The Dunning–Kruger effect, as you may recall, is a cognitive bias wherein certain (though not all) people with low ability for a given task overestimate their ability to perform that task. This overestimation can also extend to general intelligence, that is, they think they’re smart but they aren’t. Dunning-Kruger is related to the cognitive bias of this illusion of superiority. One common trait of the Dunning-Kruger Effect is the subject’s tendency to boast about their superior intellectual capabilities. Such boasting also comes from their inability, paradoxically, to recognize that their abilities are, in fact, inferior.
For my money one of the oddest things about Dunning-Kruger is, as far as I can tell, never discussed. People who suffer from the Dunning-Kruger illusion — i.e., they think they’re smart when they aren’t — make the same mistake the egotist makes. It is their very boasting that makes them look stupid. It is a baffling kind of self-sabotage. If they just kept their mouths shut and their heads down and did their best, someone might mistake their hard work and silence for competence. Or, as the old saying has it, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, at least do it neatly.” Another old saying occurs to me: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”
Donald Trump ought to have convinced anyone with any cognitive discernment by now that he has no talent for anything. We should be past the point where even the most optimistic news readers can credibly suggest that Trump has a “master plan” and his persistent stupidity is part of that plan. There is no master plan. Trump is incompetent at everything he does.
Trump is a moron. The problem with this fact — and it is a fact — is that it flies in the face of everything we have been taught. Conventional wisdom when I was growing up was that the idiocy exhibited by the president of the United States was relative idiocy. Their missteps weren’t due to incompetence but to poor ideology, that is, ideology different from the speaker’s. Despite the popular misconception promoted by a long debunked meme, even George W. Bush has an IQ that is well above average.
So when Donald Trump revived an old racist saying from the 1960s and tweeted, “When the looting starts the shooting starts,” it’s one of the few times that he actually knew what he was talking about. This time the stupid bit wasn’t that he got his historical quote wrong, this time the stupid bit was that he used the quote at all.
Trump’s desperation to claw the statement back through whiny, pitiful explanations is a measure of the trouble he’s in and just how stupid he is. Trump is losing and, slowly, dimly — because every one of his cognitive realizations are slow and dim — he’s beginning to acknowledge it. Trump is getting desperate because he’s going to lose in November and, short of a miracle, he is going to lose by a cataclysmic landslide.
One of the big misconceptions about 2016 was that the polls got it wrong. They did not. If you looked at the polls they included margins of error that, if those margins had swung Trump’s way, Trump would have won. That Trump did win wasn’t because the polls were wrong but because he got very lucky in those margins. Put another way, Hillary Clinton got unlucky. And, of course, the bad luck ultimately was our own.
These days Trump is losing no matter how lucky he gets in the margins. But just in case he’s unsure, he helps those unlucky numbers get more unlucky still with his propensity to speak. The big problem with stupid people is when they speak they say stupid things. Trump is no exception. Tweeting a racist quote from the 60s — in this case Miami’s police chief, Walter Headley in 1967 — further alienated Trump with the undecided voters and further eroded his already alarmingly bad numbers.
Our job is to make sure that the landslide is as big as it can possibly be. Trump is already setting the stage for contesting the election. Recall that he set the stage for losing in the last election when he tweeted, “The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary.” Even after he won he contested the results, claiming that Hillary’s three million extra votes were cast by “illegal aliens.”
It’s not going to happen this time. Trump must lose so badly that there can be no mistaking that he lost legitimately. It is our job, yours and mine, to make sure our voices are heard. They call us snowflakes, but if you put enough of us together we can give them an avalanche. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.