrence would. Only in retrospect did it become clear that most of those "mistakes" had since been vindicated in some way.

I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. ... You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise!

"Joffrey and his mother say I'm stupid."
"Let them. You're safer that way, sweetling. Queen Cersei and the Imp and Lord Varys and their like, they all watch each other keen as hawks, and pay this one and that one to spy out what the others are doing, but no one ever troubles themselves about Lady Tanda's daughter do they?"

"I don't think you're half as dumb as you act, Dox. And you might not even be as dumb as that."
John Rain, Winner Takes All

Did you plan for this? I've been following you on and off since all this began. You're very obviously stupid and incompetent but somehow things have ended up going your way, right? The Deleters only take over the most skilled and noble adventurers. So, if you want to survive as an adventurer and avoid the Syndrome, you have to put on a facade of incompetence and creepiness when you're secretly a devious little prick who knows exactly what they're doing. And that's you, isn't it?
Jim, to Slippery John, Mogworld

"She does think about things. When her mind is really working, she could, if led, to think of you— even I suspect, somewhat fondly. I suspect. I don't know. But when she slides back into herself, I mean into the girl who spends two hours a day curling that beautiful hair, it's as if the thinking Galinda goes into some internal closet and shuts the door. Or as if she's in hysterical retreat from things that are too big for her. I love her both ways, but I find it odd."
Elphaba to Boq about Galinda, Wicked

    Live-Action TV 
I never run around in the bushes in a ski mask when I'm breaking in some place. Somebody catches you, what are you gonna say? You wanna look like a legitimate visitor until the very last minute. If you can't look legit, confused works almost as well. Maybe you get a soda from the fridge or a yogurt. If you're caught, you just act confused and apologize like crazy for taking the yogurt, nothing could be more innocent.

Mrs. Scarlioni: My dear, I don't think he's as stupid as he seems.
Count Scarlioni: My dear, nobody could be as stupid as he seems.
Doctor Who, "City of Death"

An unintelligent enemy is far less dangerous than an intelligent one, Jamie. Just act stupid. Do you think you can manage that?
The Second Doctor, Doctor Who, "The Dominators"

You have the mouth of a prattling jackanapes, but your eyes tell a different story.
Sharez Jek, Doctor Who, "The Caves of Androzani"

Davros: Still you play the fool.
Twelfth Doctor: Well, by now that should make you nervous.
Doctor Who, "The Witch's Familiar"

Calm down. Do what I do. Empty your mind.
Grace King, How To Rock, "How to Rock a Good Deed"

As for being half-witted, well, what can I say? Except that I have survived to middle age with half my wits while thousands have died with all of theirs intact! Evidently quality of wits is more important than quantity!
Claudius, I, Claudius

Rule 15: Acting stupid is often smart.
The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, Star Trek

And that fat pig, Prince Prinny! He plays the fool so he may better play the game!

Day after day,
Alone on a hill,
The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him,
They can see that he's just a fool,
And he never gives an answer,
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning 'round...
The Beatles, "The Fool on the Hill"

    Tabletop Games 
The wise man knows when to play the fool. You know when to blabber out what you know and when to hold your tongue. You know that something is amiss at Ceoris, and you intend to learn what it is without being slain.
—Roleplaying Hints for Biturges, A Fool For All To See, Vampire: The Dark Ages - House Of Tremere.

It is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish.

    Video Games 
I'll show you the truth.

I don't know why I even bother pretending to be a ditz, it's not like you actually listen to a word that comes out of my mouth.
Dame Lettuce ponders the futility of this trope, Cucumber Quest

How big of a dumbass do you think I think you are?
Kit not buying it, The Dreadful

AC: :33 < then look like a fool!
AC: :33 < but don't be one
Nepeta Leijon, Homestuck

I've always found that declaring something at Customs makes it much easier and faster to get through. The people who declare nothing tend to be the ones pulled over for complete luggage inspections, whereas if you say you're carrying a bag of jelly babies and a wooden souvenir elephant, the Customs officers just look at you as though you have no idea what you're doing and wave you through.
David Morgan-Mar, commentary for Irregular Webcomic! #2481

It's great how all these morons think I'm the one who's too naive.
Revolver Ocelot, The Last Days of FOXHOUND

Tarquin: Remember, Nale: Who knows that you know is just as important as knowing in in the first place.
Nale: But you look like a fool for being ignorant!
Tarquin: So what? Better to look the fool than be one.

Agatha: But she's completely useless — at least... she seemed useless... oh dear.
Tarvek: I can't believe it! The Order has obviously been planning this for years — and you completely underestimated the girl they groomed to be the Heterodyne?
Agatha: You obviously haven't met her.
Gil: Oh, yes he HAS! Your fake Heterodyne is Zola la Sirène Dorée.
Tarvek: What?! No, that was that idiot from the island of the —
[Beat Panel]
Tarvek: She is good.

    Web Original 

When you are considered dumb, or at least not a threat, people stop looking to undermine your abilities. It’s natural for anybody in the work environment to feel threatened by a new hire, a lateral hire, or a superstar colleague. We all have our insecurities. The more you can pretend not to know as much as you do, and the more you can include other people in your successes, the better you will be.

While he's said to be as dumb as George W. Bush, one key difference makes him more dangerous - he knows how to break your jaw, because he takes advantage of his opponents' ability to underestimate him; the Lone Star State is a graveyard of people who were undercut by the man they felt was too moronic to do such a thing.
Rational Wiki on Rick Perry (R)

"Did you honestly think that I was that half witted? I merely pretended to be an idiot."

    Western Animation 
That's when it hit me. I realized that if I let him think he was smarter than me, I could make him do anything I wanted.
Grandpa Phil on dealing with Nazis, Hey Arnold!

Mr. Mxyzptlk: If you can make me say, spell or otherwise reveal my name backwards then I'll split, until our dimensions come into alignment again in... oh, three months, give or take.
Superman: I can't even say your name forwards - how am I supposed to say it backwards?
Mr. Mxyzptlk: No, dope, you don't have to say it, you have to get me to say it!
Superman: Say what?
Mr. Mxyzptlk: Kltpzyxm! Gosh, you're thick! Now, for the last time... ah, nuts! (vanishes)

"SpongeBob, you can't always expect my usual brand of stupidity. I like to mix it up, keep you on your toes."
Patrick Star, SpongeBob SquarePants, "The Card"

"And I nearly risked revealing everything to get it. My infiltration into the Berkian world. Years of building trust. Behaving as if I was some buffoonish fop!"
Trader Johann to Viggo and Krogan, Dragons: Riders of Berk, "Sins of the Past"

"I was double-crossed by the one man I assumed was too stupid to even single cross!"

    Real Life 
It's like these people are programmed by Karl Rove. What he wants is to have liberal critics ridicule Bush because he says "nucular" and "misunderestimate" and talks with a probably fake Texas accent and so on, because then can come back with the big propaganda apparatus saying, "See, those elite liberals who run the world and are sitting around drinking French wine and eating quiche don't understand us ordinary guys;" regular guys like the guy working on the assembly line and George Bush, who is going back to his ranch to cut brush.
Noam Chomsky, What We Say Goes (2007)

To be looked upon as a fool by an idiot is a true connoisseur's delight.
Georges Courteline

It takes a smart guy to play dumb.

[The Spartans] conceal their wisdom, and pretend to be blockheads, so that they may seem to be superior only because of their prowess in battle ... This is how you may know that I am speaking the truth and that the Spartans are the best educated in philosophy and speaking: if you talk to any ordinary Spartan, he seems to be stupid, but eventually, like some expert marksman, he shoots in some brief remark that proves you to be only a child.
Plato, Protagoras

Eisenhower's career demonstrated how it is possible to fool all the people all the time... "I may be stupid," he once said at a press conference, "but at least I'm sincere!" Actually, he was neither, but it suited his purpose to play the part of the bumbling man of good will who was "not an expert in these matters" but somehow would do his best.

The thing about Colbert is he's fucking brilliant... He was always the smartest guy in the room, and he was always smart enough not to let you know he was the smartest guy in the room.
Scott Wherry on long-time friend Stephen Colbert

The advantage of being intelligent, is that we can always play stupid, however being the opposite is completely impossible.


Example of: