When stupid people think they're smart, they do maximum damage. That's where we are with Trump and this pandemic

When stupid people think they're smart, they do maximum damage. That's where we are with Trump and this pandemic
Image via Screengrab / CNN.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a term that describes a psychological phenomenon in which stupid people do not know that they are in fact stupid.


Writing at Pacific Standard, psychologist David Dunning — one of the social psychologists who first documented this type of cognitive bias — describes it in more detail:

In many areas of life, incompetent people do not recognize  —  scratch that, cannot recognize  —  just how incompetent they are, a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Logic itself almost demands this lack of self-insight: For poor performers to recognize their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack. To know how skilled or unskilled you are at using the rules of grammar, for instance, you must have a good working knowledge of those rules, an impossibility among the incompetent. Poor performers  —  and we are all poor performers at some things  —  fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack. What's curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.

The Dunning-Kruger effect manifests in the form of the drunk at the bar who weighs in on every conversation with unwanted advice, the online troll who monopolizes comment sections, or the person who reads one book (or perhaps the introduction) and then acts like an authority on the subject.

Visionary science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov signaled to the Dunning-Kruger effect with his famous observation in 1980: "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'"

Donald Trump is the Dunning-Kruger president of the United States.

But he is also something much worse than that. Donald Trump is an almost perfect living, breathing example of the Dunning-Kruger effect: a president in a time of plague whose ignorance and stupidity are amplified through apparent and obvious mental illness as well as cruelty, compulsive lying, grand immorality, corruption and evil.

Americans have already died because of Trump's false claims about the novel coronavirus pandemic. Many more will die in the weeks and months ahead.

At Tuesday's coronavirus White House "briefing" (another version of Trump's ego-stroking carnival political rallies) he made another "expert" suggestion about how to defeat the novel coronavirus pandemic: Wear scarves instead of masks for protection.

In fact, scarves offer no protection against the coronavirus.

Several weeks ago, Donald Trump visited the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control where he made this astonishing claim:

You know, my uncle was a great person. He was at MIT. He taught at MIT for, I think, like a record number of years. He was a great super genius. Dr. John Trump. I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, 'How do you know so much about this? ' Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.

Apparently, Trump believes he knows more than some of the best trained and experienced doctors and medical researchers in the world.

Trump also believes himself to be an expert on the types of medical equipment needed to fight the novel coronavirus. He has suggested that governors in New York, New Jersey, Michigan and elsewhere are intentionally exaggerating the number of ventilators needed in hospitals to care for victims of the pandemic.

On multiple occasions, Donald Trump has claimed that there is no ventilator shortage in New York. According to him, ventilators and other medical equipment being stolen by doctors, nurses and other medical staff who are selling them, bringing them home for personal use or perhaps even hoarding the equipment in private.

Donald Trump claims to have magical powers. He has repeatedly said that the novel coronavirus will disappear at some future date which only he can predict.

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