April Fool’s Day and willful ignorance; a serendipitous pairing (of sorts)

Dear President Trump,

When I woke up this morning I had no idea that it would make sense to address the topic of your willful ignorance on April Fool’s Day, but the universe is apparently doing it’s universe thing and here we are.

Jennifer Rubin used the term “willful ignorance” in her WP editorial this morning about how so much of the stupid, untrue things you’ve said about the pandemic cannot be handled with spin. As an aside, last night as I was trying to fall asleep I must have been channeling Rubin because I was trying to come up with spin analogies suitable for the current situation, but I was too tired and all I came up with were images of football field sized Laundromats full of spinning washers and dryers.

Coming back to Rubin’s use of “willful ignorance”, here’s the particular sentence:

“His resistance to a nationwide stay-at-home order and unsupportable arguments that as many people would die from suicide in the case of enforced isolation as the coronavirus look like the product of denial and willful ignorance.”

Yesterday evening Laura and I were talking about how unlikely it seems that your mishandling of the coronavirus crisis was (is) really rooted in incompetence and ignorance. It may just be that I need and want someone to blame for all the thousands of people who are now forced to die awful deaths alone, or if they are lucky, while FaceTiming with their loved ones, but it truly feels like there are more sinister forces at work. If this is so, then “willful ignorance” is still way too generous an attribution, but it’s much closer than anything McConnell and your other props are trotting out these days to cover your Highness’s privates.

Here’s the Yourdictionary definition of “willful ignorance”:

“A decision in bad faith to avoid becoming informed about something so as to avoid having to make undesirable decisions that such information might prompt.”

And here is what Psychology Today says about causes of willful ignorance:

“Willful ignorance occurs when individuals realize at some level of consciousness that their beliefs are probably false, or when they refuse to attend to information that would establish their falsity. People engage in willful ignorance because it is useful.”

Personally, I think the phrases “….at some level of consciousness…” and “people engage in willful ignorance because it is useful” are key in this situation. The first one about levels of consciousness doesn’t preclude being willfully ignorant even when one is fully consciously aware that they are wrong about something or that something bad is going on. This leads to the next helpful Google question/answer pair, which is “what do you call someone who ignores the truth?”

“denialist; someone who deliberately chooses to deny the truth about something because it is too uncomfortable or difficult to accept.”

Notice that the definition of denialist doesn’t go into the reasons that something might be too uncomfortable or difficult to accept. I may be in denial that I should schedule (when such things can be scheduled again) an appointment with the dental hygienist because I don’t like getting my teeth cleaned and my gums probed (those damn number read outs are awful), but obviously the root of my denial is straightforward avoidance of personal discomfort and the consequences of being such a denialist are very circumscribed.

In your case, however, being a denialist about covid-19 ties into the second phrase I highlighted above and basically boils down to how useful it was (is) to you to keep your head firmly lodged somewhere it shouldn’t be. Keeping yourself willfully ignorant afforded you and yours invaluable time to square away your own private businesses, to fuel more fear and facilitate further wedge-driving, to push off the economic meltdown you knew would be coming, and to give you all time to rearrange your stock portfolios. In other words, you all had every incentive in the whole wide world to deny the reality of the covid-19 freight train barreling towards us as long as you could and then to shift over to bungling the response to it because these shitty responses were (and are) f*cking useful to you.

May we be safe from conniving shysters who masquerade as leaders.
May we be willing to keep calling you all out every which way from Sunday.
May we keep our critical thinking skills sharp and not be April (or May or November) Fools.
May we not accept after-the-fact revisionist explanations for your treachery.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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