Ignorance is a voluntary misfortune
As the US Presidential election quickly approaches, many of us are impatiently waiting to see if Donald will get elected and many of us strongly hope that he won’t. Nonetheless, if he wins, I guess a “congratulations” is in order as the guy has clearly done everything he could in order to hamper his chances: he has put in extra effort to alienate large chunks of the population (including but not limited to women and Muslims); he has been caught lying and overall contradicting himself on television multiple times; he has ridiculed himself over and over with shameless statements that undisputedly crowned him as an international buffoon. On this last point, I might say that as an Italian, I feel almost grateful to him. In fact, most people have stopped bothering me about Berlusconi as Trump had swooped in and fiercely stole the spotlight. Moreover, the vast majority of celebrities in America have publicly condemned him and have thrown their support behind Hilary; while this fact might seem unimportant, I think that the influence that such characters have on the masses in the USA is far from negligible.
In this light, one might be prompted to ask: how did Donald Trump make it this far? How did such an individual, who anyone with some critical judgement would be quick to deem a maniac, come within reach of one of the most powerful and influential positions on the planet? While some explanations (i.e. Trump playing on the American people’s phobia of minorities, especially Muslims, instilled by some media outlets) have been already proposed and discussed, I want to focus on another aspect. On this note, I do not, by any means, want to undermine the other explanations for Trump’s rise as they are just as valid; nonetheless, each one of them can be said to focus on a different aspect of the issue. However, I feel that, while some have enjoyed some prominence, the point that I am trying to make today has not been stressed nearly enough.
A week ago or so I stumbled upon a video in which Bill Maher expressed his own view of the situation, a view which I shared even before watching the video. Nonetheless, he blames the rise of Donald Trump on what he calls “the self-esteem movement”. That is, he says that Donald Trump is the embodiment of a fallacious trend in the American society which Maher describes as “being number one in thinking that we are number one”. To support such a view, he points out how Trump is often shouting out sentences such as “nobody is better at (X activity) than me”. If you think about it you can surely recall him saying that; as this kind of expression makes up a good chunk of his speeches. In the same way, Maher points out how American students were the least competent in Math skills when compared to seven other developed countries, yet the most confident about them.
I think that the problem lies here . It can be said, with a certain degree of certainty, that Donald Trump’s rise had been favoured by a widespread ignorance shared by those who supported him about various issues both at the national and international level. Again, opinions like “All Muslims are terrorists” or “This country does not have a racial discrimination problem” stem from such ignorance. Nonetheless, in the same way in which an American student in math might fallaciously believe themselves be the best at what they do, the Trump supporters do not conceive for a moment that they might be wrong. They think that they know better than anyone else even though they have not put enough effort into getting informed about issues whose full complexity is difficult to grasp even for people who dedicated themselves to analyzing them. Thus, such issues are reduced to simplistic and ignorant views shared by the Trump electors.
What Maher calls “the self esteem movement” hampers the willingness of the electors to get informed about what Trump is saying (which would likely prompt them to see through the presidential candidate’s act) simply because they think that they already are. In this way, Trump draws his support from what, in my opinion, is the most dangerous kind of people that there are: misinformed people who have no clue about their ignorance. In this light, his rise can be somehow explained.