My Year in Mensa
March 3, 2020 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Comedian Jamie Loftus thought she was going to write an article for Paste about failing the Mensa exam, but instead she passed and joined the organization. Then she found the "no moderation" Facebook page and... she found hostility, shunning, and death threats. She decided to attend the yearly Mensa gathering and meet these people in person. This turned into a 4 part (~40 minutes each) podcast My Year In Mensa (Spotify link; also available via most podcast tools). CW for the podcast: Descriptions of online harassment. Jamie Loftus previously.
posted by GenjiandProust (149 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm excited to listen to this. She was on Hollywood Handbook recently to promote this podcast and was really funny.
posted by saladin at 2:07 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


I didn't know something could be so perfectly tailored to my exact interests as this podcast. Hm. The "far-right reaches of MENSA"? Strap on your oxygen tank because we're diving.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:08 PM on March 3 [10 favorites]


Yamie Lofty is a treasure. I wish her all the zambonis her heart desires.
posted by Kerwin15 at 2:14 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


I always thought of Mensa as a club for low-achieving people who like to think they're the smartest person in the room, and view membership as validation, but what they really are is good at tests, puzzles and games.
posted by slkinsey at 2:15 PM on March 3 [71 favorites]


I haven't listened to the podcast yet, but I definitely got a kick out of her photos (twitter link) of slides from the "mensa humor workshops".
posted by ODiV at 2:19 PM on March 3 [11 favorites]


I always thought of Mensa as a meat market for the pocket-protector set.

From the Paste link: The Mensans let my dumb ass in and made the critical mistake of inviting me to Tooth Tuesdays, whatever the fuck that is, and before they know it they will be hacked by me, the hacker who codes and is smart, and all of American Mensa will become a bunch of dumb sluts, too. The world does not need more rich assholes who think they’re smarter than everyone. The world always needs dumb sluts.

T-shirting, BRB.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:19 PM on March 3 [25 favorites]


This podcast was a delight, and tracks with what I know of Mensa. I took the test at the urging of a friend at age 19, and the smug in the air was palpable. The proctor told the room of test takers that generally 90% of those who take the test are admitted, because the test takers are very good at self-selecting. My first and only group activity with them was to the Museum of Science and Industry, where a roughly 50 year old man followed us (two teenage girls) around for hours, until we hid out in a bathroom and snuck out while he wasn't looking. He still squished himself in with us on the van ride home. I did not renew my membership.
posted by little king trashmouth at 2:22 PM on March 3 [34 favorites]


I joined Mensa when I was a kid and boy did it rub me the wrong way because it felt very much like "look at how great we are" and it really just felt like a bunch of smarm. Keep in mind, I was a teenager, a smart ass overly proud smart teenager at that and I thought it was too smarmy. Guess I'll need to listen to the podcast!
posted by drewbage1847 at 2:23 PM on March 3 [8 favorites]


If you're a fairly bright young person, Mensa seems like a cool idea because it'll be people who share some of the same experiences and interests.

And then you meet these people and discover they are stupendously insufferable.

It's a useful sorting mechanism and learning experience.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:27 PM on March 3 [59 favorites]


I heard her talk a little about her experiences on another podcast - can't remember if it was Behind the Bastards or Scam Goddess - and remember thinking that I'd love to listen to a whole show about it. I can't wait to listen!
posted by northernish at 2:29 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


Wow, I just read her article on how she won't get in to MENSA and this woman can WRITE. Like a hurricane. A really funny tropical storm.

in my head MENSA is always all caps btw so I must honor my code.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:32 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


To be fair, MetaFilter is basically the native habitat for people qualified for Mensa but are insufferably smug about not being members because Mensans are insufferably smug. And someone here—not me—is bound to mention the Triple Nine Society.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:34 PM on March 3 [188 favorites]


I propose that mensa should, from now on, be used as a generic noun/term of art.

to wit: a mensa is a group comprised entirely of people, who, by making the decision to join that group, have invalidated their credentials for joining the group.
posted by what does it eat, light? at 2:41 PM on March 3 [24 favorites]


If you're a fairly bright young person, Mensa Tumblr seems like a cool idea because it'll be people who share some of the same experiences and interests.

Fixed.
posted by Fizz at 2:45 PM on March 3 [6 favorites]


Can you imagine how great the world would be if everyone was a "dumb slut"? I'm serious. I've said time and again if I have to come back in another life all I want is to be good-natured, beautiful, and dumb as a post. That's how we build a better world.
posted by maxwelton at 2:46 PM on March 3 [28 favorites]


Mensa is the exact group that comes to mind when I hear Groucho Marx say " I just don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member."
posted by DreamerFi at 2:46 PM on March 3 [26 favorites]


(or, what "what does it eat, light?" said, I guess)
posted by DreamerFi at 2:47 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Just because you're smart, doesn't mean you're not an asshole.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:48 PM on March 3 [8 favorites]


Based on their behaviour I think I work with a few Mensians? Mensites? What do you call a group of them? Without further input I'll go with my reliable catch-all: dipshits.
posted by SonInLawOfSam at 2:52 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


....I was briefly in MENSA myself.

I didn't take the test for it - there are a series of alternate test results they would accept, including SAT results from certain years only. While i was bored one day I was poking around and stumbled across that list of alternate-test-scores - and discovered that my own SAT scores would qualify me. When I learned that, I giggled for a solid 30 seconds.

Then I figured that if that had been my reaction, I probably would keep my MENSA membership in the proper perspective, and said "what the hell" and joined.

My membership lasted a couple years or so. I met a few people I wouldn't have met otherwise, but that's about all it got me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:59 PM on March 3 [6 favorites]


I'm looking forward to listening to the podcast. Thanks!

I'm kind of amazed Mensa continues to exist. I only know what it means because my mom told me about it when I was a kid, 'cause she heard about it as a child in the '50s. More or less all of my colleagues probably would get in - smart is a complicated and multi-dimensional thing, but taking tests and convincing other people we're smart is a category in which we are all world experts - but I've never heard someone younger than 70 mention the name. I think of it as the punchline to Johnny Carson jokes, rather than a living concern. I hope there's some history in the podcast. (Given the host, I expect so.)
posted by eotvos at 3:01 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


Also, looking at the website, the counts by country is kind of entertaining. I wonder if the 50 members in the UAE all know each other.
posted by eotvos at 3:03 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


To be fair, MetaFilter is basically the native habitat for people qualified for Mensa but are insufferably smug about not being members because Mensans are insufferably smug. And someone here—not me—is bound to mention the Triple Nine Society.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:34 PM on March 3


Bah, all the cool kids are posting about LearnedLeague, FyodorovichI.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:13 PM on March 3 [20 favorites]


I searched for a connection between "Firehouse" "Mensa" and "Burning Man" and these may be the people behind the most truly obnoxious music, bad attitude... and a pretty awesome false moon art project. Not sure if the connection is correct, but it adds up.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:13 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


My impression, from the podcast, is that Mensa is a bit like the Atheists — a useful group in theory, but one that has been poisoned by unexamined “ground rules” and feelings of past grievance and become a place with some interesting people but a lot of toxic sewage. Also the parties sound worse than those at most SF conventions.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:16 PM on March 3 [17 favorites]


maaaaan.... my snide joke about Mensa as a teenager (that the word means table in Latin) is somehow even nerdier and less cool than the joke Jamie's friend keeps harping on about it meaning "dumb lady" in Spanish.

Aha.

I'm enjoying the podcast, though. I've been meaning to get around to listening to it for some time, so thanks for the nudge!
posted by sciatrix at 3:28 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


I was once out of the blue aggressively challenged to a chess match by a significant other of a house guest. I laughed and said "So you're in Mensa then?".
posted by srboisvert at 3:32 PM on March 3 [20 favorites]


oh my god the table in Latin thing came up in episode 2. (I used to make jokes about "Mensa" being a dumb name for an organization about smart people on the basis that tables are not especially bright, but. Yeah.)

The "hug dots" thing about how much hugging and contact with strangers you'd like is, without the "I'm SINGLE" thing, something I first encountered hearing about over autism conferences back in the 90s. I have no idea whether that's the origin of the concept for Mensans, but I bet you it's pretty likely based on the size of overlap between Mensa people and the folks I used to hang out with on WrongPlanet as a teenager.
posted by sciatrix at 3:34 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


M Richler paraphrase/quote: "...and we resent your implication that our organization exists only to foster delusions of grandeur among milkmen...."
posted by ovvl at 3:40 PM on March 3 [9 favorites]


The only self-proclaimed Mensan I know was also pretty vocal about being Libertarian, and, Nah. I like hanging out with smart people, but Mensa feels so competitive and as every other comment says, smug.

It's probably one of the things that gets you sent to the Bad Place.

I would like to be Jamie Loftus' best friend.
posted by theora55 at 3:44 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


Is this where I discuss my menses?
posted by amanda at 3:49 PM on March 3 [59 favorites]


<sudden_clarity_clarance>
Overwatch is Mensa for hand-eye coordination
</sudden_clarity_clarance>
posted by GuyZero at 3:50 PM on March 3 [7 favorites]


OOh. God. I want to send this to my brother so bad.

When he was 18 or so and I was a brat kid he discovered all those MENSA puzzle and quiz books and lorded over the house that he was soooooo gifted. He’d ask us one of the questions and before we could work out an answer he’d yell “NO. WRONG. You are all so dumb!” And march off, triumphant.

He went to meeting for supposed MENSA people at a local community college (I know) one night. And, man, had he found his people. He came back with books so he could take the IQ test when they did it a couple months later.

He eventually got a letter. He failed spectacularly. It was one of the greatest days of my life.

But even better was when my sister, a world class goofball, a while later at thanksgiving, announced she had gained membership. She had a certificate. A card. A ring! ( which should’ve been a clue).

God. My brother was beside himself. “Everyone knows IQ is meaningless!” But it set him on a quest of insanely attempting to prove his genius any way he could. Taking violin lessons. Mathletics. Amateur rocketry. Karate. And he stunk at all of it.

It took her years and years to tell him she’d faked the whole thing. We knew. And it was great.

My brother is an idiot.
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 3:54 PM on March 3 [224 favorites]


To be fair, MetaFilter is basically the native habitat for people qualified for Mensa but are insufferably smug about not being members because Mensans are insufferably smug

Excuse me sir I’ll have you know that I also, at one point, had five dollars.
posted by mhoye at 3:54 PM on March 3 [145 favorites]


A dumb slut ... good-natured, beautiful, and dumb as a post

Hey. I’m still in the room.
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 4:06 PM on March 3 [10 favorites]


This quote: "I sincerely hope that you never know the feeling of walking into a living, breathing hostile comments section." Top quality.
posted by Oyéah at 4:18 PM on March 3 [15 favorites]


The one person I know in MENSA is literally the scattiest human being I have ever met in my life. Unfortunately, she did a lot of drugs in the 70's and I think that must have done a lot of damage. It's like trying to catch a butterfly.

She thinks I should join, but I dunno there...
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:28 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


> He went to meeting for supposed MENSA people at a local community college (I know)

Yup, there can be people with high IQs and/or the ability to do well on standardized tests at community college.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:32 PM on March 3 [31 favorites]


I like her notion that all it takes to be a member is being good at standardized tests. I once considered taking standardized tests as a hobby. There are a lot that you can just register for, show up and take, or show up and take with a bit of money, and I had weekends free, and I always enjoy a standardized test.

Eventually I took up, um, several more socially acceptable hobbies instead, but I've always sort of regretted the choice.
posted by surlyben at 4:36 PM on March 3 [26 favorites]


If you're the smartest person in the room, that just means you're not smart enough to get into rooms with smarter people.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:36 PM on March 3 [104 favorites]


We have men here who have killed. We have those who have served time- one who did the unmentionable- and fugitive felons.

What is the unmentionable?
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:40 PM on March 3 [5 favorites]


If you're the smartest person in the room, that just means you're not smart enough to get into rooms with smarter people.

Oh god, I was the smartest person in the room once because everyone else was just so stupid. It was a nightmare.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:43 PM on March 3 [11 favorites]


> What is the unmentionable?

Failing to return shopping carts to the corral.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:44 PM on March 3 [42 favorites]


My friend once had to leave a hangout at my house where we were all sitting around getting drunk in an orderly way so that she could pick up her brother who had been kicked out of a Mensa conference for disorderly drunkenness.

That’s my closest brush with Mensa.
posted by nickmark at 4:44 PM on March 3 [17 favorites]


there can be people with high IQs and/or the ability to do well on standardized tests at community college.

Really? And I went to one, too. I didn’t know. They took a dummy like me. /s

Well, golly you’d think a city with an Ivy League school and a university they might’ve chosen one of those to have a meeting at, huh.

Particularly given that MENSA literature is just dripping with condescension and gloats about Ivy League membership.

I guess not everyone appreciates irony.
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 4:45 PM on March 3


Mensa is the exact group that comes to mind when I hear Groucho Marx say " I just don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member."

It was actually a specific snobby country club in LA, which the next year he joined.
posted by sammyo at 4:46 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


What is the unmentionable?

From the tenor of that threat... showering? Leaving the basement to walk in the harsh light of the cursed daystar? Wearing something other than stained sweatpants?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:47 PM on March 3 [7 favorites]


Also the parties sound worse than those at most SF conventions.
oh thank you, not being much of a conventioneer it always seemed like I was missing out on something by not partying with the likes of Asimov, Scalzi or Stross, although the later two seem pretty cool.
posted by sammyo at 4:58 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


I too didn't get the irony in the "community college (I know)" EETSI. As I teach at a university with a student body that's majority transfer students I just got all ruffled feathery for what I perceived as a slam on comm college students.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:59 PM on March 3 [10 favorites]


I think I need tags not just for /irony and /sarcasm but also things like
/I am speaking from a place of knowledge and love
or
/I am real tired and am not entirely sure I made my point or if I just created a derail
or
/I decided against writing anything more, let's go look at cat pictures y'all
posted by spamandkimchi at 5:02 PM on March 3 [20 favorites]


What is the unmentionable?

Undergarments are sometimes called unmentionables, so perhaps a single, specific undergarment? What “did” means in that context, I have no guess.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:06 PM on March 3 [7 favorites]


> ...meeting for supposed MENSA people at a local community college (I know)...

Well, at least nobody's dropped the "If you're so smart why aren't you rich?" snark yet.
posted by at by at 5:08 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


> Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza:
"A dumb slut ... good-natured, beautiful, and dumb as a post
Hey. I’m still in the room."


/goes to wash hands again.
posted by theora55 at 5:09 PM on March 3 [5 favorites]


> What is the unmentionable?

This has the potential to be better than that MaCavity thread IMO.
posted by mhoye at 5:30 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


I was considered the dumbest kid in the school by a wide margin up through the third grade. My parents were really upset about about it, but I wasn't that bothered. I've always kind of liked people thinking I'm stupid.

When I started getting all As in junior high, I hid my report cards and my parents didn't find out for almost a year, and when I took the college boards in high school and did really well, they didn't find out until a flood of letters inviting me to apply to colleges all over the place started showing up in the mail. That hurt their feelings though, and I still regret it all these years later.
posted by jamjam at 5:33 PM on March 3 [7 favorites]


My parents, god help me, met via Mensa personal ad. My mother composed an ad with the help of her sister -- I believe they were both high -- and a bunch of dudes responded. One sent a picture of his boat. Another said, in reference to her self-description, "I've never met a woman who was both beautiful AND smart!" She wrote back only to my dad, who cleared a very low bar.
posted by little cow make small moo at 5:40 PM on March 3 [41 favorites]


in my head MENSA is always all caps btw so I must honor my code.

I interpret the all-caps to mean the word must be shouted.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:41 PM on March 3 [10 favorites]


I am enjoying this flood of incredible recollections and recountings.
posted by rhizome at 5:43 PM on March 3 [12 favorites]


There are a lot of clubs where you have to pay a lot of money or know someone to join. Some elite running clubs accept only athletes with certain qualifying times.

I...guess I don't see what's so terrible or worthy of mockery about a club for people who really like to solve puzzles where you have to be good at solving puzzles to get in?
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:44 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


It depends on how insufferable and self-important they are about being members of the club.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:46 PM on March 3 [21 favorites]


I...guess I don't see what's so terrible or worthy of mockery about a club for people who really like to solve puzzles where you have to be good at solving puzzles to get in?

Sounds like a great club. It's not Mensa.
posted by GuyZero at 5:53 PM on March 3 [32 favorites]


And also how important they think solving puzzles is to the world and how aggrieved they are that they haven't been made rulers of it yet.
posted by Scattercat at 5:55 PM on March 3 [6 favorites]


I think it's time for Densa, people who aren't smart enough (or desperate enough) to get into Mensa. (I haven't googled this, but I imagine this joke has got to have been done before. )
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:58 PM on March 3 [10 favorites]


It depends on how insufferable and self-important they are about being members of the club.

Do you know any runners? (I kid, some of my best friends are...)

I was in the National Puzzlers' League once (no qualifying test, just send a $23 check to an address in Arlington, MA) but never considered trying to join Mensa because even as a teenager I knew there was a huge stigma.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:59 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


So the Menses joke happened in one or two forms above. When I was a boy and first learned about Mensa I was talking to my uncle and he was trying to come up with the collective noun 'mensans' and said menses by mistake, and laughed and laughed...but I thought that was the rigth word for several years and used it in that context. Why I had occasion to need to use it in context I cant recall, but I was quite embarrassed when I was finally corrected about it as an early teen.

Someone above mentioned Hug Dots so I assume they came up in the podcast. In his book The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, AJ Jacobs describes sneaking into a mensa meeting and learning about the hug dots, and then runnign into a guy that sports like 10 dots on his badge, and says "This guy wants a hug so fucking bad."
posted by hearthpig at 6:00 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


You’ve met the mild-mannered organ repairman of Mensa, now you have met our criminal element.

♪ Mensa has broken every human law ♪
posted by Sauce Trough at 6:02 PM on March 3 [12 favorites]


>stumbled across that list of alternate-test-scores - and discovered that my own SAT scores would qualify me. When I learned that, I giggled for a solid 30 seconds.

So, curious, I just looked for that list. I saw that an old SAT score of 1300 is apparently qualifying, and had precisely the same reaction. (Giggling.) I went: That's silly, I'm not smart, I'm just good at standardized tests, I shouldn't be let into anything, what are they even thinking.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 6:18 PM on March 3 [5 favorites]


The closest I ever came to any Mensa myself was that I was friends with all the smart kids. I even joined the Chess Club. But I only played a single match.

Because I was dealing weed to the smart kids and the math teaching assistant who supervised us.

I was smart enough to know that smart kids usually had money and always made good on debts. Eventually a math teacher, Mr. Firebaum, probably a Mensa member, stepped in as coach and I was kicked out, much to the chagrin of the team who was getting a killer deal on qtr ounces for study help.

But then I discovered the En Plein Air club. Which was mostly cute girls and the fun French teacher lady who, in the parlance of her day, was “hip.”

Anyway. Whose the dummy now, Mr. Firebaum?!
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 6:28 PM on March 3 [21 favorites]


Like most people here, I sussed out early on that Mensa was a club for high IQ losers, and that as a high IQ loser, I'd be better off avoiding it and not get trapped like crabs in a bucket. So now I'm smugly posting about it on Metafilter. And giggling to note that my SAT score is just 10 points short of the Triple 9 Society's cutoff. Dodged another bullet there.
posted by ocschwar at 6:39 PM on March 3 [9 favorites]


I think I was told I qualified based on my SAT score from 1969, but I have no way of proving my SAT score, and anyway, I'm not a joiner.
My sister-in-law was (maybe is...) a member, and I got one or two puzzles out of the magazine she had that I just really enjoyed solving. So I guess I'm a lurker.
posted by MtDewd at 6:41 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Also known as DENSA.

I had a coworker, who upon introduction told me that they were a member of Mensa. Further contacts with this person’s abilities, etc. really made me doubt said claim. When other coworkers remarked about this person’s abilities, I always noted that they were a member of Mensa. Laughter ensued.

Another earlier coworker was both a practicing Scientologist and a rabid libertarian. When I met up with them maybe 30 years later, they were a part of a Mensa group. Do I score a triple?

Insufferable.
posted by njohnson23 at 6:49 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


Oh, no, this made me wanna join the Triple Nine Club and Jamie Loftus the whole mess.
posted by lauranesson at 7:01 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


Ha! Society! Not Club. I am great at tests and fairly miserable at a large number of other things.
posted by lauranesson at 7:01 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


All these fucking brainiacs talking about how these giant assholes online are real sweethearts IRL ain't never heard of Vonnegut?
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
posted by notsnot at 7:02 PM on March 3 [21 favorites]


Metafilter: Our organization exists only to foster delusions of grandeur among milkmen
posted by benzenedream at 7:04 PM on March 3 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Mensa is the group, but a single one is a mensum.
[pause for crowd reaction]
And they're all single

(I haven't googled this, but I imagine this joke has got to have been done before. )

Now that should be a tag, or at least emoji. I'd use it all the time.
posted by ctmf at 7:13 PM on March 3 [5 favorites]


Two shows in, I retract my previous comment. I wish there was less history. Completely bungling the definitions of eugenics and phrenology while citing Radio Lab as your only source doesn't inspire confidence that I can trust any of the bits I don't know about. If you're going to half ass the research to that degree, just skip it.

The first hand accounts are fascinating and the host was brave as hell to engage in this. As much as I like and respect the the host, she really would have benefited from a producer willing to insist on a chronological narrative and a maximum of two air horn sound effects per show.
posted by eotvos at 7:18 PM on March 3 [16 favorites]


Nothing makes my eyes roll to cramping harder than when someone manages to steer a conversation to SAT scores. It’s second to Burning Man as a stealthy red flag for “let me tell you about how awesome I am.”

And I’m in fifties and that shit still happens.
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 7:20 PM on March 3 [10 favorites]


I think I work with a few Mensians

I think you'd know. They like to tell people. It's like Cross-fitters.

It's one of those clubs that probably made more sense before the internet. If you were the only nerd in your social circles, and you wanted to talk nerd stuff with people who like that kind of thing, how did you find them? Now that we have other ways to find like-minded people on any axis you can imagine, the kind of people who join a club like Mensa are most likely joining for the supposedly bragging rights, rather than for its practical benefit of connecting you with other standardised test lovers. So that means it ends up being a club of people who like to brag about their smarts, which are not the kind of people I would want to hang out with even if they did admit me.
posted by lollusc at 7:38 PM on March 3 [16 favorites]


Completely bungling the definitions of eugenics and phrenology

I caught that too, but she corrected it shortly after. Maybe she should have edited that out [she should have] but it seems clear to me that she understands the difference. I give it a pass.
posted by sjswitzer at 7:43 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]



I like her notion that all it takes to be a member is being good at standardized tests. I once considered taking standardized tests as a hobby. There are a lot that you can just register for, show up and take, or show up and take with a bit of money, and I had weekends free, and I always enjoy a standardized test.


Certainly beats doing sudoku and crosswords every single day.
posted by ocschwar at 7:44 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


I dreamed of one day joining MENSA when I was in my teens in the 80s. I figured that, along with some glasses, would finally prove to the world that I was smart. I finally got the glasses when I was 20 and by then I was too busy with work and computers to bother with MENSA.

(My sole knowledge of MENSA was that it was awesome because the MENSA practice test they'd print in Reader's Digest from time to time said that it was.)

Now I find I could join it just by digging up my old ACT or PSAT score... but somehow I don't want anything to do with it.
posted by mmoncur at 7:45 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


I...guess I don't see what's so terrible or worthy of mockery about a club for people who really like to solve puzzles where you have to be good at solving puzzles to get in?

A lot of people are very insecure about about the thought that someone may be smarter than them. Strangely, they tend to get quite giddy over people who are better than them at sport for example.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:51 PM on March 3 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: a chronological narrative and a maximum of two air horn sound effects per show
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:16 PM on March 3 [13 favorites]


Ah, the old "My IQ is high enough to join MENSA if I wanted to but it's full of jerks who brag about their IQ" humble brag.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 8:20 PM on March 3 [14 favorites]


For what it's worth, I've known quite few Mensans in my time, and without exception, they all had much more interesting things to talk about than their IQ.

I mean, that'd be like joining a car club, and bragging about how well you did in your license test - who does that?
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:38 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Ah the old "woman/queer person/POC tells story about horrible harassment that occurred at the hands of group I like so I have to categorize their story as a humble brag or insecurity in order to feel better about my peers".
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:59 PM on March 3 [30 favorites]


Yeah, no one who has criticized Mensa here has been upset that people are smart. We're upset that people are assholes. Electing to join a group all about being smart that has IQ test minimums to enter it is prima facia evidence of at least latent assholery. The only way I can think to have an organization like Mensa not be chock-full of absolute piss-drinkers would be if joining was handled by covert kidnapping of observed candidates. Making it volunteer ensures that would-be membership will consist mostly of those utterly convinced of their own superiority, regarding whom I refer you to the esteemed Drs. and honorable professors Kruger unt Dunning.

Qualifications: I'm a gigantic asshole who is extremely proud of how smart I am. Me joining Mensa would have been terrible, like entrusting a coke fiend with a key of pure Colombian to mule. I know what those assholes who joined were thinking because I think the same way.
posted by Scattercat at 9:09 PM on March 3 [20 favorites]


small brain: I'm in MENSA

big brain: I'm too smart to join MENSA

galaxy brain: I'm too smart to talk about how I'm too smart to join MENSA
posted by axiom at 9:10 PM on March 3 [35 favorites]


But even better was when my sister, a world class goofball, a while later at thanksgiving, announced she had gained membership. She had a certificate. A card. A ring! ( which should’ve been a clue).

If they had a ring, I might have joined. Otherwise, I'd assume that the way that you show off being smart is simply to go around Reed Richardsing it up. If you have to rely on something that someone else created to present your brainy bona fides, how smart can you really be? At least with a ring, you've got something that you can fondle and act mysterious about at the parties that you're theoretically invited to, pretending that they couldn't handle the truth about the whiz-kid Illuminati.

(BRB gonna make up something and sell that sucker on Etsy)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:36 PM on March 3 [7 favorites]


I read Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber a few times when I was young. Around the time some of my friends were looking at getting involved with Mensa, I read (or reread) this line from Prince of Chaos:

I don't know that I ever wanted greatness, on its own. It seems rather like wanting to be an engineer, rather than wanting to design something - or wanting to be a writer, rather than wanting to write. It should be a by-product, not a thing in itself. Otherwise, it's just an ego trip.

Which describes *exactly* my younger self's concerns about Mensa, or maybe even formed those concerns. Who cares how smart a test says you are? Show me what you got!
posted by quillbreaker at 9:51 PM on March 3 [10 favorites]


I joined Mensa once. I had a fairly mediocre experience, it mostly just seemed like a bunch of nerds who had no interests in common. Once I found a bunch of nerds who did have interests in common, I stopped paying dues. I don't think I told anyone I was a member of Mensa other than people who knew me well enough to know that wasn't a surprise.

The magazine was mostly okay.

There is a particular kind of person that desperately craves the validation of being the smartest person in the room. I'm not entirely sure why: maybe they desire it so they don't have to justify their thinking, or maybe they get a little thrill out of people re-evaluating them. I know I hate it, and I'm counting on no-one here remembering.
posted by Merus at 9:59 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


I'm definitely a loser but I'm too dumb for mensa. Thank god for metafilter, eh?
posted by klanawa at 10:45 PM on March 3 [12 favorites]


Intelligence is generally a good thing, but overall life outcomes start to drop around 130 IQ. That's enough to get a doctorate in anything, and beyond that negative forces of poor socialization and maladaptive education take over. It's possible there are thought pattern differences along the lines of autism spectrum that contribute to the downward trends, but even something as simple as learning to coast in school can mess people up for life.

The Mensa tests are just a bit past that peak. They did well on a test and self-select for wanting to do well on a test, but by that point the test is correlated with being more broken, hence the Mensa crowd. By Triple-Nine (almost Mensa's Mensa) this trend is pretty obvious though unfixable, so they're less haughty but somehow more misfit. I'm not now, and it's statistically unlikely I've ever been a member, just saying Jamie Loftusing the place probably won't be Mensa-squared satisfying.
posted by netowl at 10:48 PM on March 3 [12 favorites]


Thank god for metafilter, eh?
I know, right? We have the coolest rings.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:50 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


I attempted to join Mensa in the 90s. Unfortunately they didn't seem to have anyone who knew how to stuff an application form in an envelope and post it.

Like they say; intelligence is mostly luck.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 11:44 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


I joined Mensa when I was ten, in the UK. I never met anyone else except at the test, which I think we drove to Cambridge to take, but liked the SIG (special interest group) photocopied zines, and considered going to a meetup of RPGSIG.

My parents paid the membership fees, so I was still in it till mid teens where my friends told me for the hundredth time that by joining I had failed the Mensa membership test...

Carol Vorderman and Clive Sinclair always seemed cool, though.
posted by fizban at 12:19 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Thank god for metafilter, eh?
I know, right? We have the coolest rings.

Or at least the bestest multidimensional snark.
posted by sammyo at 12:54 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I know, right? We have the coolest rings.

Can we have Metafilter rings? Pleeeeeeease?
posted by lollusc at 12:58 AM on March 4 [8 favorites]


This is odd and a little embarrassing but I am intermittently attracted to the idea of taking the Miller Analogies Test, which a.) is reputedly extremely difficult and b.) happens to very very much play to my strengths as far as this sort of testing goes. I don't even want to join any of these societies (many accept the test, which is the connection I'm making). I just want to see how high I can score.
posted by atoxyl at 2:19 AM on March 4 [4 favorites]




I enjoyed it when I was listening to it, but after it was done it struck me that 90% of it is about approximately five people at two or three parties. It would be interesting to find out more about the other people. Without actually having to join, myself. Assuming I could, of course.

(The first thing that an IQ test tests is how seriously a person takes an IQ test. In fact, I suspect that's the main thing it tests.)
posted by Grangousier at 2:52 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Although I dropped 160 minutes of podcast on you, I’m a little sad that the thread is mostly people taking swipes at Mensa, which, from the podcast, sounds like a haven for a lot of smart awkward people who just want a place to be. And in that haven, Loftus discovered a rotten zone that maybe isn’t quite a Chan but is definitely Chan-adjacent, with many of the same patterns of slow radicalization. It’s like watching The Alt-Right Playbook again. And, if the Mensa group hasn’t produced domestic terrorism, it’s probably because of the cost of entry and the aging population, who are willing to attack people viciously online but still feel some shame (or at least social danger). I also saw a lot of the “protect the group, even the toxic ones” thinking that helps make gaming and (to a lesser extent) SF fandom danger zones.

I think there’s so much more here than “har har Mensa.”
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:16 AM on March 4 [44 favorites]


(The first thing that an IQ test tests is how seriously a person takes an IQ test. In fact, I suspect that's the main thing it tests.)

This is discussed, along with a lot more “IQ tests aren’t what most people think” in the first episode.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:18 AM on March 4


> That’s my closest brush with Mensa.

Well, mine was watching this
posted by BruxoPimba at 4:35 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


taking standardized tests as a hobby

Using a whole slew of sample tests, I took the logic portion of the LSAT everyday for a few months, just for mental exercise. It was interesting how you could creep your score up with practice. I didn't get any more "logical", just got better at taking the test. (Hit a ceiling when it came down to the "trick" questions, but with experience you could probably learn the tricks.)
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:46 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Hit a ceiling when it came down to the "trick" questions, but with experience you could probably learn the tricks

You definitely can. I took the GMAT, and they had some stuff like that on the hard track for the math section. I went to a prep course and they walk you through the tricks.
posted by unreason at 5:09 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


a haven for a lot of smart awkward people who just want a place to be

The American Studies Association?

I dunno, as my grandpa used to say, there's different kinds of smart.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:15 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


So glad my story of MENSA is about not joining (and beer). So very glad.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:28 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I am a smart lady who is pretty good at tests but really bad at tolerating men who want to prove they are smarter than me in some way, (which they might be! I don't care!) which is why I never wanted to try Mensa. I just assumed that it was full of those dudes and life is too short for that.
posted by emjaybee at 5:51 AM on March 4 [9 favorites]


I sent this Achewood comic to a former coworker (who wanted my job at the time but couldn't actually perform it) who was very proud of being in MENSA and I don't think he found it as funny as I do.
posted by Young Kullervo at 5:52 AM on March 4 [4 favorites]


I suppose some of the "I'm smart enough to join," isn't intended to brag, but to preempt accusations of sour grapes.
posted by RobotHero at 6:01 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


So, curious, I just looked for that list. I saw that an old SAT score of 1300 is apparently qualifying, and had precisely the same reaction. (Giggling.) I went: That's silly, I'm not smart, I'm just good at standardized tests, I shouldn't be let into anything, what are they even thinking.

The lists of qualifying tests for Mensa and the Triple 9 thing (which I hadn't heard of before today) are funny. Those tests don't measure smartness, they measure how good you are at test taking. I always had terrible grades but I did well on standardized tests, so apparently I qualify to join both based on tests I took decades ago.

I heard of Mensa as a tween or early teen when they sent me a flyer -- I don't know if this was a mass mailing or if they were using the list of people who had taken one of those tests (PSAT maybe?). Somehow it just sounded unappealing to me, and I never seriously considered it. I think it was the emphasis on exclusivity that turned me off -- at that age I wanted a bigger social circle, not a smaller and clubbier one, so that part of it didn't speak to me.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:26 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Heh looks like I would qualify for the triple nine based on my GRE score, but I was most proud of how I did on the Chemistry subject GRE because when I left that test I had to sit in my car staring off into space thinking about nothing for about 15 minutes before I could concentrate enough to safely drive. That was the hardest test I've ever taken and was surprised when I showed my score to my undergraduate advisor because I thought I didn't do well (610), but she said that it was the highest score she had ever seen on the test and historically people at my university get 450-500. I truly understand netowl's take on it though because even I know I am broken so it must be more apparent to everyone else as well.
posted by koolkat at 6:32 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


A former co-worker was talking about a Mensa convention in that smug condescending way, to which I responded:

Q: How many Mensans does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Five - one to screw in the bulb and four others to tell him how smart he is.

The conversation ended.
posted by Billiken at 6:36 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


I'll tell you what I miss as far as a personal "I am truly a genius" bubble of narcissism. The period in high school after taking the PSAT, when every college in the country sent big colorful attractive brochures..
posted by thelonius at 6:52 AM on March 4 [17 favorites]


I'd think the other four would be postulating that they would've done it slightly better but it would take too long to explain, Billiken.

oh my god, is that Achewood comic why in my head it's always MENSA

MENSA MENSA MENSA
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:54 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Definitely should be MENSA!, like COBRA!

(the wiki page for COBRA! is amazingly comprehensive - it should fulfill posterity's need for COBRA! oriented information perfectly)
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:25 AM on March 4 [5 favorites]


I am about halfway through the third episode of the podcast, and agree with GenjiandProust that there's a lot more to it if you can get past the weird time-jumpiness and other flaws of the first episode. I do wish she had been able to talk to more people but I also completely understand not wanting to put herself in literal danger, especially after footing the bill for all of this personally. It feels more like she got swept up by a tide and decided to write/talk about it and less like this was an intentional investigative journalism endeavor, which is fine. I am starting to enjoy the sound effects as she's getting better at when to use them and not use them; part of it is I think it suits her personality/persona, and part of it is I just like at a meta-level hearing someone get better at something (in this case podcasting).
posted by misskaz at 7:26 AM on March 4 [6 favorites]


Back in the days of Web 1.0, there were a handful of "Mensa admission tests" floating around the Geocities aether. My favorite was the one that had about 500 questions that it would shuffle, then deal out in pages of 50 at a time. Every time you finished a page, you clicked "Next" and it loaded up the next 50. The questions were all plausible for an "IQ test," and there was a timer running in big black <blink> up at the top, but there was no way through that test, man--every time you clicked "Next" you just got 50 questions picked at random out of the full set. Astute test-takers would probably notice the duplicates show up as quickly as page 2. My smugly-self-assured 17-year-old ass didn't notice until page 7 or 8, because I was making great time and I was sure this would be the thing to validate my own feelings of intellectual superiority.

Anyway, you did get a score on that test, based entirely on how quickly you noticed the ruse and closed the window. I, uh, did not make it into Mensa that day, but now I kind of want to re-implement it and start pushing it via targeted ads on Facebook or someplace you have to give it your full name to play.
posted by Mayor West at 7:34 AM on March 4 [6 favorites]


To be fair, MetaFilter is basically the native habitat for people qualified for Mensa but are insufferably smug about not being members because Mensans are insufferably smug.

Mensae, surely?
posted by Mayor West at 7:37 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


What the fuck is this triple nine shit
posted by weed donkey at 9:13 AM on March 4 [5 favorites]


Fucking wild how many comments in here are talking about Mensa but not about the podcast.

Not surprising, honestly.

First things: Jamie Loftus is great. If you're not familiar with her she's a comedian who has been a guest on a ton of podcasts and also co-hosts the Bechdel Cast podcast. She's a funny, insightful comedian and I was really excited to listen to this solo project when it first dropped a couple months ago.

Second thing: the podcast itself is great! It begins on a "har har Mensa" dare but Loftus is conscientious enough to find the humanity of the other people who intersect with her in the story and stops herself from grabbing only the low-hanging fruit.

If anything I would say this is a podcast about the need to belong and all of the complications and misery that can produce.
posted by Tevin at 9:49 AM on March 4 [16 favorites]


Fucking wild how many comments in here are talking about Mensa but not about the podcast.

Not surprising, honestly.


I mean, I guess? I've enjoyed reading the conversation here and if anyone has felt excluded or unable to express their opinions, well, insert Mensa-esque plate of beans navelgazing here I suppose.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:37 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


What the fuck is this triple nine shit

Looks like the Mensa for Mensa folks. I noped out pretty quick after that appeared to be the case.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:38 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I had never heard of TripleNine either, and in a fit of morbid curiosity I went aGoogling and found a story of schism worthy of Encyclopedia Dramatica. Yikes.

Confession - I can’t bring myself to listen to the podcast because the writer strikes me as kind of uncompassionate. My knee jerk reaction is that this sort of society has some inherent tensions: a set of people who are looking for companionship and shared humanity but are doing it by defining themselves on the basis of extreme difference from others. So everyone you could meet who would qualify is also in some part a potential threat to your sense of self. I’m thinking about this a lot these days and it actually feels really tragic to me, not funny at all.
posted by eirias at 11:04 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Definitely should be MENSA!, like COBRA!

(the wiki page for COBRA! is amazingly comprehensive - it should fulfill posterity's need for COBRA! oriented information perfectly)
posted by thatwhichfalls


whaaaaaaa?
posted by COBRA! at 11:05 AM on March 4 [21 favorites]


I'm still finishing listening to episode 4, but in all honesty I'm not enjoying it. She doesn't really cover how she got involved in this whole MENSA thing and the entire podcast is "I went to this con where everyone hates me and acts like weird jerks."
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:39 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Confession - I can’t bring myself to listen to the podcast because the writer strikes me as kind of uncompassionate.

I mean, don’t let me badger you into spending 160 minutes of your life on it, but she’s, if not extremely compassionate (she is going to meet people who sent her death threats or defended the senders), but she’s pretty even-handed. She identifies that, while some people were hostile or weird, others were supportive and protective. While she has some harsh stuff to say about the organization that is openly enabling Chan behavior, I think she takes the individual people as she finds them.

I agree maybe the podcast could use a stronger through line and thesis, but it covered pretty well, and I found it worth the listen.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:13 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I'm still finishing listening to episode 4, but in all honesty I'm not enjoying it. She doesn't really cover how she got involved in this whole MENSA thing

That's why you start with episode one.

The whole series is a commitment of time, for sure. But she does a good job as an outsider to understand the culture within the constraints of finite time and resources.

The thing that stuck out for me is how easy it is for a largely homogeneous and insular community to become defensive and toxic. In this case there's a real connection to the libertarian worldview, which always has an assumption that success equals merit. In this case, though, success is measured by your status in the in-group instead of--and in many cases in spite of--your quality of life.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:53 PM on March 4 [4 favorites]


Looks like my ACT score was high enough to get into Mensa. I wonder if I could track it down; I took it in about 1985, in a different state.

I've wondered for years whether I could do serious damage to arrogant Libertarian-esque "free speech because we're extra-smart" dudes by a combination of negging and reinforcements of good behaviors. But there aren't many settings full of those people where I'm actually welcome; Mensa would fix the invitation problem.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:01 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


By that time, I wasn’t concerned about only myself—a number of women had reached out saying they’d had similar experiences in the UnMod group that made them feel unsafe and discouraged them from participating in Mensa further. Amanda and the other Mensan explained at this time that UnMod existed as an unmoderated forum due to a schism that separated Mensa about five years back that had resulted in the main group being split into one moderated and one unmoderated forum. UnMod was the solution, a fully Mensa-sanctioned group in which a very active core group of members formed a community based just as much in inflammatory language and harassment as it was in genuine community.

- from a later article on her Mensa Journey, emphasis mine

I cringed at that sentence. Oh did I cringe.

Young me could have probably joined Mensa, teen me never tried, adult me pretty much forgot Mensa existed until that article about the chessboard Kickstarter made by a dude who is proudly labeling himself a Mensa member.
posted by egypturnash at 3:03 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]



Fucking wild how many comments in here are talking about Mensa but not about the podcast.


Is it? It takes time to listen to four hours of content.

I’m only up to episode 3 but the whole organisation, such as it is, seems incredibly dysfunctional, and crippled by a total failure to deal with their worst elements. Of course, they’re hardly alone in that respect.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:17 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


I don't drive much and when I do it's not very long so podcasts aren't my thing. CAN'T YOU JUST HAVE A TRANSCRIPT? But, realistically, a lot of people can't. Anyway, I made an exception for this one and listened through. It was a good ride.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:37 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


>>>> If you're a fairly bright young person, Mensa Tumblr seems like a cool idea because it'll be people who share some of the same experiences and interests.

>> Fixed.
>> posted by Fizz


Nah, Fizz. The humor, art, fanfic, essays, smut, stories, poetry, community, activism, and sheer scads of culture that comes out of Tumblr should not be dismissed. What has MENSA ever produced other than ... well, sorry to be deliberately gross but it's accurate ... self-expressed ejaculate?
posted by MiraK at 4:07 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


I can't say i really liked the podcast. By the end it was just kind of exhausting. Probably much like Loftus herself.

I'm mildly surprised how the mensans in the podcast justify their shit forum. Makes the active participants sound like a group of misfits using their perceived victimhood to indulge complete assholery. The admittedly small sample of mensans come across as being misfits because they're socially stunted, not because of their intelligence. None come across as especially intelligent.

My impression, from the podcast, is that Mensa is a bit like the Atheists — a useful group in theory

I can't really see how mensa even passes the test as potentially useful organization. Even if they didn't come off as toxic to the core. I strongly share one of the same conclusions as Loftus, that getting into a feedback loop of how superior you are is something people often handle poorly.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:17 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


I heard the first one. She just really doesn't cover much about why she decided to pick on/join MENSA, and quickly fast forwards to the con from hell.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:30 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Wow, I read through the Paste articles and those were a lot better.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:36 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


I strongly share one of the same conclusions as Loftus, that getting into a feedback loop of how superior you are is something people often handle poorly.

Not just for racists anymore!
posted by rhizome at 5:06 PM on March 4


...when someone manages to steer a conversation to SAT scores... I’m in fifties and that shit still happens.

I mean, there's an entire thread of it right here, so...
posted by naoko at 7:59 PM on March 4 [7 favorites]


The Mensa admission test where the real test is working out that it's wasting your time is pretty good, though
posted by Merus at 8:26 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


This was a great listen.
posted by reiichiroh at 9:28 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


To be fair, MetaFilter is basically the native habitat for people qualified for Mensa but are insufferably smug about not being members because Mensans are insufferably smug.

I beg your pardon -- of the organizations I could have joined but didn't, I am much more smug about not joining the Daughters of the American Revolution than of not joining Mensa. (I'm another SAT technicality.)
posted by Karmakaze at 10:14 AM on March 5 [5 favorites]


Wow, I'm amazed that Mensa openly decided that since their Facebook group was being taken over by racists and homophobes, they'd create a second group where racism and homophobia were welcome and encouraged.

It's not an unofficial group, or a secret one. it's right here on their official website. It was started in 2014, still going strong, and has official IRL meetings at Mensa gatherings. This "small minority" has 2200 members, slightly more than the 2180 members in the "Hospitality" group.

This is absolutely insane to me and I'm so glad I never joined.

From someone on Reddit in 2018:
I joined Mensa a week ago, and I made the massive mistake of joining the unmoderated American Mensa Firehouse page, to find it is almost entirely r/The_Donald tier trash-posting non stop, racism, homophobia, an assertion that slavery was better for America.

Y'all wonder why Mensa can't attract younger individuals, but Jesus Christ there is absolutely no way in hell I would drive over an hour to meet any of these people in real life....
posted by mmoncur at 9:25 PM on March 5 [6 favorites]


Since this was posted by someone with the name Ohenryand80spunkrockersTheMinutemen, I was expecting it to be very short. To my surprise, it was long, and I'm only partway through episode four. But it has been worth the listen.
posted by sy at 5:27 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Also: I agree with a lot of things that have been said here, and want to add that I'm struck--though in hindsight I feel like I shouldn't be--at how unintellectual and incurious and in general disappointing Mensa is in Loftus's telling. I think about all the places in my life, past and present, where I have met curious and informed people and learned new things, from the dining hall of my unselective midwestern undergraduate college to the shed where I go to play pool with a bunch of guys on a weekday evening once a month to a Sunday school class I went to a few years ago to the weekly dinners I attended as part of a postdoc I had after grad school. These settings were each very different from the others, but all of them were way better at what Mensa claims to be doing than Mensa evidently actually is.
posted by sy at 5:32 PM on March 6 [5 favorites]


New Yorker article on this.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:18 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


CheeseDigestsAll: "I think it's time for Densa, people who aren't smart enough (or desperate enough) to get into Mensa. (I haven't googled this, but I imagine this joke has got to have been done before. )"

I've tracked it back at least as far as the August 1983 issue of Omni.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:33 AM on March 9 [6 favorites]


I listened to the Podcast. It was entertaining! Entertaining in a kind of "look through your fingers" kind of way. I went back and forth, though, between thinking it had anything to do with Mensa and had as much to do with online communities and the people who tend to dominate in those spaces. Your average sea lion will always take a post and it would take quite a lot of moderation and community engagement to keep one in check. And that goes for any grouping of people really. Self-appointmented male intellectuals who bluster and have low concern for others (I'm too rational for empathy!) are a staple of modern, capitalist villages. People generally don't want to spar ad nauseum with another person but, for those that do enjoy that, who get that frisson of excitement when scoring, online communities are where it's at. The thing which sets Mensa apart is that they have an entry requirement and they are actually organized enough to meet in real life. And, in fact, were organized in real life before they organized online. Also, Facebook is *so bad* at being a community discussion place. If you have any critical number of people, you will lose the thread, lose posts, be drowned out by noise. An unmoderated space will always end up dominated by a few sea lions, mansplainers and their apologists. I belong to a few female-dominated Facebook groups and we have some other issues that are starting to feel endemic to those spaces but there seems to be a much stronger commitment to community cohesion.

Also, there's a lot of space between "here's my online persona" and "this is a death threat." The gaslighting on that issue seemed the most egregious of the piece and not at all surprising. And the lack of intellectual good faith is where you have to go, "I'm sorry...this is Mensa?"
posted by amanda at 7:55 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


« Older Madam Yale, early entrepreneur in health products...   |   “And chesse cum by fore the, be not to redy,” Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments