• Ryan James Carlson

Trump divides us because he is incompetent

I can't wait for the day when people get wise to how we're all being manipulated constantly to overlook what the real questions are and instead see everything through the glasses of partisanship that Trump and FOX smash onto our faces.

I am building to a point, this is just where it starts: There is a fallacy in the idea that we are all equivalent in our lack of certainty and expertise – that we are all in an uncertain state and therefore we are necessarily wrong to feel too sure of ourselves about anything and thus unfair toward others if we claim to know anything that contradicts what they may think or do.

It is true that no one in the world knows exactly how all of this will play out: Even the greatest experts have unanswered questions because they don't have all the data they need, and everyone else lacks both this knowable (but so far unavailable) data and unknowable knowledge of how people will behave and how their behavior will interact with other factors to produce whatever the result is. Granted: No one knows everything or exactly how things will turn out. That doesn't mean no one knows anything or that all degrees of ignorance below full certainty are equal.

How to proceed when you don’t have all the information

What do you do when you don't know everything? There is an objectively smart way to deal with such a situation and countless dumb ways to do it and it is possible to tell the difference. The smart way, when the potential consequences are very severe, is to work very hard to acquire knowledge and proceed in the ways that you can surmise, with the amount of knowledge that you have at any given moment, are not going to cause or risk great harm. This is objectively smart without knowing what will ultimately turn out to have been the ideal solution when all the data is in, and it doesn't become dumb if it later turns out the best solution was something else.

It is objectively not smart to decide to ignore precautions or possibly endanger other people on the grounds that someone you don't like has suggested them, and it doesn't become smart even if it later turns out that what you believed is true.

This is one effect of politicizing everything: People lose sight of what the question is because the answer that is suggested to them – the other guys are wrong and only disagreeing because they dislike Trump/me/us/whatever – diverts attention to a different question. How did we get talking about whether or not people should enjoy freedom or if shops should open on April 21st or May 17th? How did that become the point of argument? What does that have to do with answering the question of how best not to die and kill people with a virus?

When we lack knowledge, the objectivity of logic wins. Opinions are irrelevant.

The people who are calling out careless shoppers (or whatever) are not in an equivalent position to the careless shoppers even if it turns out 6 months from now that the careless shopper was harmless (we already know that will not be entirely true, but for the sake of argument): If the critic is wrong, no harm is done; if the careless one is wrong, it could have resulted in people dying. That is why the critic is right and the careless person is wrong no matter how it turns out – because based on what we know now, the careless person is objectively taking a risk with the health of others. That is factually the case right now because that person objectively does not know whether what they are doing is safe. They are risking it.

Trump manufactures situations to neutralize his deficiencies

The nefarious thing about Trump is that he manufactures these situations all the time as a way of leveling the playing field between himself and people who are morally superior to and/or smarter than him. He takes an objectively real situation, creates an artificial controversy and frames the opponent in opposition to himself, effectively vanishing the question of what is actually true.

Why did Trump call for the “liberation” of states with Democratic governors but not all the Republican states that have the same types of policies? Because by making it a partisan issue, he removes the question of what is right from the equation and makes it all about which side you're on. He's completely in the wrong, but that's covered if he can get you to back him out of opposition to Democrats.

It's not intelligent to decide policy issues based on which team you're on. It is objectively true, based on our current state of knowledge, that the Democratic and Republican governors who currently have stay-at-home orders in place are doing the smart thing to care for their states, because any other course of action would amount to taking risks that are explicitly known even if they are not precisely quantified. If they took a risk and guessed wrong, people would die because of it. It is also the only plausible assumption that all of them want their states to get back to functioning as soon as possible.

So how could we ever get to the point where some people believe that there is a partisan divide over whether or not to have the economy functioning? This is how dumb debates get when someone like Trump, aided by something like FOX News, can manage to politicize even the most basic things. This is the first time in living history that a national emergency hasn't produced any real cohesion across party lines. What's next? Are we going to be told by Trump and FOX that Democrats want hurricanes to devastate Alabama because Trump, the day before, decided it was in his political interest to tell Alabamans not to panic as a cat. 5 storm approached?

Trump makes bad decisions to cover previous bad decisions

And that is the other aspect to this: Trump politicizes everything because he makes terrible decisions and doesn't care about people.

Yes, he does it as as a permanent tactic, but even for him there's no reason to divide people over every single issue. It's a liability for him not to be able to capitalize on the unifying effect of an event such as this. The reason it winds up being done with literally every single issue, so that now even natural disasters are political, is because he makes horrible decisions out of selfishness and ignorance that have to be retroactively justified by finding a scapegoat.

What if Trump had had the brains, back in January or February, to act like Angela Merkel and mobilize the US government to start preparing for this? Right now we would have a fraction of the death total and would be months closer to being able to open up and Trump could crow all day long about how much better he did it than anyone. He would be cruising toward re-election. But he is incapable of that, so all of society has to pay for his mistakes and be deliberately polarized for him to maintain his chance of winning. If he, and his opponents, were judged objectively, he would have no chance.

As it is, we will be still be paying months from now for the negative effects of what he did yesterday (LIBERATE yourselves from sensible policy!), and for the past 4 months before that. We already have by far the biggest death toll and still rising, yet even now he doesn't do the right thing, which objectively would be to say that the sooner we pursue this strategy to the end point, the sooner we can emerge from it. (I say “objectively” in this case because although there are different theories as to the best long-term strategy, all of the strategies rely on being applied consistently and are made less effective by inconsistent application.)

He was too incompetent to help himself by managing it well, so now he thinks it serves him politically to divide people. And the only way for him to do that right now, when most people of all parties agree that this is a big deal and we should do what's right for our communities, is to encourage people to go against the consensus about what we should be doing, at the expense of whatever solidarity we feel. Think about that: At a time when most of us actually feel a stronger sense of shared fate and responsibility with our neighbors, his only path is to encourage people to go against that – so he does.

There is right and wrong in this situation. All it takes to be on the right side – no matter what your political affiliation is – is simply to see what the information teaches us, avoid harm as well as possible, and make increasingly on-target decisions as the target emerges out of the fog of ignorance. That's exactly what GOP governors in Ohio and Maryland and other states are doing. Trump is on the wrong side of this even if any of his back-and-forth, contradictory statements turn out later to have been correct (how can you fail to be correct at some point when you stake out every contradictory side?), and the people who follow him down his path are wrong too. Not because they're Trumpists or Republicans, but because they are applying the answer to another question (partisanship) to an objective question about how to deal with a virus. And this applies to absolutely every situation in which the partisan answer is applied to any question. We have to escape this Trumpian/FOXian technique of politicizing every question – it's making us fucking stupid.

#Trump #FOX #Coronavirus #SARS-CoV-2 #Covid-19 #Stupidity

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