Dunning-Kruger and the New Media Douchebag

I haven’t taken New Media Douchebag Anil Dash to task here yet, but I ran across a blog post by Anil that I couldn’t pass up. Not necessarily because the article was particularly bad (although it is) but because it’s emblematic of something that I see constantly amongst the New Media Douchebag collective. In fact, this trait may well be one of the core defining aspects of the quintessential New Media Douchebag. Specifically, it’s the utter and complete inability of the New Media Douchebag to realize that they are pontificating about a subject that the are woefully ill-prepared to discuss.

We’ve seen this time and again. It seems that New Media Douchebags are willing to play pundit on any subject ranging from economics, to politics, to race relations — usually with hilariously horrific results. I’ve thought long and hard on this phenomenon, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it results from a unique combination of the innate narcissism that fuels the average New Media Douchebag coupled with a specific form of the Dunning-Kruger effect. For the unaware, the Dunning-Kruger effect is the state where a person doesn’t possess the skill-set to make a good decision, and also doesn’t possess the ability to recognize that they lack that skill. Basically, the more incompetent someone is, the more likely they are to believe that they are more competent than the average person.

I say that New Media Douchebags exhibit a specific form of the Dunning-Kruger effect because I don’t think that the standard definition applies here. In most cases New Media Douchebags have been somewhat successful at something in their careers. Whether it be the invention of XML, the mass adoption of RSS, or whatever the fuck Scoble’s claim to fame is; most New Media Douchebags have done something right at least once in their life.

Unfortunately, in the case of New Media Douchebags, it seems that this singular success combines with their innate narcissism to cause them to think that they are equally astute in all areas of thought. Perhaps it’s the binary folly that many engineers and software developers are prone to. Whatever the reason, it has led to a spate of fucktards who have had one good idea in their life feeling confident dispensing advice in areas far outside their core competency.

Which leads us, inexorably, to Anil Dash’s blog post that triggered this one. In The “Yes, And…” Culture Anil attempts to solve the world’s problems with the magic of improvisational theater.

Let’s start off with the first few paragraphs of Mr. Dash’s missive:

In improvisational theater and comedy, one of the first rules of participation is allowing co-creation. Basically, instead of saying “No, wait!” you respond to your collaborators with “Yes, and…” to continue the conversation and start to create something great together.

That principle of collaborative and cumulative creation is a fundamental aspect of modern culture in general. Remixing, rebooting, remaking and re-imagining culture require a “Yes, and…” aesthetic. When a moment of online inspiration blossoms into a full-fledged meme, communities from 4Chan to YouTube are demonstrating their embrace of improvisational culture.

But this doesn’t just apply to goofy web memes. This could be an interesting, even important aspect of how society and policy evolve as well.

Here we go, right off the bat we have the inappropriate application of a specific discipline to the world in general. And as a bonus it’s chock-a-block full of hipster douchebag condescension. “You see, in improvisational theater we…” Blah, I can hear the italics from here. But let’s wait and see the specific examples that Anil has in mind:

Take, for example, the recent Citizens United case at the Supreme Court. The ruling states, in effect, that companies can now spend an unlimited amount of their funds on political campaign ads for various candidates. People who prefer humans to corporations are, naturally, concerned about the pending completion of the corporate takeover of elections.

Yes, let’s look at Citizens United an egregious case of the Supreme Court giving away the rights of real people in favor of fictitious corporate “persons.” What does Anil suggest we do to reclaim our rights as citizens? Does he suggest that we speak out in protest. Does he suggest that we join the various movements in the United States aimed at revoking “corporate personhood.”

Oh hell no. We who would roll back the excesses of the Roberts Court are getting “…into the usual long, expensive, unproductive cultural-battle-masquerading-as-political-battle that makes so many of us get turned off by politics.” Well forgive fucking me Anil. I’m sorry that my desire to protect our rights is “turning you off.”

So, what does Anil propose?

What could it look like in a “Yes, and….” culture, though? What if, while acknowledging that spending is not speech, we decide to forgo trying to roll back the law, and instead roll it forward? Yes, corporations can buy political advertisements, but what if any employee of the corporation could submit the content of the advertisement? The last video in before a TV station’s programming deadline would be the one that went on the air, privileging those who are nimble with media, instead of just corporate officers.

Lords of Kobol is Anil serious? Yes, we the people will overpower the financial might of the corporation by being the advertising version of eBay snipers! Like most nerds, Anil seems completely oblivious to the fact that mathematical laws have poor record of mapping to human behavior. A=B and B=C therefore A=C may work in a proof. But when the equation is megacorp = person and Joe Fucktard = person the answer sure as fuck isn’t megacorp = Joe Fucktard.

Does Anil seriously believe that any corporation that was going to bother financing a political advertisement would take the slightest chance that some random cunt like me would get a chance at the microphone. It’s ludicrous.

Moreover, Anil displays the usual Silly Valley narcissistic callousness toward the average worker. Anil may be able to say whatever he wants with impunity, but some of us work in places where the price of agitation is a quick trip to the bread line.

But Anil doesn’t stop there.

Or if we struggle with Arizona’s new law which allows police to detain suspected undocumented immigrants, instead of merely fighting to repeal the policy, we should extend it. Any legal resident or citizen of the United States who is wrongly detained by the police should get a free gun, perhaps one of those confiscated by the police. In that way, when we abridge the Fourth Amendment rights of someone, we make it up to them by supporting their Second Amendment rights. You want to protect the rights of Americans? Yes, and… we do too.

God’s balls! Even if you assume that Anil is being facetious here these are still some of the stupidest words committed to digital storage.

The bottom line is that Anil Dash displays an utter and complete lack of understanding of the issues that he’s babbling about. His solutions are facile at best, and dangerous at the worst. The most obnoxious thing is that there are people who think that this clod is insightful.