Monday, February 6, 2017

The Dunning-Kruger Scapegoat

”…the uncanny game of hide and seek in the obscurity of the soul, in which it, the single human soul, evades itself, avoids itself, hides from itself.” - Good and Evil, Martin Buber

The Dunning-Kruger Effect was a concept created by two psychologists to explain people who are catastrophically incompetent at their jobs (and often at life too), don’t know it, and instead think they’re doing a great job. All of us have encountered these people. I’ve run across six or seven of them – four of them at the same newspaper I worked for!

The Dunning-Kruger Effect was first used to explain the crimes (which I assume he considered his “career”) of a rather unintelligent young man who was arrested for robbing banks with no attempt at disguising himself (I had heard about this case before it was used an example of Dunning-Kruger).

When arrested and interrogated by the police he mumbled, “But I wore the juice!” He thought if he rubbed lemon juice on his face the security cameras couldn’t record him (how he came to this conclusion I don’t know, but I assume someone told him in some dope-addled conversation because I seriously doubt someone this dumb read anything in his life). His utter incompetence of course landed him in prison.

I hadn’t heard of the Dunning-Kruger Effect until about five years ago, although I had noticed it close to 30 years ago. I won’t go into any detail about that story (as I’ve said all of us have encountered these people) but what I first noticed is that these people, being incompetent but not knowing it, instead have to find someone to blame their problems on.

They use these innocent people as scapegoats. And blaming your problems on other people is the first defense little children use: “It’s your fault, not mine!”(This is why I think it is best of think of Adam and Eve as about four years old.)

I once caught my four-year-old nephew trying to steal change out of my car. When he saw me he ran, fell down, got back up on his feet, and then cried, “You made me fall down!”

I’ve written about scapegoating several times (in psychiatric terms it’s called projection). I could write a book about it.

One thing that happens to those afflicted with this disorder is that they usually end up being fired or demoted or transferred, sometimes out of state. Since they never see it coming they are stunned. “But I’m doing a great job!” And they really believe this.

I knew one guy who it took seven years to lateral him out of state because the guy who hired him (who was also an example of Dunning-Kruger even though he had an MBA) couldn’t admit he had made a mistake even though this guy’s incompetence (people called him “evil) was clearly visible to everyone else – and they complained and complained about this fool (including me). It took the top management in New York to finally get rid of this catastrophe and fix the problems.

Because of this second-rate MBA I realized second-raters hire third-raters, and then third-raters hire four-raters (and not so surprisingly – at least to me – all of them were boring people).

The last guy I met with Dunning-Kruger was a Russian Jew in his 50s who had moved to the U.S. when he was about 14 (he almost got deported for selling drugs, being drunk in public and harassing people and fighting with the police, who knocked out his teeth when he kissed the sidewalk. Then he claimed he was “tortured” during the three months he spent in the county jail.). He wanted to be another Howard Stern but every time he weaseled his way into a talk radio program a Niagara of complaints poured in (there were even newspaper columns about how bad he was) and he was always fired. It got to the point no one would put him on the radio anymore (he also really thinks Trump is a Nazi who’s going to be the worst President ever, about which he won’t shut up.).

This guy thought he was smarter than everyone else and once said “Americans are stupid” (he told me he was “a good American” when he was – and still is - the exact opposite). Why did he keep getting fired? Because all of us saw straight though him.

His incompetence and failures in life weren’t his fault – it was everyone else’s. Self-blindness will do that to you.

If you want to see a modern example of a massive Dunning-Kruger’s look at the Mainstream Media and Donald Trump. They’re trying to blame their problems on Trump – and all those stupid Americans who voted for him. It’s not the fault of the MSM – they think smarter than all those ignorant inbred hillbillies in Flyover Land who are now ignoring the MSM.

People with Dunning-Kruger’s suffer from Hubris – which is always situational. People who suffer from it may be just fine at one job, but when promoted beyond their level of competence they become catastrophes.

If you want to see a TV program about Dunning-Kruger’s think of “Breaking Bad.” Walter White was just fine as a high-school chemistry teacher but when he promoted himself to meth chemist it was downhill from there – not only in his own life but the lives of everyone he encountered.

As I said Hubris is always situational. The Greeks noticed this over 2000 years ago -Koros (the surfeit that afflicts a base man) to Hubris (arrogance, moral blindness, wanton violence) to Ate (a kind of "madness") to Nemesis (fate, retribution, destruction). Think of both Hillary Clinton and Dubya Shrub – both incompetent life-long politicians.

The Bible too noticed this – “Pride goes destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” That’s what happens when you take yourself too seriously and whatever power (no matter how little) you have goes straight to your head.

4 comments:

Twarog said...

He probably heard something about lemon juice being used as "invisible ink", then put two and two together... to make six.

James said...

"Walter White was just fine as a high-school chemistry teacher but when he promoted himself to meth chemist it was downhill from there – not only in his own life but the lives of everyone he encountered".

Actually, Walter White was a great meth chemist as well. Unfortunately, when you fight against the law, the outlaws, your wife, etc., no one will succeed. Besides, do you know any "great" meth chemists? How would you define that? Anyway, it was just a good TV show, not reality.

Glaivester said...

“Pride goes before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction.”

I believe you have that backwards.

Proverbs 16:18

"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."

Bob Wallace said...

Fixed.