Mr. Wizard Part 2: Political Poker

The next time I saw Mr. Wizard we did not talk about pool. Thank God. But we didn’t play poker either. Too bad. Instead we moved on to something less confrontational: politics. Oh joy. Mr. Wizard started with, “Can you believe all the idiots that voted for Trump?”

Once again, Mr. Wizard was presuming knowledge that he did not have. He presumed I was a ‘fellow traveller,’ an anti-Trump leftist. But as would so often be the case, he was wrong. 

It’s a common mistake, or perhaps a side-effect of the leftist delusion that “everyone is the same.” But we are not the same. And so, by acting on his incorrect presumption, his pre-judgment, his prejudice, Mr. Wizard had insulted me right to my face without knowing it. 

He called me an idiot.

Not a big problem. Almost to be expected. As a right-leaning person who lived in the San Francisco area for two decades, I was quite used to this kind of treatment. During that time, nodding in silence was the answer. It was the only way to survive such an intolerant place. 

Being on the right in San Francisco was sort of like being a Falun Gong practitioner in China, or a Jew in 1938 Berlin. Not something you wanted to advertise.

But I began on the other end of the spectrum, hurling insults at those in the place I now stand. During those two decades I moved from moderate Left, to radical Left, to Libertarian, to my current location somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan. 

I started off preaching the benefits of socialized healthcare and mocking conservatives as uneducated Neanderthals, but through a long strange painful process, ended up a Neanderthal myself. A fairly well-informed Neanderthal however.

And so, it was very unlikely that Mr. Wizard was going to say anything I hadn’t heard before, or said before, or believed before. And from which I had both changed my mind, and knew why. 

In poker terms he had tipped his hand. I knew all his cards. But he did not know mine. The only question was to play or not play. I laid my cards on the table and said, “Well actually I do know quite a bit about those supposed idiots, since I am one of them.”

“Oh. I uhh, umm…”

Your bluff has been called sir. You want to play? Let’s play. Deal the cards. Show me what you’ve got. 

He didn’t have much. 

What he had a lot of was conventional thoughts from conventional sources confirmed by conventional authorities. Not that that makes him wrong, but it did show a lack of flexible thinking. An inability to even consider the possibility of being mistaken or mis-informed. A child-like trust that authority never lies.

Issue by issue we went down the list: economics, healthcare, guns, climate, crime, education, immigration, and all the usual crap. Of course I have a very biased opinion of how these discussions went, but, well… it didn’t go very well for Mr. Wizard. 

And that should be no surprise, since as a former man of the Left I was quite familiar with his points, but he less so with mine. Quite often he was left with no response other than, “I’d have to look into that.”

Which it would turn out to mean, “Let me find one source that debunks what I think you said rather than what was actually said, and declare victory.”

That is not to suggest that I’m right about everything or have all the answers. I DON’T. And this is not to suggest I was even trying to win an argument or change his mind. I wasn’t. No one ever ‘wins’ such discussions. 

Mr. Wizard had started off by expressing a lack of understanding of the “idiots who had elected Trump,” and I was just trying to provide the explanation, the missing information.

But Mr. Wizard could not believe that he had missed anything. To him ‘missing information’ was the same thing as ‘misinformation.’ And so these discussions ended as all such discussions do. A big waste of time.

But we did find some common ground. He concluded that “people like me” were idiots beyond redemption, and I concluded that “he specifically” was an idiot beyond redemption.

Ah, peace and harmony at last. Kumbaya.

It seemed to me that Mr. Wizard was an example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which a person knows enough to believe themselves competent, but not enough to know that they’re incompetent.

But perhaps I was mistaken. 

Perhaps it was I that was suffering from Dunning-Kruger? Perhaps I lacked the competence to see my own incompetence? Perhaps I really was an idiot and didn’t know it? Oh my goodness, if that were the case who would tell me?

Don’t worry. Mr. Wizard would soon return, to tell me.

Continued in Part 3 >

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