Fear of Muslims turns New York city into an armed camp in the film, The Siege
President Obama, the intelligence community, the US military, police chiefs across the nation, academics, some politicians— you know— people who are in a position to actually know what they’re talking about— have been warning for years that demonizing Muslims and their religion plays right into the hands of terrorist groups like al Qaeda and Daesh/Isil/Isis that are actively recruiting young men and women to join their ranks. Furthermore, it hurts intelligence collection collection efforts by alienating the very communities that have a working knowledge of individual terrorists and potential terrorists.
This latter handicap endangers civilians and military personnel alike. There is an excellent film called The Siege (1998) starring Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, and Bruce Willis, that brilliantly demonstrates what happens when the constitutional balance between freedom and security is violated by those who promulgate fear. The story follows a small group of Iraqi terrorists who bring New York city to a grinding halt. Seems they were a bit upset that George H.W Bush, who, while leading a coalition of forces that dislodged Saddam Hussein‘s troops from Kuwait, also decided to destroy the majority of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure;* and imposed a sanctions regime that resulted in the death of 500,000 Iraqi children.
Terrorists, especially those with origins in Iraq where the original Isil group was formed under the leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and was then known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, really don’t need help from US demagogues like Donald Drumpf and Ted Cruz to swell their ranks.
Cruz wants to make a real-life sequel to The Siege by putting entire Muslim communities and mosques in the US under surveillance: specifically, to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.” And he has tried to burnish his macho foreign policy image by carpet-bombing Isil where they live, no matter the collateral damage, or that it would likely constitute a war crime.
The tombstone below, found in Central Park over the weekend, says it all.
The epigraph reads: Made America Hate Again
*The decision to destroy the Iraqi civilian infrastructure resulted in the following: electric power stations (92 percent of installed capacity destroyed), refineries (80 percent of production capacity), petrochemical complexes, telecommunications centers (including 135 telephone networks), bridges (more than 100), roads, highways, railroads, hundreds of locomotives and boxcars full of goods, radio and television broadcasting stations, cement plants, and factories producing aluminum, textiles, electric cables, and medical supplies.
In our previous efforts to explain the Trump Phenomenon (see here, here, and here), we’ve used Fox News, Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein (1818), and the cult hit film Ghostbusters (1984) as reference points. It is the scene from Ghostbusters, where Dr Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) is unable to control his unconscious fear and unwittingly provides a new destructive form for the beastly other-worldly avenger, Gozer the Traveler, which provides the segue to our next literary work to mine: William Golding’s classic 1954 novel Lord of the Flies. And should Drumpf carry through with his recent threat to start acting presidential, we might have to do a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde take-off as well. God help us all.
“Donald Trump was right. All these illegals need to be deported.”
For the record, the man was in the country legally. Then two weeks ago at a Trump rally in Las Vegas, his speech was interrupted by one or more protesters, a common occurrence these days. As a protester was being dragged out of the arena, Dumpster Drumpfster shouted into his microphone:
“I’d like to punch him in the face…He’s smiling, having a good time…In the old days,” he added, protesters would be “carried out on stretchers. We’re not allowed to push back anymore.”
Well, he got his wish, by proxy. Last Saturday night in North Carolina, a protester was being led by police out of the aren when he was ambushed by a 78 yer old, pony-tailed, cowboy hatted man, as he passed by. In the videotape below, the attacker, John McGraw, hits the victim, Rakeem Jones, with an elbow strike to the side of his head. McGraw, who wasn’t arrested at the scene, watches as Jones is dragged away by the police as if he is the perp and not the victim The five or so police that were within a few feet of the incident tried to pull the old Sergeant “I see nothing!” Schultz routine; that is, until a video surfaced that clearly showed the assault.
A Drumpf supporter cheap-shots a black protester. Wow, what courage.
Asked afterwards if he had any regrets, McGraw replied no. After intimating that Jones might have been a Muslim terrorist, McGraw doubled down, saying:
“Next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”
In last night’s debate, Trump defended his various provocations, saying they were “very, very appropriate.” But it’s not just his supporters that are succumbing to the Drumpf’s bullying and incitement. In the previous debate, a desperate Marco Rubio precipitated a dick measuring contest over a question about the size of Drumpf’s hands; and Ted Cruz joined in what turned out to be the GOP’s rendition of a schoolyard brawl, laced with adolescent taunts and insults.
Drumpf’s strategy seems to be to ratchet up the public’s sense of fear and anxiety about everyone from terrorists to immigrants to Muslims going to school or vacationing in the U.S., and then say: “Who’s your daddy? Who’s going to protect you? Little Marco? That ‘pussy,’ Lying Ted Cruz?”
Lord of the Flies
Which brings us to the Lord of the Flies. (Required reading for Drumpfcampaign strategists and available as an appendix to the Donald Drumpf Playbook of World Domination.) The story begins with a group of young boys who crash-land on a deserted island and are forced to create some semblance of a social order until they can be rescued by adults. Though they start off well, electing a leader and creating a basic division of labor, things deteriorate as fear of “the beast” replaces rationality. A large number of them devolve from civilized creatures into outright savages, culminating in the murder of two young boys whose respective intelligence and compassion are seen as “foreign,” as “other.”
(I’ll assume that most readers are familiar with the basic story, as it was required school reading for most of us. But for those who aren’t, or in need of a refresh, the basic plot points and an exploration of its rather complicated themes and symbolism will be supplied in a subsequent post. For instance, literary critics still debate whether the story is a religious or a Freudian allegory.)
Reported sightings of the Beast initiate a search and destroy mission, led by the character who most resembles Drumpf, a self-asserted leader by the name of Jack. Jack probably doesn’t even believe that the Beast is real, but he does realize how the fear of it can be used to concentrate influence and power into his hands. As the leader of the hunting tribe (comprised of boys who much prefer the excitement of stalking and bloodletting to the drudgeries of community building), Jack leads them on a mission to find and kill the Beast. Their failure to locate it or its lair is rationalized by the theory that it is actually and animal-ghost hybrid, which becomes a fear force multiplier.
The boys do kill a large pig on their first night out. They cut off its head and put it on a steak as a sacrificial offering to the Beast. Later, as the head decomposes in the hot jungle sun, it is suffused by a large cloud of flies, giving the book its title. (Lord of the Flies is the literal translation of the Biblical name for an evil, mischievous spirit by the name of Beezlebub.*) One of the boys, Simon, contemplates the pig’s head and the fear it represents. The head appears to talk to him, revealing that the Beast itself does not exist, but is the externalization of the boys’ own primitive fears being made manifest. When Simon shares this insight with the other boys, he is roundly rejected and then ritualistically murdered.(Apparently just as haters gotta hate, fear mongers gotta fear.)
Moral of the story as applied to Drumpf’s political campaign: Be careful what you ask for.
Foreign Policy Implications
Imagine how Drumpf’s authoritarian bullying would play out on the world stage if he were to become the executor of US foreign policy. He has cited approvingly a statement by the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini that” It is better to live one day as a lion than one hundred years as a sheep.” And he seems anxious to cultivate his budding bromance with the Russian dictator, Vladamir Putin, which Huffpo describes as follows:
As if the Republican Presidential race wasn’t strange enough already, we recently witnessed Russian President Vladimir Putin praising, of all people, Donald Trump. Putin called Trump a brilliant and talented leader who is colorful and “the absolute front-runner in the presidential race.” Trump already in an earlier remark said that he would “probably get along very well” with Putin.
Speaking of authoritarians, it’s no wonder that one of Drumpf’s supporters is Donald Duke, the head of the clueless Klu Klux Klan. Then of course there is Drumpf’s signature foreign policy initiative: building a YUGE wall across the US-Mexican border to keep all those the rapists, murderers, and drug dealers out. And getting Mexico to pay for it, of course. If you believe that, I’ve got a case of Trump Steaks to sell ya.
If Donald Drumpf can be symbolized as a rotting pig’s head, then the media-industrial-complex can be compared to a hoard of buzzing flies feeding off its rotten flesh. Take the case of Melissa Harris Perry and MSNBC. Though Perry didn’t explicitly cite MSNBC’s relentless Drumpf coverage as a reason for walking away from her fours-hours-a-weak hosting gig, given that the network had preempted her show twice to cover the presidential political races (without even the courtesy of a heads-up to her and her loyal audience of self-described nerds); and given that Drumpf receives the vast amount of coverage compared to other candidates―something like 5 to 1 by all the networks―it’s not hard to conclude that Perry, one of the smartest cable teevee hosts in the business, was a Drumpfian casualty.
During the middle of a seasoned journalist’s critique on the scope of reporting that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has received, MSNBC cut the programming to give Donald Trump more coverage.
New York Times political reporter Nick Confessorewas saying that the bombastic candidate has dominated news outlets to gain free airtime when the station cut to a rally where the candidate was giving one of his stump speeches.
“Every time he opens his mouth, he’s on national TV,” Confessore said, before getting cut off.
Trump’s use of vitriolic rhetoric against Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, as well as his misogynistic statements against women, is pushing bullying, prejudice, and incitement to new heights. Which of course fits the present zeitgeist perfectly, because it is precisely the intolerance and fear of The Other that is a major Bogeyman of Trump supporters. On Drumpf Island, his tribe finds license to “go native.”
History, and literature, is rife with unethical, unscrupulous individuals and characters. Deception, lies, manipulation,and subterfuge are their stock-in-trade. That so many real-life individuals gravitate toward one particular party over the other, I will let political scientists explain. For now, they are almost exclusively concentrated in the Republican party, which is on the verge of tearing itself apart. The center cannot hold, as Yeats described it.
After enduring decades of manipulation and lies by the fear-mongering Republican establishment―Trump being just the latest, unplugged manifestation thereof―it will be fascinating to see if the GOP electorate finally says: Enough is enough!
How long can the fear card be played? FDR said: We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Jesus proclaimed: Fear not. And as The Urantia Book puts it:
Few persons live up to the faith which they really have. Unreasoned fear is a master intellectual fraud practiced upon the evolving mortal soul.
*Beelzebub is described in The Urantia Book as a key lieutenant of the planet’s rebellious Planetary Prince, Caligastia; i.e., the actual, historical Devil. Beelzebub was in charge of a group of rebellious, mischevous midwayers, so named because they occupy a dimension of reality midway between humans and angels. Midwayers can interact with physical reality and have control over the beasts of the realm, whilst angels do not. For example, it was (the good) midwayers who provided protection for Daniel in the lion’s den; and it was they who rolled back the stone door in front of Lazarus‘s tomb. Pursuant to the incarnation of Christ Michael on Urantia 2000 years ago, Beelzebub and his mischievous followers were rendered inoperative; that is, taken into custody by the agents of the Ancients of Days, the latter being the equivalent of the superuniverse Supreme Court. (For a functional approximation of the said agents, envision Gort from the film The Day the Earth Stood Still.)
However, the policy implications of this kind of craziness on the GOP platform is a clown car of a different color. With the advent of Superpacs, a consequence of the Supreme Court’s infamous ruling in Citizens United, marginal candidates who would have previously dropped out of the running for lack of funds, can now soldier-on right into the Republican nomination convention. Instead of their delegates being liberated, i.e., up for grabs, will they now remain under his or hers control, and by extension, the control of the candidate’s anonymous Big Money contributors? That’s a crucial question confronting Reince Preibus and the GOP establishment in the weeks and months to come. A brokered convention with a muscular Superpac component is shaping up to be the political equivalent of a Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome sequel.
Rubio, who openly contemplated the possibility of a contested convention in an AP interview last week, is not the only candidate whose campaign is preparing to contest the shadow primary.
One Southern state party chairman said that the calls from campaigns seeking data — such as contact information on eligible delegates and the names of people who have served as delegates in past years — began in late 2015. The chairman said calls have also come from third-party vendors who declined to identify which campaigns are their clients. “There’s a bit of skulduggery. … I suspect some super PACs are behind some of this.”
Toby Neugebauer, a Cruz super PAC megadonor who has long maintained that this nominating contest would be drawn out, said he has invested in custom delegate-tracking software but did not provide further details of his efforts on that front.
The Southern state party chairman who called an open convention “the white whale of politics” said the possibility is driving side conversations at party meetings. “We all sit around and talk about it at [Republican National Committee] meetings.”
The “white whale of politics…” Almost seven years ago to the day, we published Rethuglican Hallucinations, which used the Moby Dick, white male metaphor to underscore the GOP’s delusional obsession that tax cuts for the uber-rich would somehow trickle-down for the benefit of the rest of us. Eight years of Republican rule under the George W. Bush Administration produced two massive, unfunded tax cuts(not to mention two unfunded wars and the expansion of Part D Medicare) that drove the US economy to the very precipice of another Great Depression.
Not much has changed since then. Except that the rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer, the middle class has shrunk, and banks that were considered too big to fail at the time of crash (with $8 trillion in assets in 2008) have only gotten bigger ($10 trillion today). Wealth inequality, the cornerstone of the Bernie Sanders campaign, grew dramatically as a consequence of taxpayer bailouts begun under the Bushies and magnified by the Federal Reserve’s “quantitative easing” and zero interest rate policies.
Congress did manage a watered down effort at bank regulation, the Dodd-Frank Act, passed under President Obama, but every GOP presidential candidate wants to scrap it (along with Obamacare and the rest of his presidency) the minute they takeover the White House.
However, thanks to the Great White Leviathan with the orange fringe on top, currently poised to win the GOP nomination, not only would they lose an opportunity to take over the White House, but might result in their loss of the Senate, and the Supreme Court for a generation. Their only hope is a brokered convention. And that would likely result in destruction of the party if they try to screw the Tea Party and nominate another establishment Republican.
Lower the lifeboats, ye scuppers!
And now it’s back to the future, with this blast from the past.
In trying to account for the experience of color, neurobiologist Humberto Maturana decided to treat the nervous system as a closed system, depriving it of external sensory inputs. Incidentally, he found that deprived of such inputs, the nervous system can’t distinguish between ordinary perception and hallucinations.
Similarly, the Rethugs, by becoming a closed ideological system, have no way of distinguishing between their own hallucinations and the reality the rest of America inhabits. They have transformed themselves into Capt. Ahab lashed to the Great White Whale of tax cuts, plunged time and time again beneath the roiling waters of reality.
Eight years of tax cuts under their leadership produced a measly 3 million jobs, compared to the 22 million created under the last Democratic administration. In the present economic crisis, one doesn’t have to be an economist to conclude that direct government created jobs programs are going to produce way more jobs than will tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, who have no incentive to do anything but hoard the money in these uncertain times.
In the climax of the movie version starring Gregory Peck, Moby Dick surfaces one last time. One of the arms of the now drowned Ahab has come loose, flopping back and forth. The Rethugs mistake that pitiful movement for life and direction.
Just before Moby plunges them one last time into the depths.
Success may generate courage and promote confidence, but wisdom comes only from the experiences of adjustment to the results of one’s failures. Men who prefer optimistic illusions to reality can never become wise. Only those who face facts and adjust them to ideals can achieve wisdom. Wisdom embraces both the fact and the ideal and therefore saves its devotees from both of those barren extremes of philosophy — the man whose idealism excludes facts and the materialist who is devoid of spiritual outlook. Those timid souls who can only keep up the struggle of life by the aid of continuous false illusions of success are doomed to suffer failure and experience defeat as they ultimately awaken from the dream world of their own imaginations. • —The Urantia Book
A commentary video from the NRA claimed that President Obama stood in front of “the wrong people” when delivering a speech about gun violence before gun violence survivors, and that instead he should have stood before “the groups he is really helping: gang members, felons, and repeat offenders.” ―Media Matters
In Part II of the Dunning-Kruger effect, President George W. Bush was presented as an example of a leader who couldn’t recognize and accept his own limitations, and was thus easy to manipulate. His position as president of the United States (and his mediocre IQ) made him especially vulnerable to sophisticated Wag the Dog operations designed to portray him as the kind of competent, intelligent leader he wasn’t. The apparent strategy of his handlers was to keep him tightly scripted and out of the public eye as much as possible. To that end, George spent 407 days out of his office during the first three years of his presidency, at either his fake ranch in Crawford, Texas, or the Bush family retreat at Kennebunkport, Maine. (Remember the fake turkey he presented to the troops in Iraq? Symbol: meet reality.) By contrast, President Barack Obama, spent some 125 days out of the office over a comparable length of time.
While work habits can tell us something about a president’s general cognitive approach to problem solving and crisis resolution, they are other data points worth considering. They include: staff choices, the ability to delegate, the degree to which they write their own speeches, and intellectual curiosity. (Hint: One of the nicknames Bush earned for himself was “Incurious George.”)
What Me Worry?
Perhaps the most telling comparison are the two men’s respective psychological profiles. In 2004, Dr. Justin Frank wrote his classic book Bush on the Couch. I was quite intrigued by the original and look forward to reading the revised edition published in 2007, which among other things describes Bush’s “telling habits and coping strategies—from his persistent mangling of English to his tendency to ‘go blank’ in the midst of crisis.” Remember his deer-in-the-headlights look when an aide interrupted him to tell him that the World Trade center was burning while he was reading My Pet Goat to Florida school children?
I also look forward to reading Dr. Frank’s analysis of President Obama,Obama on the Couch, published in 2012, and comparing the two in a future post (or five). For now, a blurb relevant to our current discussion will have to suffice.
“Dr. Frank argues that the President’s decisions are motivated by inner forces – in particular, he focuses on Obama’s overwhelming need to establish consensus, which can occasionally undermine his personal—and his party’s—objectives.”
In Dr. Frank’s own introduction, he notes that Obama’s passion to find common ground actually makes Tea Party types even crazier, which goes a long way towards explaining their vehement resistance to everything he proposes. What makes their fanatical opposition all the more remarkable is that it reaches its greatest intensity when it concerns an issue that they themselves supported in the past, some ten in total to this accounting at Electablog. These include: the individual mandate at the heart of both Obama Care and Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan; donor disclosure in campaign financing reform; clean energy measures; changes in Medicare to save $700 billion; creation of a deficit reduction commission; and background checks for gun purchasers. (For the latter, see also: Republicans-suddenly-turn-against-enforcing-existing-law-on-guns-because-Obama). In other word, they are incapable of taking Yes for an answer.
Obama and Dunning-Kruger: A Psychological Corollary
Being investigations into human behavior, cognitive studies are designed to be nonpartisan (maybe not always successfully so, but at least they try). A related corollary of the Dunning-Kruger findings that I believe President Obama is representative of can be found in the following observation:
The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.
I once commented that if the young “Barry” Obama, growing up in Hawaii, had gone to a public school instead of the sheltered confines of a private school, he would have graduated a lot tougher, street smart kid. As such, he would have learned to better divine the malicious intent of others. I lived on Maui during the seventies when “Kill Haole Day” was an annual event celebrated in the public schools; when it was open-season on “heepies” like me. Hippies were perceived as weak, shiftless, nudist drug addicts who had taken over some favorite local beaches, and were thus fair game. (Imo, we were proxies for many otherwise justifiable local discontents, like the invasion of a hotel industry that paid shit wages and, of course, high-end housing developers. I learned pretty quickly to recognize “the evil eye” and other signs of imminent danger, a cognitive skill that me daddy ironically called “native intelligence.” I can think of a few times when a single “miscalibration” would have resulted in serious harm to my person.) But I digress.
During his early years in the White House, Obama was seemingly the last person to grok the fact that the Right Wing hated his guts, and would do everything in their power to destroy him and his presidency, notwithstanding the obvious signs that were out there. Beginning with his inauguration, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellset out to derail Obama’s legislative agenda. This despite the fact that the country was reeling from the economic catastrophe of the Great Recession, a moldering shit sandwich that Bush left Obama in an Oval Office desk drawer. It took an extraordinary level of denial for Obama to have thought that the Rethugs would willingly compromise on policy differences and work for the better interests of the country; that his charm and intellectual acuity would win the day; that he could get the leopards to change their spots. It was only after the 2014 elections that he began disabusing himself of this near fatal cognitive “miscalibration.”
Really, all he had to do was pick up the phone and call “the first black president,” Bill Clinton, for an inkling of what was to come. (If the Clintons had procured even a small royalty from the sales of books, videos, t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc., from the cottage industry that institutionalized “the politics of personal destruction,” Hillary could never have claimed that they left the White House “dead broke.” As if….)
Recently, it was reported that―horror of horrors!―Obama doesn’t watch enough cable news, and therefore doesn’t understand the nation’s concerns about terrorism. Instead of spending critical time listening to self-promoting, bloviating talk show hosts dedicated to the failure of his presidency (consequences to the country be damned), Obama prefers to listen to the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies for information about threats to the Commonwealth. These include dangers from ISIS/Daesh/ISIL, Russian military machinations, China’s growing power and influence, the national security implications of global climate change, mass killings, the growing anti-government militia movement, etc., etc.
Some, like me, would consider eschewing the manufactured reality of the cable news media-industrial-complexa feature and not a bug, but what do we know.
…highly skilled individuals may underestimate their relative competence, they may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.
One of the most frequent criticisms of Obama is that he is arrogant, aloof, detached, and, clench your cheeks, professorial. He analyzes a problem, comes to a logical conclusion, and expects every one else to do likewise, once they’ve been presented the facts. But for those with a different point of view and a different agenda, No Drama Obama is out of touch, especially with the nation’s feelings about terrorism. And according to two-time presidential candidate and loser, Mitt Romney, out of touch with reality itself.
Gun Control: Obama’s Dunning-Kruger Breakaway Moment
Terrorism aside, the issue that has finally forced Obama to transcend his “miscalibrations” about the competency of others to realize their own stupidity is, tada―gun control. His new, tougher attitude towards the gun lobby was on full display Thursday night at a “Guns in America” town hall meeting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, hosted by CNN. Author of Idiot AmericaCharlie Piercehas the coverage:
“Yeah, I meant what I said,” Obama said when asked about the op-ed by moderator Anderson Cooper. “And the reason I said that is this: The majority of people in this country are a lot more sensible than what you see in Washington.” Obama singled out the National Rifle Association as one of the “loudest, shrillest voices” against gun control and told the audience “[that] the way we break the deadlock on this issue is when the NRA doesn’t have a stranglehold on Congress in this debate.” To that end, the president said, “I want to throw my shoulders behind those who want to solve problems, and not those who want to get high scores from an interest group.”
The president is telling members of his own party to man up and support mild gun safety measures of which nearly the entire country approves, and he’s telling the media to stop enabling crazy people simply because their madness is so sincere.
It should be noted that the NRA chickened out when CNN invited them to attend the discussion. And that a new CNN poll shows that 67% of Americans support the gun control measures Obama announced this week. Pierce broadens his field of fire by taking the media to task for their enabling role in keeping the crazy going crazy:
Moreover, he was taking no guff from Cooper on the subject of why people believe nonsense about what his real plans are. Glory hallelujah, said I. Somebody finally is taking the Third Great Premise of Idiot America—Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it — seriously enough to refute it.
This is just beautiful. The president is telling members of his own party to man up and support mild gun safety measures of which nearly the entire country approves, and he’s telling the media to stop enabling crazy people simply because their madness is so sincere.
Certainty is the mother of sincerity. As Mark Twain observed: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” And a corollary from A Compendium of Wise Sayings From George Costanza, also applies: “It isn’t a lie, if you believe it.” Cue music from Fleetwood Mac: “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies…”
In close, we must ask: When will individual members of the NRA realize they are being used as dupes by the gun industry to jack sales? They should be less concerned about Obama taking their guns away and more concerned about the NRA and Fux News taking away what’s left of their common sense.
Case in point:
According to a Fux News host, Obama used a raw onion to fake tears while talking about school kids dying
Next, in Part IV of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, we look at the new film The Big Short, for an example of how incompetency at the highest levels of government and industry is not only excused, but rewarded.
Serving up GOP Goodies at the Legendary Roadkill Cafe
In Part 1 of the Dunning-Kruger effect, we introduced some of the findings of cognitive scientists David Dunning and Josh Kruger that explains why some people are incapable of recognizing their own incompetency and stupidity. Additional examples litter in the US political landscape like so much cognitive roadkill. For instance, over at the Big Orange, RET IIIwrites about a particularly pernicious species of GOPer denial:
We are witnessing a sort of collective Republican denial where they cannot accept that they are not the ruling party, not the “deciders” (to use a former president’s phrase)…What is important here is not that Republicans object to the limits of their power, but that Republicans apparently cannot accept that such limits even exist. Greg Sargent [of the Washington Post] recently caught this in a very revealing FOX News poll:
[Republicans] failed to block Obama’s transformation of the country; that must be because they didn’t even try, so they must be complicit. But this failure, too, is structural. Republicans don’t have the votes to surmount Dem filibusters or Obama vetoes. The idea that this can be overcome through sheer force of will (the argument conservatives are making in favor of another shutdown fight) is just another version of [the “Big Lie”].
Indeed, the Fox News poll unwittingly captures what is particularly problematic about this last one. It finds that 60 percent of Republicans feel betrayed by their party, and that 66 percent of Republicans don’t think their party did all it could to block Obama’s agenda. The poll asks why respondents think their party leaders failed at this: they didn’t really want to stop Obama; they weren’t smart enough; they would rather fight each other. The Fox poll doesn’t even offer respondents the option of choosing the real reason — that Republicans structurally lack the votes!
If anyone ever needed an example of how leading questions can be structured in propagandistic polls to produce a desired result, one need look no further than this example from Fux News. But that’s a topic for another day.
RET III also cites Jonathan Chait about the base’s disenchantment with the GOP:
This discontent runs much deeper and wider than Boehner. . . Boehner had the misfortune of leading, or attempting to lead, his party in an era when it had run up to the limits of crazy, where the only unexplored frontiers of extremism lay beyond the reach of its Constitutional powers.
Ah, “the limits of crazy.” To quote a man who should appeal to survivalists and militia members everywhere, author of Resistance to Tyranny, former Air Force Col. (Ret.) Joseph P. Martino, writes:
A wise man knows his limitations but never sets limits on himself. A fool does not recognize his limitations, thus limiting himself.
To paraphrase Dunning-Kruger: Fools lack the tools to recognize their foolishness. The alternative to this lack of self-awareness is to blame someone else for their failures, like that secret Muslim-Kenyan commie illegally occupying the White House. Naturally, this illegal occupation trope is being sold to the gullible as a promise by certain GOP presidential candidates to repeal every piece of legislation, every executive order, signed into law by our illegitimate president. Because freedom!
George W. Bush: The Man Who Didn’t Know His Limitations
“A man’s got to know his limitations“- Dirty Harry Callahan, Magnum Force
If historians need an example of the consequences of the failure of a 21st century power player to recognize his own limitations, George W. Bush is their man.Bush’seminence grise, Dark Dick Darth Cheney, originally charged with finding a vice presidential candidate for future president Bush, recognized Bush’s cognitive deficiencies early on. Opportunity knocked and Cheney answered, recommending himself for, and ultimately receiving, the job.
As a substitute father figure (Cheney was George H.W. Bush‘s trusted Secretary of Defense), he was in an ideal position to exploit “the Decider” for his own gain. No doubt Cheney used his one-on-one weekly Wednesday lunches with Bush to tell him what a freaking political genius and leader he was (the inestimable Charlie Pierce refers to Bush as”C+ Agustus); and to suggest various policy positions, like say, invading Iraq. The latter was an obvious manipulation of Junior’s daddy issues: What better way to supplant his father than by correcting his “mistake” in not deposing Saddam when he had the chance?
During the first Gulf War, Cheney had advised against overthrowing Saddam Hussein, knowing full well the disaster that would ensue. However, as Junior’s VP, he changed his mind. At the very first meeting of his national security team in early 2001, Bush blew off warnings from his terrorism adviser, Richard Clarke, about the threat posed by al-Qaeda. (Clarke was President Clinton’s terrorism chief and thus represented continuity on the subject between the two administrations.) Instead, Bush asked what it would take to overthrow Saddam. A few months later, he ridiculed a CIA briefer for a memo he presented titled:Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US , dismissing him by saying “You’ve covered your ass, now.” Five weeks later, nearly 3,000 Americans died in the infamous 9/11 attacks.
Nation building has proven to be a profitable enterprise, a logical extension of , to gthe classic Vietnam war rationalization that America had to destroy the country in order to save it. Too bad that hundreds of thousands of people had to die; that hundreds of thousands more were physically and psychologically maimed; that millions had to flee their homes, becoming permanent refugees; that irreplaceable archaeological treasures were looted or destroyed; that the entire Middle East had to be thrown into turmoil (making Iran a hegemonic power in the process); and that the American taxpayer would incur trillions of dollars of recurring, interest compounding debt. To a psychopath like Cheney, that’s just the cost of doing business. Anyone questioning his war profiteering motive will likely get the same response that Senator Pat Leahy got on the Senate floor when he questioned him about his Halliburton ties, telling him to go “fuck yourself.”
Naturally, such an unprecedented level of presidential incompetence had to be hidden, not only from The Decider himself, but from everyone living outside the White House bubble. Some of the world’s best PR people and spin doctors were put to work casting President Bush as the new. avenging sheriff in town, bringing justice to the world’s terrorist scum, a fusion of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry and High Plains Drifter. (Bush Senior had seriously considered making Eastwood his vice president, so it’s safe to assume that Junior had some familiarity with Eastwood’s characters.) Hell, if they could make a Vietnam War draft dodger a hero and Swift Boat his medal winning, presidential opponent, they could sell anything.
The fact that Bush ignored warnings of an imminent a-Qaeda attack? Put him on a pile of World Trade Center rubble, one arm wielding a bullhorn, the other arm draped around an exhausted firefighter, promising revenge. Need to deflect attention from the fact that he had no exit plan after defeating Saddam’s pitifully over-matched military? Put him in a navy jet and land him on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier (anchored just off the coast of San Diego), dressed in a crotch grabbing flight suit that had Chris Matthews gushing over what his guest, G.Gordon Liddy observed made “the best of his manly characteristic.” For a backdrop, add a colorfully dressed deck crew. And behind and above them all, a large, professionally designed and printed banner proclaiming Mission Accomplished. (Bush’s handlers claimed the banner was a spontaneous creation of the grateful, carrier crew. Yeah, right.)
And then there was the all important on-going task of casting Bush as the successor to Republican icon, Ronald Reagan. If Reagan spent his leisure time on a ranch, riding horses and chopping firewood, then George would have to do something similar during his record breaking number of vacations at Crawford, Texas. Only his ranch was fake, with its pre-fab modular home and a total absence of–whadda ya call dem dar critters?– ah yes, horses! Dubya, a self-confessed “windshield rancher,” eschewed horses, preferring to “ride” a comfy, late model air conditioned pickup truck instead.
In close, we revisit some of the classic cognitive stylings of the man with the room temperature IQ.
Next up in Part III: How President Obama demonstrates a corollary of the Dunning-Kruger effect.