Everyone has blind spots; things that we can’t see objectively because we care too much about them. Few subjects create more blind spots than politics and religion.
In most parts of the world people live in echo chambers where they only talk with true believers and call their opponents idiots or worse. Rarely do they talk to the other side, and when then do, it is even rarer that they actually listen to what the others are saying.
Ugly Baby Glasses can help minimize the distortion created by one’s political beliefs. The more passionate we are about a candidate or an issue, the more we need Ugly Baby Glasses to help see what is really going on.
The BREXIT vote and the Trump election “surprises” are two examples of what happens when you don’t have a good set of Ugly Baby Glasses.
When voters in the UK voted to take the UK out of the European Union (EU), the experts were stunned. But if they had focused on the concerns of older, more rural UK voters, instead of those of young, urban (and more vocal) voters, it would have been clear that the BREXIT vote would be close.
Since the turn of the century, there were clear warnings that the very concept of the EU could result in a collision with UK citizen’s sense of self. On April 5, 1999, Paul Johnson, a renowned British historian, published “Why Britain Should Join America” in Forbes magazine. He predicted many of the issues that would drive the “yes” BREXIT vote sixteen years later.
Here is a small taste of what Mr. Johnson wrote:
“Moving closer to Europe has meant accepting, and in many cases incorporating into British law, the 50,000 regulations put out by the European capital in Brussels. They tell farmers what to grow, consumers what not to eat, employers how to run their companies, workers how many hours they may put in and schools what to teach. They govern almost every area of human activity. Inspectors from the Brussels secretariat have the right of entry into all workplaces covered by the regulations to ensure they are obeyed. Offenders face huge fines and, in some cases, imprisonment.
Many traditional British fruit and vegetables may no longer be grown, famous dishes are banned as “unhygienic,” and other national practices are ruled out as contrary to the principle of “convergence” on which progression to the European superstate is based. The legal march is toward uniformity in all things, and the individualistic, obstinate British do not like it.
Moreover, they do not like being lied to. When Britain joined what was then called the European Common Market, later known as the Community, they were assured that the object was free trade, and that there could be no question of Britain’s joining a European federal state, or surrendering British national sovereignty.
It is now abundantly clear that a federal superstate is indeed the object of the EU’s dominant powers, France and Germany. They insist that the launching of the common currency, the euro, is the first, key step toward the new supranationality. Britain, they say, will be able to stay out of the euro for only two or three years at the most.”
As the BREXIT vote was coming to a head, “yes” supporters released BREXIT: The Movie. This movie was crowdfunded. 1,800 people contributed more than £300,000 to finance its production. It was released for free viewing on YouTube and Vimeo on May 12, 2016. The YouTube version has been viewed 2.6 million times.
I encourage you to watch this movie. It is a very effective clarion call for a “yes” vote for BREXIT. I still can’t get out of my head its claim that more than 10,000 EU employees have higher salaries than the Prime Minster of the UK.
Finally, look at these charts. They tell a chilling story about the state of mind of many potential BREXIT voters in 2015 and early 2016.
Anyone who looked at this data would have known that the BREXIT vote would be close. But if you were a highly educated urban dweller, the chances are that none of the issues raised by this data was part of your daily world.
When Donald Trump was elected, the “experts” were, once again, stunned. Many focused on the fact that 57 of the top 100 newspapers endorsed Clinton versus only 2 for Trump. What they missed was that 41% of America’s top 100 newspapers didn’t endorse either candidate. The Hill. That should have told everyone this wasn’t a typical election. By the way, it is easy for me to put on my Ugly Baby Glasses to look at the US election because I did not vote for either of the main candidates.
Just like in the UK, older and more rural voters in the US had vastly different concerns that most experts ignored. More important, two days before the election the Clinton campaign suddenly rushed the candidate, President Clinton and President Obama to campaign in supposedly “safe” Michigan. That was a clear signal to anyone with Ugly Baby Glasses that her campaign was in serious trouble. What is even more striking is that after flying in the “A” team and supposedly spending $500,000 in Michigan during the last two days of the election, she still lost this “safe” democratic state.
Look at these charts. They were generated by the Wall Street Journal, CNN and the Washington Post. Put together, they suggested that Clinton vs. Trump was going to be to a very close election . . . if one had taken the time to look at the data.
I have used BREXIT and Trump’s victories as examples of how powerful of a tool Ugly Baby Glasses can be.
The “I can’t see the facts because I don’t like what they say” process is a far too common human weakness. The New Yorker magazine published an excellent article entitled Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds: new discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason on February 27, 2017.
One name for what we do far too often is confirmation bias. According to Psychology Today, “Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true.
Once we have formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it. Confirmation bias suggests that we don’t perceive circumstances objectively. We pick out those bits of data that make us feel good because they confirm our prejudices. Thus, we may become prisoners of our assumptions.”
We know what we want to see and we selectively filter information to confirm what we want to see . . . regardless of what is happening in the real world. Confirmation bias is one of the most destructive human weaknesses.
In April, France will give us another chance to test our Ugly Baby Glasses. Today, Marine Le Pen is the leading contender to become France’s new Prime Minister. She promises that if she is elected, her first matter of business will be to give the French voters the opportunity to FREXIT from the European Union. Many experts think that she will get the most votes in April. Virtually all of them believe that she will lose the runoff in May when all of the other parties get behind one candidate to deny her victory.
That is the way typical French elections work. But these are not typical times, so we will revisit France in late April to see what, if anything has changed.
The key to using Ugly Baby Glasses is to not be afraid of what the data tells you. You don’t have to like it. You can even hate it. But if you don’t know what is really going on, your chances of being successful at what you want to do are slim and none.
Last modified: January 23, 2018