Hanlon's Razor as a Form of Serenity Prayer
Right now a lot of people are very scared. A lot of SMART people are very scared. And, as smart people are wont to do, they are trying their best to explain, logically, why the are scared. They are doing lots of research and referencing and quoting to show us patterns and precedents that prove that we should all be scared. And you know what? They’re right. We should be very scared. But we should also be very aware that one of the strongest instincts of the human intellect is that of trying to recognize patterns and we should be wary of that tendency to get the best of us when we’re scared. There are currently a lot of opinion pieces making the rounds that liken the Trump administration to some of the greatest villains of the 20th century, that ascribe to them a level of planning and research that is mind-bogglingly evil. I understand why they’re doing it, I grew up in the same culture as most of them and I know why it’s comforting to think of your enemies as super villains with a meticulously thought out plan; because if there IS a plan, and you figure it out, you can disrupt it. You can be Luke Skywalker with the exhaust port. You can be James Bond when he stops the bomb with just seconds to spare. You can be Robert Langdon in the DaVinci Code whose totally fake job lets him save the world over and over again from nonsense. Take your pick of heroes and last second saves, it’s very obvious why this is a seductive thought process. Instead of having to pay attention to ALL the things, you can focus in on this OTHER thing that’s the most IMPORTANT thing. But that’s not going to work because these people? They are not that smart. This man:
Trump, asking for Rudy, can't see that Giuliani is right in front of his face. This is scary. pic.twitter.com/yc1DTE3pMe— Dorsey Shaw (@dorseyshaw) January 31, 2017
Is not a genius. He is a loud, rich, white man who likes to bully people and talk himself up. Lots of people find this entertaining enough to consider him appealing. Probably no one working for him is a genius. The closest might be Kushner and I’m pretty sure he’s on the edge of a nervous breakdown. This administration is a toddler with a hammer. They might have some idea of what they want to hit, by by and large they’re going to destroy a lot of things and as likely as not, hurt themselves at some point. This is a group of people who only barely won the electoral college with the help of Wikileaks, the Russian government, the Director of the FBI, and Hillary Clinton’s poorly timed bout with the flu. They didn’t realize that the entire White House staff had to be rehired by the new administration. They were not prepared for this. So what’s happening? There’s a few ways to phrase it, courtesy of Wikipedia:
- Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
- “misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent.” - Goethe
- “Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government. I do assure you that they would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.” - Bernard Ingham
Either Trump fired Sally Yates to undermine and send a message to the entire DOJ OR he did it because she disagreed with him and he’s proven time and time again that he’s a petty and vindictive man who lashes out at those who defy him. Either the travel restriction Executive Order was pushed out with terribly phrasing and poor review in a calculated move to test the checks and balances OR because no one in the White House cares about or understands the value of presenting a united front with legislators on Executive Orders. Either there’s a staffing disaster at all levels of government to deliberately undermine their ultimate effectiveness OR because, see above, no one knew they had to hire those people and they didn’t have any plans to do so out of sheer incompetence and lack of planning and research. Perhaps the most important reason to stop insisting things are “distractions”? It dismisses things that have very real impact on people’s lives in favor of shadowy theories that make people feel smart but don’t actually do anything to solve the immediate problems:
Vulnerable people aren't gullible for "falling for" Trump's "distractions." The government has done this shit to us before. It will again.— JuanPa (@jpbrammer) January 31, 2017
I am not saying that the Trump administration is not capable of doing great harm. They most assuredly are. And Bannon absolutely has some malicious ideologies, but he is one of at least four people pulling Trump in different directions and Trump himself appears prone to unpredictable whims. This means that there is no string to unravel the whole mess. They will act mostly randomly, and we will have to pay attention and respond to everything. It will be exhausting. It will be scary. But, at least for me, it’s a little easier on my anxiety to remember that our country is not being run by supervillains, it is being run by people who can’t even be bothered to figure out how to properly plagiarize so they don’t get caught. These people have done less research on their positions in government that I did on papers I wrote 90 minutes before they were due in college. Be aware, be active, and keep resisting. We’re seeing signs that it’s working. But don’t drive yourself up a wall looking for a grand plan. Getting the hammer away from the toddler is hard enough without thinking you have to game-theory the whole thing out.