It is Always Better to be “Right” than Smart

Taking confirmation bias to a whole new level.

You hear those simplistic arguments for “shaking things up,” and other shallow bromides from the Smartest Guys in the Room out among the electorate. Many of them vote Republican, of course, as they boldly assert that all politicians are the same. No one wants to look like a schmuck, so it is always better to be “right” than smart. Curiosity is weakness, certainty is faith.

Alan Greenspan built a career advocating for a deregulated national economy on the presumption that it is in corporations’ own best interest to self-regulate. “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organizations, specifically banks and others, was such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders,” he said. But at least he acknowledged a mistake. Oops.

Before that, our captains of statecraft were certain about weapons of mass destruction and the socio-political reconstruction in Iraq. “Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things,” said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ John Cleese recently virtually performed his one-man-show “Why There Is No Hope” due to the pandemic. If we didn’t bother forking over the $20 to log in and watch the buffering webcast, there are still reviews and interviews to read or hear around the web. On NPR, Cleese said, “do you know of Tetlock’s research on pundits? [… ]You should. Tetlock is a psychologist at the University of Philadelphia. And he asked 284 pundits in social fields, economic fields, political fields. And he asked them what was going to happen in five or ten years. And he discovered they were hopeless. They’re completely clueless. And the interesting thing is that the most famous pundits were the worst prognosticators…. Well, that is helpful because when I was young, I thought the world was basically sane with patches of insanity. And now I know it’s exactly the other way around. The world is basically mad. And what I’m saying is there’s no chance that we’ll ever be living in a sensible, kind, generous, well-thought-out society.”

Way back in 1992, Pat Buchanan “rocked the Republican convention in Houston,” Adam Nagourney wrote in the New York Times, looking back from 2012, “by declaring there was a ‘cultural war’ taking place for the soul of America, denouncing the Democratic Party as one that supported abortion, radical feminism and the ‘homosexual rights movement.’” OK, so Buchanan was right about that. But was that really so terrible and is it really so bad?

“What many viewed as the fringes of the Republican Party 20 years ago have moved closer to the mainstream,” Nagourney continued. “The establishment didn’t like it much back in those days,” Pat’s sister Bay Buchanan, an adviser to the 2012 Romney presidential campaign told Nagourney, “but I think the party has moved in a direction, and a lot of those issues my brother raised then have come to fruition: I think people recognize that he was right.”

Idiocracy isn’t built in a day. But as we seek to restore American Greatness, the fading line between fear and loathing is taking the line between fantasy and reality with it.

“I will be right eventually. You know, I said, ‘It’s going to disappear.’ I’ll say it again. … It’s going to disappear, and I’ll be right,” Trump said in an interview broadcast on July 26 with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday about the covid-19 pandemic, which by that time had killed more than 140,000 Americans over five months.

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