From Dunning-Kruger To The Much More Harmful Trump-Pence Effect

In a film that was intended as a homage to old science fiction films and B-movies, aliens attack the Earth and cause a massacre among humans. The American president and his advisors are not quite at one with each other as to what the right course of action should be, and above all, the president’s poll ratings should not suffer as a result. The reactions to the invasion are therefore hesitant, uncoordinated, and ultimately deadly for the president and his staff.

The 1996 film Mars Attacks! by Tim Burton, starring Jack Nicholson in the role of the American president, was not a box-office success, but it skilfully parodied everyday US politics. It depicts a world that cannot exist in reality in this way. Or can it?

Replace the word alien with the word coronavirus, and we’ve got ourselves a situation. And not only that, the situation is actually even worse than the movie wanted to portray in its parodistic exaggeration.

Martians and Corona

With the USA, we have a country that is currently ruled by people who are not only driven by the concern for their popularity and their own self-perception, but at the same time they do not believe in science, they are chasing the worst conspiracy theories, and they think they can pray away all problems. That would be bad enough. When they also deny facts, are arrogant, have racist prejudices, are ignorant and unwilling to learn, but at the same time praise themselves to the skies, issue a gag order to their own experts and thus refrain from important preventive actions, because it does not correspond to their ideas of their wishful thinking, and makes them look bad in public, then it becomes tragic.

This may be acceptable as long as the effects of this incompetence are not all to publicly visible or can be overcome with outragous lies and distractions and everything continues to run rather normally.

But when a pandemic breaks out with immediate and visible consequences for everyone, and the possibility comes within reach that the people at the top of the government themselves could be killed by the deadly virus, then that is karma – and an incredibly good material for a box-office success in the cinema.

For a long time, American President Donald Trump dismissed the corona virus outbreak as a hoax on the part of the opposition and the press, who only wanted to harm him by causing panic on the stock markets and the global economy. This, it should be noted, was after China had already taken drastic measures to stem the spread at home and after the pandemic began to spread to Europe.

And then it becomes public that a delegation of Brazilian government delegates at a state reception with the American government team included several infected persons with whom Trump had direct contact.

It was only after several days of public insistence and discussion that Trump underwent a test which, according to the official White House physician, turned out negative. However, after all the tissue of lies from the White House since Trump has been in power, such reports are doubted by some.

The Dunning-Kruger-Effect

The basis of all this is stupidity, the opposite of intelligence. What it is exactly and how it works has already been researched by the late Berkeley professor Carlo M. Cipolla. And one effect of stupidity is described by the Dunning-Kruger effect. It describes the fact that incompetent people overestimate their knowledge and skills because they do not realize that they lack them, precisely because they lack competence.

However, the Dunning-Kruger effect seems to describe only a certain form, which does not take other character traits into account. With Donald Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence, a number of other forms have been added to the Dunning Kruger Effect, which increase its harmful effectiveness.

  • Willingness to tell bold lies
  • Dismissal of any blame for errors and failures
  • Invention of facts
  • Rejection of facts and science
  • Verbal attack on opponents or different opinions
  • Narcissism
  • Vindictiveness
  • Criminal drive
  • Overcoming legal, moral and ethical boundaries
  • Assume own character weaknesses as motivation for dissenters
  • Excessive self-elevation and overestimation of self
  • Need to mention your own perceived strengths or have others mention them
  • Immense laziness
  • Reading difficulties and concentration difficulties
  • Resistance to advice and learning
  • Misguided belief in one’s own ability to comprehend
  • Thinking about rights
  • Emotional instability
  • Indiscipline
  • Belief in an invisible, imaginary friend in heaven, known as religiousness
  • Chauvinism
  • Misogyny
  • Selfishness
  • Lack of empathy

The Trump-Pence-Effect

This (probably incomplete) list of observed traits in combination with the Dunning Kruger effect gives us something I would like to call the Trump-Pence-Effect. A much more dangerous form of how stupidity can manifest itself in a combination of such negative traits to the detriment of many people, an entire nation or the world.

At the same time, he is breaking down moral walls worldwide, because many leaders with dictatorial tendencies are now using the USA as an example and the sincere leaders can no longer use the moral example of the USA.

The Trump-Pence-Effect will remain active until the replacement of the people who have exercised it. Whether this will be eliminated by the coronavirus itself, of course, or by a vote in November, or other measures, is still open. But one thing is clear: the damage caused by the coronavirus is nothing compared to the damage potential made possible by the Trump-Pence-Effect.

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