Some of you know the story but it bears repeating. Back in 1995 a Pittsburgh man named McArthur Wheeler learned that lemon juice can also make very effective disappearing ink. So he “did his own research,” painted lemon juice on his face, took a selfie and, sure enough, he became invisible!
Wheeler then proceeded to rob two banks in broad daylight while smiling all the time at the surveillance cameras. And wouldn’t you know it, McArthur Wheeler was just as surprised as a latter-day anti-vaxxer discovering he was dying from Covid when the police came to his home and arrested him for bank robbery!
The story came to the attention of professors David Dunning and Justin Kruger. In a study they found that the least proficient students dramatically overestimated their abilities. Their findings became what is known today as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
The most startling part of the study is the part that isn’t mentioned enough. People who tend to overestimate their abilities tend also to have disproportionately high confidence in the correctness of their positions. In other words, the less they understand something the more vocal they are about their certainty that they are right.
The explanation for this is the incompetent are often imbued with an inappropriate confidence buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge. The incompetent also often overcompensate for their inarticulate feelings of incompetence by becoming bellicose.
This explains why so many people today are so staunch and even violent in their opposition to the coronavirus vaccine and the wearing of masks. Not for them uncertainty! They are right, damnit, and you’d better listen up because they are laying down some Home Truths — in Walmart, on airplanes, in PTA meetings, you name it. We’ve all seen it now a millions times, seemingly.
The biggest problem with such people is there are so many of them and they vote. Ron Johnson knows this. Like many Republicans today, Johnson cynically exploits the stupidity of these people for votes. He does so by undermining people’s confidence in the coronavirus vaccine by offering alternatives — like Listerine, for instance.
That’s right, in a recent interview the Wisconsin Senator suggested that standard gargling with mouthwash could reduce viral replication. This isn’t offered to be helpful, it’s offered to play into the narrative of the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers. Johnson knows that if he just comes out and supports the vaccine and the wearing of masks he and the Republican Party will lose votes. And with Republicans votes are far more important than the lives of the voters.
As you may recall, Johnson is also the idiot who claimed that Dr. Anthony Fauci is “overhyping” the dangers of coronavirus. I don’t know about you, brothers, and sisters, but I can’t see how it’s possible to overhype something that has killed 5.4 million people worldwide in less than two years. One thing you can bet is that Johnson, just like every other Republican Senator and congressperson exploiting the pandemic for votes, is fully vaccinated. They may be willing to risk the lives of their constituents but they aren’t about to take any chances with themselves.
So Johnson offers good old Listerine as an alternative to the coronavirus vaccine. There’s just one problem. Listerine says on its very own website that it is not effective against coronavirus. By the way, the vaccine is free. Listerine is not.
It occurs to me that this could just be evolution’s way of culling the human herd. Of course it’s true that people who don’t get vaccinated are also infecting the rest of us and — worst of all — creating a human Petrie dish in which the virus could mutate into something more deadly. But the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of people dying from coronavirus today are the unvaccinated. They are, you might say, achieving herd stupidity.
So if that is really what evolution is up to then who am I to disagree? Let them wear the lemon juice. If it rids the planet of people who are terminally stupid anyway then I say “Let’s go Darwin!” After all, it’s about time those of us who believe in science had a chant of our own. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.