Since June 2015, when he first announced his candidacy, Donald Trump has proven himself to be the most dismissive, divisive, defensive, histrionic, ill-tempered, sexist, Islamaphobic, bigoted, blame-laying, responsibility-evading, transparency-avoiding, media-needy, media-hating (except for stories about him that he likes), contradictory, federal judge-denouncing, Fake News-claiming, science-denying, historically illiterate, constitutionally ignorant, conspiracy-promoting, demagogic, fear-mongering, ally-alienating, NATO-naïve, authoritarian-leaning, Putin-praising, murderous-dictators-admiring (Korea’s Kim Jung Un and Philippines President Duterte), China flip-flopping, inarticulate, confusing (and confused), internationally embarrassing individual to ever hold the highest elected office in U.S. history, who is so self-absorbed, he makes Narcissus, look like Pope Francis.
And when it comes to ethics?…
Donald J. Trump holds the record for the most falsehoods, (technical ethics jargon for “lies”), by any candidate or president to ever hold office. In 2015, FactCheck crowned Trump “King of Whoppers.” Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler writes that Trump “…earned 59 Four-Pinocchio ratings [their highest negative] during his campaign as president. Since then, he’s earned 16 more Four-Pinocchios.”
And of 402 statements Trump made and checked by Politifact, only 16 percent were rated True or Mostly True.
If Hillary Clinton was guilty of moral hubris for maintaining a private e-mail server, and accepting foreign contributions to The Clinton Foundation from countries with human rights violations, Donald Trump is unashamedly appalling in his total disregard of anything approaching ethical integrity. Even Trump’s so-called charitable giving has been revealed as mostly sham.
But this commentary is not about the elephant in the room. It’s about the 96 percent who still support the elephant. This, despite the fact, that he hasn’t come close to achieving anything in his “100-day plan to Make America Great Again.”
Nonetheless, 96 percent of Trump’s base say they not only support the president but would vote for him again; most believing whatever comes out of his Twitter-mouth including his drumbeat of “Fake News” directed at any media outlet that has the temerity to point out inconsistencies and falsehoods.
There’s a name for this condition. It’s called “calculated ignorance.”
According to James Shepperd, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Florida, Gainesville, “Calculated ignorance is when we avoid information we don’t want to hear. We might avoid information that threatens to darken our mood—why watch the nightly news if it’s just going to make us angry? Or information that calls one of our cherished beliefs into question—if we think of ourselves as smart, we might ignore evidence that we’ve done something dumb.”
While the condition usually applies to individuals with health issues, I can easily see a crossover to politics where those afflicted choose to ignore information contrary to their own beliefs.
Shepperd offers tips to overcome such calculation, along with my own ethical guidelines.
“Consider ways in which you have some control. If you are afraid you have no control over the situation, think about other aspects of your life where you are in control. A sense of control seems to make us more willing to confront difficult facts. One recent study found that women were significantly less likely to avoid learning the odds that they would get breast cancer if they first read about breast cancer risk factors that were within their control, rather than about learning about uncontrollable risks for the disease.”
From an ethical standpoint: assess information from several sources instead of one or two. Check the reliability of those sources. There are no “alternative” facts. Opinion is not fact. It is a belief or judgment that rests on insufficient grounds to produce complete certainty. A fact is defined as “something that actually exists; reality; truth.”
“Consider what you value most deeply. This might be your family, your work ethic, your sense of fair play or anything else that’s at the core of your value system or the top of your list of life priorities. Recount things you have done recently that reflect these values and priorities. Studies suggest that focusing on core values and priorities decreases information avoidance, perhaps because it makes the information being avoided seem trivial in comparison.”
From an ethical standpoint: Understand that while one may be loyal to a political party or individual there are limitations to loyalty especially when there are violations of fairness, honesty and integrity.
“Consider why you are avoiding the information. Sometimes we avoid information because our fears are operating on autopilot. Thinking through why we are doing this can shut off the autopilot and put us back in control.”
From an ethical standpoint: forget party politics for a moment; take a cold, hard look at the individual or group you are supporting. Is that individual or group magnifying your fears? Are those fears out-of-line with rational thought?
Beliefs and opinions form the basis of our thought patterns. But if they become irrational we can quickly become cynical and view all people through a negative lens which leads to narrow-minded thinking.
All lies matter, especially the ones we tell ourselves.