It used to be said that conservatism was essentially selfishness manifested as a political ideology. This ideology took the form of the quip ‘for me and mine, not thee and thine’ in terms of the benefits of society. This defined conservatism, particularly in the three main western pseudo-democracies the US, the UK, and Australia, for some time. Whether Thatcher and Reagan, Howard and Bush or Morrison and Trump, these born to rule ideologues have become increasingly zealous in their self-serving and corrupt corporate socialism. The time has come to refine the definition of tory slightly. While all of the above is true, a new element requires focus. These idea-free ideologues also manifest what psychologists call the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias that is best understood in terms of perceived competence or ability versus actual competence or ability. Generally, people who are actual experts in a field have the humility to realise that they do not, in fact, know it all. Yes in the early days when they learn a little bit about a field (typically in first or second-year university) they become cocky and think they know it all. But as they continue to study and learn that there is far more to their field than what the first-year textbook (typically a surface-level introduction) told them, they settle down and learn some intellectual deference and humility. Indeed, the more study one undertakes, the less one realises one actually knows.
People suffering from the Dunning-Kruger Effect typically rate themselves as scoring far higher on tests and generally performing much better than they actually do. Boiled down to its essentials, Dunning-Kruger says that the stupid are too stupid to know how stupid they are. They double down on their beliefs come what may in terms of contrary evidence. They are always right and never need to learn anything since they are the smartest people in the room. Actual experts (particularly those who contradict the ideological narrative) are elitists and eggheads to whom no deference is due.
Dunning-Kruger in Action, Part One: Australia
Climate scientists, for example, have been telling the world for decades that the situation is worse than the worst-case scenario. But Australian National Party leader Michael McCormack knows far more about climate science and its effects on bushfires than some corrupt scientist. He knows more than the veteran fire chiefs who wrote warning letters to the Prime Minister seeking a meeting about what turned into the most destructive bushfires in living memory.
Lest we think this is limited to Morrison and his Menagerie of Muppets, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott once called climate change ‘absolute crap’. The fact that Mr. Abbott and his tribe of tin-eared tory troglodytes receive huge donations from the fossil fuel industry? Media bias! The more these people are proven wrong by research, facts and reality the more militant they become. Petulantly rearing up on their hind legs to protect the corporate structure that put them in office, they expose themselves.
Dunning-Kruger in Action, Part Two: The United States
Our northern cousins are by no means immune to the arrogant ignorance that is Dunning-Kruger. Whether it is Trump lying every time he opens his mouth or, in the most famous incident of Dunning-Kruger in recent memory, a Republican Senator brought a snowball into the Senate House to argue against climate change, they have their share. Corporate corruption is rife in the US as well, so it should come as no surprise that Dunning-Kruger is on full display over there.
The focus of the piece thus far has been climate change, and I do not apologise for that. The sheer destruction that this existential threat to the earth has caused recently has not shocked the non-existent consciences of these corporate streetwalkers into taking action. We continue to hear the same tired crap and observe the same feet-dragging. Conservatives are, as Buckley once defined them, those who stand athwart history yelling stop. In other words, progress is inevitable, and the job of the conservative, if they cannot prevent it, is to delay it as long as possible.
What these clowns either do not know or are ignoring is that progress has always happened and society has not only survived but thrived. Consider the movement from the horse-and-buggy to the automobile. Jobs related to the horse-and-buggy industry did become obsolete, that is true. But they were replaced by jobs in the new industry. The only reason these corporate whores will not legislate the move away from fossil fuels is that they are paid to preserve the industry. For this, they should be ashamed and consigned permanently to the scrapheap of history.
Conclusion: Dunning-Kruger and Political Discourse
The consequence of this ever-present cognitive bias for political discourse is marked. Sound political discourse should be about the facts. The Dunning-Kruger Effect, whose sufferers have their own facts that they cling to with an arrogance befitting an ill-informed child, is not conducive to constructive discourse. All humans have cognitive biases, but these men (and it often is men) are disconnected from reality to such an extent that conversation with them is no longer profitable. They are not open to facts either because they believe the uninformed drivel they spew or they are paid to say it. Unless and until corporate/private money is banned as a source of campaign funds, western countries will continue to be governed by their respective Dunning-Kruger Parties.
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