There was a time when facts and evidence were all that were necessary to convince people of something. Most of you are willing to accept the fact that the Earth is round, more than 6,000 years old, and orbits the Sun, without objections. These facts don’t contradict any part of your identity, and they are not subject to the Dunning – Kruger effect. This is the idea that when we know a little about something, we believe we know all about it. We’re not smart enough to know we’re not smart enough to get it. Most of us know enough about astronomy to know we know very little.
An example of the Dunning – Kruger effect I saw recently involved a comparison between two photographers. One had just begun taking pictures. He believes he knows about 90% of what there is to know about photography, although he knows less than 20%. The other has been a photographer for 7 years. He has learned enough to realize there is much more to know about photography. He feels he knows about 70% of what there is to know, and his estimate is probably correct.
Those who don’t know enough to know there’s a lot more to know are difficult to persuade of any new ideas. They believe they already have it all worked out. If, for example, you honestly believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old, it’s unlikely that even an astronomer or geologist could convince you of the facts. The more one learns, the more one realizes how much more there really is TO learn.
Socrates said, “All I know is I know nothing.” That, for me, is the beginning of wisdom.
In The Information Age, where we can look up nearly any fact in only a few seconds using our phones, we can learn more quickly and easily than ever before. There’s certainly something on Google that will give you superficial answers, and if you dig more deeply, you can learn more. There are 200 million active websites in the world. One of them will have the information you seek.
Why is it that so many people believe things that are simply untrue?
I’ll give you an example from last week. There was yet another debate on the Facebook page of a friend of mine, this time concerning impeachment. One of my friends made the claim that the entire phone call that is the basis of the impeachment was a fake invented by Adam Schiff in order to attack the President.
The evidence of the authenticity of the President’s phone call to Ukraine is so easily found in a Google search that it’s almost impossible to miss. The White House released a transcript of the call. Whether it’s complete, or accurate, is certainly open to debate, but the fact that it occurred is something even Republicans and Trump, himself, admit. But, my friend had heard this from “someone,” and she believed it. I never convinced her otherwise. She doesn’t know enough, yet, to realize how much she doesn’t know. And her unwillingness to believe facts presented to her makes it almost certain she will never know more than she does now.
“Education is man’s going forward from cocksure ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty.” – K. Johnson
Now, if this were just an isolated example, I could offer my sympathy, and I could let it go. But this is frighteningly common. I have any number of friends who are convinced that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election, even after that story has been debunked, repeatedly, and particularly by Fiona Hill, who knows much more about it than most people do. She’s an expert in the field, who tells us the story is Russian propaganda. My friends believe these things because they are repeated by Republicans, who we expect to tell the truth. The Republicans are lying, however, and even though the evidence is against them, they’ll repeat the lie so often that, in time, enough people will believe it to do them some good.
And now we come to the point. President Trump has been impeached.
Mitch McConnell recently announced that there is no way the President will be removed from office. As the Majority Leader in the Senate, he almost certainly has the power to ensure that outcome. Lindsey Graham has proudly proclaimed he has no interest in being a fair juror. He’s already made up his mind before the trial has begun. Neither of these men would be allowed to serve on any normal jury if they had made such public pronouncements. But, in 2019, in the United State Congress, it’s perfectly acceptable. Why?
The fact is that those who support Trump know only what they want to know. They easily brush away inconvenient facts by proclaiming them to be “fake news,” following the example of their cult leader. They see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. And anything less than positive reported about the President is to be considered evil.
Many of my friends are Trump supporters. These are good and moral people. They care about my welfare, and the well-being of others. And now they are more than willing to overlook “Grab em by the pussy!” They can ignore the evidence of corruption found in his charity defrauding children suffering from cancer of millions of dollars. The fact that Trump admitted it in Court does nothing to convince them of the truth of the story, or they will simply ignore it. They tell me it was okay for President Trump to tell Representative Dingell’s wife that her late husband might well be burning in Hell. It was only a joke, they tell me.
They point to all the good things he has done for the country. We have the lowest unemployment in many years. The GDP is up. These, they tell me, are good things. Never mind that many people are working two or three of these jobs in an effort to make ends meet. So what if 78% of the population is living paycheck to paycheck? What does it matter if life expectancy is falling? Children in cages are the responsibility of their horrible parents who put them in that position in the first place. They should have stayed in their own countries. They are welcome here, but they must come legally.
Many of these are statements made by low information voters. Contradictions to those statements are easily found on the internet on any number of reputable sites. And, that, of course, is the second problem.
The Love of Alternative Facts
We’ve decided that only sites we like are reputable. We’ve decided CNN and The Washington Post, MSNBC, The New York Times, and even the news divisions of CBS, NBC, and ABC are not to be believed. Even Fox News is becoming unacceptable from the point of view of a Trump supporter.
We must all recognize there is much we don’t know. We must know enough to know that. And then, we must put aside confirmation bias and the Dunning – Kruger effect, and find the facts. Why? Just because some liberal told you to? No.
Our country is teetering on the edge of dictatorship. That the President behaved unethically and immorally is beyond dispute. Even the Republicans don’t try to debate the facts. They are right there in the transcript released by the White House. Republicans complain about the process, but Democrats have granted their every request in the Impeachment Inquiry. The President has been invited to participate, but has both declined to do so, and said he’s being denied due process at the same time. That’s the sort of pretzel logic that Trump supporters are willing to accept because of their devotion to Dear Leader.
The President Must Be Removed
If we allow the President to involve a foreign country, in any way, in the outcome of our elections, the heart of democracy will have been cut out of the body politic. If our elections are not only for sale to the highest bidder, and if we’re allowing foreign countries to attend the auction, or worse, we extort their cooperation in seeking dirt on our opponents, we have no country left. We will become a dictatorship.
That’s not hysterical hyperbole; it’s a statement of fact.
The Republican Senate has already publicly proclaimed there will not be a fair trial. The question facing us now is simple. Are we willing to lie down quietly and watch our democracy evaporate? I, for one, am not.
If you believe it’s appropriate for the trial to be decided before it’s begun, then by all means, leave me a comment and explain your reasoning. I beseech you not to engage in Whataboutism. If your claim is that it’s okay because of the way the Democrats in The House handled the inquiry, you have no argument. Why not? One of two things is true.
- If they had a show trial, ignored evidence, and had decided the outcome before the inquiry began, and you believe that to be bad, then you can’t defend the Senate doing the same thing. If it was wrong for The House, it’s wrong for The Senate. Whataboutism doesn’t fly.
2. If The House handled it properly, but the evidence is unconvincing, then a fair trial in the Senate is imperative. This means considering all the evidence, and that means allowing the Democrats to call witnesses who have direct knowledge of the events. It’s not that The House did sloppy work; it’s that they were denied witnesses and documents they subpoenaed.
In either case, a fair trial is necessary. Without it, we will have set the precedent that any President can do as he pleases so long as his party holds a majority in either The House of Representatives or The Senate. If you have The House, you’ll never be impeached in the first place. If you have The Senate, your impeachment can generate nothing more than a show trial, with a predetermined outcome.
If your argument is that we are ignoring the votes of 63 million Americans, I would remind you that the same Constitution that provides for impeachment also provides for the Electoral College that made it possible to ignore the votes of 66 million people who voted for his opponent.
My roommate and I attended an Impeachment Rally this week. It’s the little I can do to attempt to change the world. I hope these words help to make a tiny difference in the world, too.
I rarely ask my readers to do anything, but this is an exception. Please let your Senators know that a fair trial is of paramount importance to you. The survival of the last, best hope for a free world depends on it.