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On July 24, I wrote about the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect coined by the late Michael Crichton about our misplaced trust in Big Media.

There is a psychological condition that appears to affect some journalists in Big Media. It is called the Dunning-Kruger effect, which can be boiled down to this:

‘Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments’

Psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger were intrigued by a crime report about a man who:

robbed two banks after covering his face with lemon juice in the mistaken belief that, because lemon juice is usable as invisible ink, it would prevent his face from being recorded on surveillance cameras.[3]   The authors noted that earlier studies suggested that ignorance of standards of performance lies behind a great deal of incorrect self-assessment of competence.

In 1999, they performed a series of experiments with the participation of Cornell University students as their subjects. The students performed a variety of tasks and were asked to assess their predicted and actual performance:

This pattern of over-estimating competence was seen in studies of skills as diverse as reading comprehension, practicing medicine, operating a motor vehicle, and playing games such as chess or tennis. Dunning and Kruger proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:[4]

  • fail to recognize their own lack of skill
  • fail to recognize the extent of their inadequacy
  • fail to accurately gauge skill in others
  • recognize and acknowledge their own lack of skill only after they are exposed to training for that skill

Ultimately:

“If you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent.… [T]he skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.”[5]

The Dunning-Kruger effect was in play at the White House press briefing on Wednesday, August 2, 2017.

Before I go into the story, the only person in the White House I trust 100% — other than President Donald Trump — is his senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, born to Democrats in California. He saw the truth about leftism as a high school student and became a conservative. He worked for then-Senator (now Attorney General) Jeff Sessions for several years prior to Sessions joining Trump’s campaign team, at which point Miller joined his boss to develop policy for Trump’s campaign. Miller appeared at several Trump rallies in 2016 and also writes the president’s speeches. I know a Miller speech when I hear it. They are factual and rousing, a difficult combination to achieve.

On August 2, Miller explained to the media the Trump administration’s latest endeavour, the RAISE Act, which is Green Card reform. Miller helped to produce it.

The following excerpts come from the White House transcript of the press briefing. Miller stated (emphases mine):

Every year we issue a million green cards to foreign nationals from all the countries of the world, but we do so without regard to whether that applicant has demonstrated the skill that can add to the U.S. economy, whether they can pay their own way or be reliant on welfare, or whether they’ll displace or take a job from an American worker.

And as a result of this policy, in place now for many years, we’ve seen significant reductions in wages for blue collar workers, massive displacement of African American and Hispanic workers, as well as the displacement of immigrant workers from previous years who oftentimes compete directly against new arrivals who are being paid even less.

So it’s a policy that’s actually exacerbated wealth inequality in the country in a pretty significant way. So you’ve seen over time, as a result of this historic flow of unskilled immigration, a shift in wealth from the working class to wealthier corporations and businesses. And it’s been very unfair for American workers, but especially for immigrant workers, African American workers, and Hispanic workers, and blue collar workers in general across the country.

At the same time, it has cost taxpayers enormously because roughly half of immigrant head of households in the United States receive some type of welfare benefit — which I know is a fact that many people might consider astonishing, but it’s not surprising when you have an immigration system that doesn’t look at questions like skill level or self-sufficiency.

And so this proposal has several major historic changes. First, it eliminates so-called chain migration. So right now, what does chain migration mean? It means that if you come into the United States on a green card — and just so we’re all clear, a green card gives the recipient lifetime work authorization, the ability to bring in their family members. It gives them a fast track to U.S. citizenship and, with that, all the benefits that come with being an American citizen.

And so the individuals right now who are receiving green cards, they can bring in, say, an elderly relative who could immediately go on to public assistance if they become unable to support themselves financially. And then that person can bring in a relative who can bring in a relative who can bring in a relative, and that’s why they call it chain migration. And over years, that has massively de-skilled the migrant flow into America and produced all of those effects I’m talking about.

So we’re proposing to limit family-based migration to spouses and minor children. Additionally, we’re establishing a new entry system that’s points-based. Australia has a points-based system, Canada has a points-based system. And what will this system look at? It will look at: Does the applicant speak English? Can they support themselves and their families financially? Do they have a skill that will add to the U.S. economy? Are they being paid a high wage?

And so that’s a major historic change to U.S. immigration policy. The effect of this, switching to a skills-based system and ending unfettered chain migration, would be, over time, you would cut net migration in half, which polling shows is supported overwhelmingly by the American people in very large numbers.

Two reporters demonstrated the Dunning-Krueger effect: Glenn Thrush of the New York Times and Jim Acosta of CNN.

Glenn Thrush

Most people, Americans included, have no idea who Glenn Thrush is.

In 2015, Thrush was working for Politico, at which time he was fawning all over Hillary Clinton’s campaign supremo John Podesta. Thanks to the Podesta WikiLeaks, we have proof in email 12681, which shows that Thrush willingly showed his copy in advance to Podesta:

On Apr 30, 2015 3:00 PM, “Glenn Thrush” <gthrush@politico.com> wrote:

No worries

Because I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains

to u

Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this

Tell me if I f[–]ked up anything

Thrush asked Miller two questions. The first doubted that immigration affected jobs for workers already in the United States and the second doubted that immigration was more important than infrastructure, another area that Trump wants to reform.

Miller refuted that immigration was more important and then went on to name the immigration studies the administration has looked at, from the Cuban Mariel boatlift in the 1970s to the present day. He then said:

But let’s also use common sense here, folks. At the end of the day, why do special interests want to bring in more low-skilled workers? And why historically —

The following exchange ensued. Miller put Thrush in his place:

Q Stephen, I’m not asking for common sense. I’m asking for specific statistical data.

MR. MILLER: Well, I think it’s very clear, Glenn, that you’re not asking for common sense, but if I could just answer your question.

Q No, no, not common sense. Common sense is fungible. Statistics are not.

MR. MILLER: I named the studies, Glenn.

Q Let me just finish the question. Tell me the specific —

MR. MILLER: Glenn, Glenn, Glenn — I named the studies. I named the studies.

Q I asked you for a statistic. Can you tell me how many —

MR. MILLER: Glenn, maybe we’ll make a carve-out in the bill that says the New York Times can hire all the low-skilled, less-paid workers they want from other countries, and see how you feel then about low-wage substitution. This is a reality that’s happening in our country.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. MILLER: Maybe it’s time we had compassion, Glenn, for American workers. President Trump has met with American workers who have been replaced by foreign workers.

Q Oh, I understand. I’m not questioning any of that. I’m asking for —

MR. MILLER: And ask them — ask them how this has affected their lives.

Q I’m not asking them. I’m asking you for a number.

MR. MILLER: Look at — I just told you.

Q Give me the number of low-skilled jobs that Americans might otherwise have —

MR. MILLER: If you look at — first of all, if you look at the premise, Glenn, of bringing in low-skilled labor, it’s based on the idea that there’s a labor shortage for lower-skilled jobs. There isn’t. The number of people living in the United States in the working ages who aren’t working today is at a record high.

One in four Americans — or almost one in four Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 aren’t even employed. For African American workers, their labor force participation rate who don’t have a high school diploma — I guess, African American males without a high school diploma has plummeted some 40 percentage points since the mass wave of unskilled migration began.

The reality is that, if you just use common sense — and, yes, I will use common sense — the reason why some companies want to bring in more unskilled labor is because they know that it drives down wages and reduces labor costs.

Our question as a government is, to whom is our duty? Our duty is to U.S. citizens and U.S. workers to promote rising wages for them. If low-skilled immigration was an unalloyed good for the economy, then why have we been growing at 1.5 percent for the last 17 years at a time of unprecedented new low-wage arrivals? The facts speak for themselves. At some point, we’re accountable to reality.

On the other hand, like I said, you have ultra-high-skilled workers who are at the back of the line, which makes no sense in the year 2017.

I put the figures in there to show that Miller answered Thrush’s question in full — and to provide anti-Trumpers with the rationale behind the RAISE Act.

I doubt Thrush got what Miller was saying to him about low-wage substitution. (I’d be thrilled if that happened to these reporters as it has with sub-editors.) In fact, Thrush probably thinks he won that round.

Jim Acosta

Thrush is a media minnow compared to the mighty Jim Acosta of CNN.

He was upset when Sean Spicer, who has been relieved of his White House duties, no longer televised the press briefings.

Acosta often reminds everyone that he is the child of Cuban immigrants. Yes, he and millions of others are, but why continue to put so much emphasis on it? My Cuban immigrant friends from university days never did. They emphasised being American over being Cuban.

This was the exchange between Miller and Acosta. Acosta deliberately conflated the Statue of Liberty poem, the proposed wall between the US and Mexico and his father’s own emigration from Cuba:

… since the last question is not on the subject at hand, I will take one actual last question on the subject at hand.

Yes.

Q What you’re proposing, or what the President is proposing here does not sound like it’s in keeping with American tradition when it comes to immigration. The Statue of Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It doesn’t say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer.

Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them you have to speak English? Can’t people learn how to speak English when they get here?

MR. MILLER: Well, first of all, right now it’s a requirement that to be naturalized you have to speak English. So the notion that speaking English wouldn’t be a part of our immigration system would be actually very ahistorical.

Secondly, I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty and lighting the world. It’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to, that was added later, is not actually a part of the original Statue of Liberty.

But more fundamentally, the history —

Q You’re saying that that does not represent what the country —

MR. MILLER: I’m saying that the notion —

Q — has always thought of as immigration coming into this country?

MR. MILLER: I’m saying the notion —

Q Stephen, I’m sorry, but that sounds like some —

MR. MILLER: Jim, let me ask you a question.

Q That sounds like some National Park revisionism. (Laughter.)

MR. MILLER: No. What I’m asking you is —

Q The Statue of Liberty has always been a beacon of hope to the world for people to send their people to this country —

MR. MILLER: Jim — Jim, do you believe —

Q — and they’re not always going to speak English, Stephen. They’re not always going to be highly skilled. They’re not always going to be somebody who can go to work at Silicon Valley right away.

MR. MILLER: Jim, I appreciate your speech. So let’s talk about this.

Q It was a modest and incremental speech.

MR. MILLER: Jim, let’s talk about this. In 1970, when we let in 300,000 people a year, was that violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land? In the 1990s, when it was half-a-million a year, was it violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land?

Q Was it violating the Statue of Liberty and the —

MR. MILLER: No, tell me what years — tell me what years —

Q (Inaudible) call for a deportation force?

MR. MILLER: Tell me what years meet Jim Acosta’s definition of the Statue of Liberty poem law of the land. So you’re saying a million a year is the Statue of Liberty number? 900,000 violates it? 800,000 violates it?

Q You’re sort of bringing a “press one for English” philosophy here to immigration, and that’s never been what the United States has been about, Stephen. I mean, that’s just the case —

Mr. MILLER: But your statement is also shockingly ahistorical in another respect, too — which is, if you look at the history of immigration, it’s actually ebbed and flowed. You’ve had periods of very large waves, followed by periods of less immigration and more immigration. And during the —

Q We’re in a low period of immigration right now. The President wants to build a wall and you want to bring about a sweeping change to the immigration system.

MR. MILLER: Surely, Jim, you don’t actually think that a wall affects Green Card policy. You couldn’t possibly believe that, or do you? Actually, the notion that you actually think immigration is at a historic lull — the foreign-born population in the United States today —

Q The President was just with the new Chief of Staff on Monday talking about how border crossings were way down.

MR. MILLER: I want to be serious, Jim. Do you really at CNN not know the difference between Green Card policy and illegal immigration? You really don’t know the —

Q Sir, my father was a Cuban immigrant. He came to this country in 1962 right before the Cuban Missile Crisis and obtained a Green Card.

Yes, people who immigrate to this country can eventually — people who immigrate to this country not through Ellis Island, as your family may have, but in other ways, do obtain a Green Card at some point. They do it through a lot of hard work. And, yes, they may learn English as a second language later on in life. But this whole notion of “well, they have to learn English before they get to the United States,” are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?

MR. MILLER: Jim, it’s actually — I have to honestly say I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English. It’s actually — it reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree that in your mind

Q Sir, it’s not a cosmopolitan —

MR. MILLER: No, this is an amazing moment. This an amazing moment. That you think only people from Great Britain or Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hardworking immigrants who do speak English from all over the world.

Q My father came to this country not speaking any English.

MR. MILLER: Jim, have you honestly never met an immigrant from another country who speaks English outside of Great Britain and Australia? Is that your personal experience?

Q Of course, there are people who come into this country from other parts of the world.

MR. MILLER: But that’s not what you said, and it shows your cosmopolitan bias. And I just want to say —

Q It just sounds like you’re trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country through this policy.

MR. MILLER: Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you’ve ever said, and for you that’s still a really — the notion that you think that this is a racist bill is so wrong and so insulting.

Q I didn’t say it was a racist bill.

MR. MILLER: Jim, the reality is, is that the foreign-born population into our country has quadrupled since 1970. That’s a fact. It’s been mostly driven by Green Card policy. Now, this bill allows for immediate nuclear family members to come into the country, much as they would today, and it adds an additional points-based system. The people who have been hurt the most —

Q You’re saying that people have to be English speaking when they’re naturalized. What is this English-speaking component that you’ve inserted into this? I don’t understand.

MR. MILLER: The people who have been hurt the most by the policy you’re advocating are —

Q What policy am I advocating?

MR. MILLER: Apparently, just unfettered, uncontrolled migration. The people who have been hurt the most by the policy —

Q (Inaudible) is for open borders. That’s the same tired thing that —

MR. MILLER: The people who have been hurt the most by the policy you’re advocating are immigrant workers and minority workers and African American workers and Hispanic workers.

No doubt Acosta thinks he won that round. And, of course, he was on television!

Disgruntled CNN viewers can always give their views via the online feedback form.

Conclusion

I reckon this particular press briefing’s ratings — and replays online — were through the roof.

You can see the full video here (Thrush comes in around the 10:00 mark and Acosta at 26:00):

Both Thrush and Acosta have an overly inflated sense of their personal competency. They cannot — or wilfully refuse to — see when they are in the wrong: the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Tomorrow’s post will look at what the Statue of Liberty and its associated poem are really about.

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