Does the U.S. Need an Intervention?

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Well, it seems the damnfools are not going to blink, and Boehner is not going to allow a vote on a clean CR. House baggers and other Republicans are downplaying the risk, and Senator Coburn actually said that the U.S. would not default on debt if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. Seriously, he said that.

So the question is, are these people just talking like this for the benefit of the rubes, or do they really believe it? It’s hard to know, but I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility that they are really that stupid.

Krugman today argues that what we’re really looking at is incompetence more than stupidity, and cites something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. That’s when you’re so incompetent you don’t recognize you are competent incompetent.

From Psychology Today:

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias in which people perform poorly on a task, but lack the meta-cognitive capacity to properly evaluate their performance. … To be clear, the main reason for the Dunning Kruger effect should not be viewed as lying in a person’s general IQ. Much rather the Dunning Kruger effect seems to arise from the general top-down approach in which people estimate their own performances: In evaluating ourselves, we tend to start with preconceived notions about our general skill and then we integrate these notions into how well we think we are doing on a task.

The top-down effect means that people assume themselves to be competent — or knowledgeable, or smart — and then judge their own competence or expertise based on that assumption. For example,

“The skills needed to produce logically sound arguments, for instance, are the same skills that are necessary to recognize when a logically sound argument has been made. Thus, if people lack the skills to produce correct answers, they are also cursed with an inability to know when their answers, or anyone else’s, are right or wrong. They cannot recognize their responses as mistaken, or other people’s responses as superior to their own.”

It’s not clear to me how the situation described in the paragraph above is substantially different from just being stupid, but let’s go on …

Krugman writes that it should have been obvious there was no way President Obama would be blackmailed into abandoning the Affordable Care Act. That so many Republicans could not understand this, and apparently still can’t, certainly speaks to a profound mental incompetence of some sort.

Krugman continues,

It has been obvious for years that the modern Republican Party is no longer capable of thinking seriously about policy. Whether the issue is climate change or inflation, party members believe what they want to believe, and any contrary evidence is dismissed as a hoax, the product of vast liberal conspiracies.

They actually can’t create policy any more. They don’t seem to grasp that there’s a difference between ideological talking points and actual policy (example).

For a while the party was able to compartmentalize, to remain savvy and realistic about politics even as it rejected objectivity everywhere else. But this wasn’t sustainable. Sooner or later, the party’s attitude toward policy — we listen only to people who tell us what we want to hear, and attack the bearers of uncomfortable news — was bound to infect political strategy, too.

In other words, there was a time that those who spoke for the Republican Party recognized that their bullshit was bullshit. But those days are gone.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Oct 7, 2013 @1:21 pm

    Re: how “the paragraph” is different from being stupid – it’s a subtle thing.

    If you’ve been taught that making a forceful argument is how one establishes the truth, and had that reinforced repeatedly, you don’t recognize there’s another way, because people who attempt that other way are mocked as being just plain wrong. E.g., sure, those scientists have all those fancy-pants models and such, but they clearly have forgotten that the weather is *really big* and humans are really small, and there’s no way *we* could affect the *weather*. Plus volcanoes put out more CO2 than humans (false, as I’m sure you know), and so on and so forth.

    All of their respected leaders tell them this (or refuse to contradict it), and it’s clear that this is the way it is. The idea that all those people could be wrong simply doesn’t seem possible.

    And it really is pretty mind-boggling – history will not treat this era kindly.

    Such a person is ignorant – that is, lacking a piece of knowledge – but not necessarily stupid. Not when there are so many people who are saying that they really are intelligent for understand how global warming is a fraud.

  2. Fang  •  Oct 7, 2013 @2:25 pm

    I think of the Republican party has having become a giant grift. It started with the cynical Southern Strategy and Viguere’s mailing lists, until now it’s essentially a system designed to draw in money AND voters in order to keep the grift going. It’s all conmen and true believers, in a giant echo chamber, and it’s a bit hard to sort them out.

    You don’t get leadership or awareness in a situation like this. Most importantly many members of the grift machine are just fine, thanks, so they keep milking the system and the donors for all its worth. There’s many an immitator ready to jump on board anyway.

    Oddly, one of the major repercussions I don’t see talked about is that it makes the Republican Party extremely weak in that they simply can’t DO things as we witness now. The Emperor not only has no clothes, he’s drunk and stupid. They’ve shown a lot of weakness and a willingness to eat their own WHILE marching to oblivion – cannibal lemmings.

    Someone(s) is going to figure out how to take advantage of this.

  3. moonbat  •  Oct 7, 2013 @2:26 pm

    That’s when you’re so incompetent you don’t recognize you are competent.

    I think you mean to say: “you don’t recognize you are incompetent”. I checked it against Krugman.

  4. Swami  •  Oct 7, 2013 @3:01 pm

    Maybe I didn’t do to well in conveying my Opossum story.. My point in telling it was to illustrate the principle that when you trap any animal or person in a situation where they are cornered with no means of retreat you can expect them to dig in their heels and fight back.
    The baggers didn’t allow for a mechanism to diffuse the situation. Dialing back their demands still left in place the overall concept of extortion. Simple fact…The President of the United States can’t acquiesce or comply with extortion.
    I think somebody fucked up. They should have incorporated a relief valve or escape hatch of sorts into their strategy. I gotta commend whoever it was who said: “we won’t negotiate with somebody whose got a bomb strapped to their chest”. That was a perfect assessment.

  5. Swami  •  Oct 7, 2013 @3:29 pm

    ex·tor·tion
    noun \ik-ˈstȯr-shən\

    : the crime of getting money from someone by the use of force or threats

  6. moonbat  •  Oct 7, 2013 @3:32 pm

    They actually can’t create policy any more. They don’t seem to grasp that there’s a difference between ideological talking points and actual policy.

    They don’t distinguish between the two, and if you’re a bully it doesn’t matter.
    Consider the Soviet Union, where ideology reigned over reality. It didn’t matter or even occur to the ruling class that their ideology just doesn’t work and in fact caused great suffering. They rationalized this suffering as being noble, and part of the necessary transformation of the working class into the Soviet Man or Woman (I have a real affection for the style of art called Socialist Realism (what a euphemism!) which triumphantly depicts all of this).

    The TeaBaggers and their billionaire sponsors, drunk on Ayn Rand, likewise can’t distinguish between ideology and policy and most importantly, don’t care. Like the Bolsheviks, they’re all about pushing their utopia on America, and the consequences be damned. Any suffering inflicted on the people here, is seen as “good for them” that it will somehow improve them, a necessary purge of all things liberal.

    And so, if America defaults, and economic calamity ensues, this is a perfectly acceptable outcome, because it will end the country’s profligate ways and bring about the glorious new order.

    You and Krugman have to get, that for them, it’s not about competence or incompetence. It’s rather all about imposing their grand vision, their glorious ideology – just like the Bolsheviks – and the consequences be damned.

  7. c u n d gulag  •  Oct 7, 2013 @4:08 pm

    When trying to explain “The Dunning-Kruger Effect,” I ask people if they have a friend or family member who could probably carry a piano faster than s/he can carry a tune, sing along to his/her favorite band’s hits?

    THAT’S “The Dunning-Kruger Effect!”

    They think they sound like Sting – but everyone else thinks they’re shrieking because they’re being stung.

  8. Swami  •  Oct 7, 2013 @5:13 pm

    Not to go off topic, but I want to wish all my fellow Americans a Happy Afghanistan War Anniversary. Twelve glorious years!

    Maybe a modified line from Amazing Grace might be fitting to apply to our Afghanistan situation.

    When we’ve been there twelve long years, bright shining as the sun, we’ll have no less days to sing its praise then when we first begun.

  9. Doug  •  Oct 7, 2013 @7:51 pm

    I think the pivotal issue will be a continual effort by democrats to bring a ‘clean’ CR up for a vote. The defeat and denial of a clean bill will underscore the extortion by the minority because a clean bill will pass the House and Senate (maybe).

    The POTUS has to drive home the issue so Americans can grasp. Example – You have a big maple tree in your front yard. You like it – your neighbors don’t. They tell you that the will let you keep the tree for one year if you pay them – $100. Would it be ‘reasonable’ for them to let you keep the tree if they will negotiate down to $25? Would it be ‘negotiation’ if you pay the $25, knowing they will return with the same (or greater) threat in the future if you give in?

    Boehner will let ACH stand, because he knows Obama won’t sign anything that eliminates it. Boehner is savvy enough to know he might turn the TP threat into a negotiating chip to get what he wants by offering to hold back the crazies bent on eliminating Obamacare – for a small price.

    Letting Obama keep what he has (AHC) in exchange for greater concessions is not negotiation. It’s extortion. Real tax code reform in exchange for Chained CPI is not a deal I approve of, but it is negotiation. When voters understand the difference, they will punish the GOP. They are doing very well, what they do best, muddying the waters.

  10. biggerbox  •  Oct 7, 2013 @9:29 pm

    Every time I read about the Dunning-Kruger effect, I have to take a moment and remember tht they aren’t talking about what happens to Steve Carrell and a small bunch of workers in an office in Scranton. That’s the “Dunder Mifflin” effect.

    It’s probably true that some of the new crop of Republicans are incapable of understanding their incompetence, but I think there is a large number who just don’t care. They view the world so differently and value things so strangely that they aren’t even trying to do what we think they should be. They’re getting theirs, and they are able to screw enough others out of theirs, so they are mostly OK with their lives.

    In the ‘karaoke’ metaphor, it’s like they aren’t even trying to hit the right notes, they are more interested in holding the microphone and breathing on it, and getting to read lyrics on a TV screen.

    And then, of course, there is Michelle Bachmann.
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/bachmann-end-times-are-coming-because-obama-is-supporting-al-qaeda

  11. Bonnie  •  Oct 8, 2013 @12:20 am

    One thing to add to the Dunning-Kruger effect is that the people who have this are the same people home-schooling their children.

  12. goatherd  •  Oct 8, 2013 @8:36 am

    Regarding movement conservatism as a grifter as fang opined, i suppose you’ve all read this:

    http://www.thebaffler.com/past/the_long_con/

  13. goatherd  •  Oct 8, 2013 @9:00 am

    Regarding the “End Times” loonies. Many years ago, I read some interesting articles by a Christian psychologist. I think her name was Dr. Joan Whitehouse, but, I might be wrong. She wrote about the deep psychological trauma that fundamentalist children often experienced studying the “Book of Revelations” in Sunday school. Joe Bageant wrote about it too. I’ve also had friends who told me similar stories.

    Joe Bageant wrote about a film he was shown in Sunday school. It was about the “Rapture”. In it, a young boy returns home to find that his Christian family has been “raptured”. His home is empty and all that is left of his parents is a pile of clothing. He must now face the tribulation on his own, because of his sin. You can imagine that this is troubling, persistent and anxiety producing.

    Dr. Whitehouse wrote about how this traumatic fear of abandonment festered and combined with perceptions of the fundamentalist mindset to produce a kind of nihilism. If anyone recalls her writing and can verify her name, I would appreciate a link.

    There can be few events more disturbing than having a person like Michelle Bachmann, in a seat of power and in the position to steer us towards or away from disaster, remarking on the “End Times”. She sloughs off the “end of the world” with a chilling detachment and advises us to rejoice in it, while perched behind her thousand yard stare.

    I am incapable of imagining anyone crazier than that, or more dangerous.

  14. c u n d gulag  •  Oct 8, 2013 @9:45 am

    goatherd,
    ” In it, a young boy returns home to find that his Christian family has been “raptured”. His home is empty and all that is left of his parents is a pile of clothing. He must now face the tribulation on his own, because of his sin. You can imagine that this is troubling, persistent and anxiety producing.”

    How is showing this, not child abuse?
    What “sins” could the young child have committed that were heinous enough so that he’s not “raptured” along with his parents?

    And there are mental defectives out there, who not only believe this stuff and nonsense, but decide to scare little children with it, to make them obedient, compliant, and complicit?

    The Brothers Grimm had nothing on today’s Evangelical Christians.

  15. Swami  •  Oct 8, 2013 @10:22 am

    goatherd…I know what you’re saying about Bachmann…She gives me the chills.

    Maranatha.

  16. Swami  •  Oct 8, 2013 @11:19 am

    What “sins” could the young child have committed that were heinous enough so that he’s not “raptured” along with his parents?

    Fiddling with his Johnson.

  17. jr  •  Oct 9, 2013 @3:16 am

    Well, remember the studies… conservatives are pack animals that depend on their leaders for critical thinking. And those leaders tend to be lacking morals and integrity. Very little incentive to tell the truth when people will believe anything you say.

  18. goatherd  •  Oct 9, 2013 @10:27 am

    I wish I could find her articles. She wrote for “Common Dreams” as I recall. Yes CUND, she thought it was abusive too.

    Yes Swami, multiple studies have indicated that “Johnson Fiddling” is the number one cause of rapture abandonment among pubescent boys.

    I am pretty busy right now, but, …

    I think that we can safely assume that all of us, given the slightest excuse, will choose to go on thinking and believing what we already do. It takes some pretty hard evidence to “rock the boat”. Confirmation bias is part of the way ours minds are constructed. But, it can grow to absurd dimensions. It used to puzzle me that people could fervently believe the most absurd things. But, the beauty of a lie is that it can be specifically tailored to fit a common mentality and manipulate it. The truth might be rather bland in comparison. A rational, well intentioned argument isn’t very compelling to someone who really doesn’t “grok” what logic is.

    But, I think one of the strongest motivators is narcissism. I know people who populate a world in which they are heroically fighting the “last battle”. They are a brave crusader against evil. If you contradict them, they become incredibly angry, as if they were being personally attacked. That’s because in a sense, you are personally attacking them, you are picking away at the tapestry of lies that makes heroes of them. You are trying to invalidate the righteousness of their fear and hatred. God always seems to hate all of the same people they do, by the way. You are taking the crusader, the good guy with a gun and the holy warrior and trying to convince him that he is just another guy with a bad education and worse teeth.

    I’ve got work to do, so I’ll cut it off in rough form.



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