E.B. White on What Should Be Done About Crackpots

When a Crackpot Runs for President. —New York Times, September 15, 2016

Our President and Crackpot Ideas. —Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2017

Trump keeps making crackpot accusations. —Washington Post, June 7 2018

The Tweeting of a Crackpot. —RealClear Politics, February 1, 2019

From an essay, “Crackpots,” by E.B. White in the September 13, 1942 New Yorker:

We noticed, with some misgivings, that the American Federation of Teachers put out a warning the other day that there would be no “crackpots” admitted to its membership. Only those teachers would be admitted who would be a credit to the Federation and instill in boys and girls an abiding loyalty to the ideals and principles of democracy. But as we understand it, one of the noblest attributes of democracy is that it contains no one who can truthfully say, of two pots, which is the cracked, which is the whole. That is basic. The Federation better welcome all comers, and let pot clink against pot.


  1. President Reagan also was not immune from being called a crackpot. In the July 1986 Harper’s magazine: “Reagan’s crackpot moralism,” by Alan Wolfe.

  2. Doris Geenen Graf says

    Just read all the Recent Posts and enjoyed them very much. Keep writing.

  3. Doris -Thanks, nice to hear from you back in the great state of Wisconsin. – Best, Jack

  4. Barnard Collier says

    Dear Jack,


    I’ve long wished to open a store for eccentrics called The Cracked Pot.

    The phonetic near equivalent of “crackpot” harks back to around the 13th century and then meant a kind of big ditch or pit (pot) where many crows (crakes) gathered to caw at one another.

    A few hundred years ago “pot” became a word for one’s head and “crake” morphed into crack. So crackpot meant a broken head that leaked the sounds of a silly, stupid mind.

    Here are a few examples of crackpot in use.

    • Everybody has the right to express what he thinks. That, of course, lets the crackpots in. But if you cannot tell a crackpot when you see one, then you ought to be taken in.
    Harry S. Truman

    • Crackpot is an excellent job because the expectations are so low. No one ever tells crackpots that they should be doing more.
    Scott Adams

    • The point is that we are among those who cannot get their mouths around all the little Yeses that add up to tacit acceptance of a world run by crackpot realists and subject to blind drift. And that, you see, is something to which we do belong; we belong to those who are still capable of personally rejecting. Our minds are not yet captive.
    C. Wright Mills

    • The crackpot, completely bogus, absolutely insane Elixir of Life.Did it actually exist?
    Hilary Duff

    • “The government has assembled the world’s largest collection of crackpots.”
    Steve Sheinkin

    • The notion that inventors are anorak-wearing crackpots with glasses held together with Sellotape is beguiling but wrong.
    Trevor Baylis

    • Pure science is a myth: Both mathematical theoreticians like Albert Einstein and practical crackpots like Henry Ford dealt with different aspects of the same world.
    Edward Abbey

    • If the guy out in the woods with the Michigan Militia is a real estate negotiator, instead of some crackpot, and has a normal life, that’s unnerving. You don’t want to think it’s as normal as the guy next door, hedging his lawn. It’s easier to demonize or separate them off from ‘us.’
    Michael Moore

    • I am not paying for some crackpot old fool to teach him magic tricks!” yelled uncle Vernon.
    J K. Rowling

    • Most of the crackpot papers which are submitted to The Physical Review are rejected, not because it is impossible to understand them, but because it is possible. Those which are impossible to understand are usually published. When the great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled, incomplete and confusing form. To the discoverer himself it will be only half-understood; to everybody else it will be a mystery. For any speculation which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope.
    Freeman Dyson

    • Every inventor is a crackpot until his idea succeeds.
    Mark Twain

    • The other day I started to take a course in psycho-ceramics. What is psycho-ceramics? It’s the study of crackpots.
    Joey Bishop

    • When you’re one step ahead of the crowd you’re a genius. When you’re two steps ahead, you’re a crackpot.
    Shlomo Riskin

    • Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of “crackpot” than the stigma of conformity.
    Thomas J. Watson

    It’s probably a damnable defamation of the word crackpot glibly to call President Trump a crackpot. The word does not contain much relationship to the concept of pre-meditated evil, and what President Trump is saying and doing reeks of villainous intent and viciousness of which the kind-of cute-word “crackpot” is innocent.

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