Pot, kettle, black

There’s a mildly amusing post script to my last post. I thought my American visitor would know why the US media depict Trump as a greater threat to world peace than Clinton, and asked her. She was bemused by my question, as though the answer were self-evident; so I explained about Clinton having earned an international reputation for her hawkish policy on the Arab world during her four-year stint as President Obama’s Secretary of State. It transpired that she didn’t know that Clinton ever had a policy on the Arab world, still less that it had been hawkish. And the reason why she didn’t know about these (I thought) quite well publicised details? Well, she wasn’t actually aware that Clinton had been Secretary of State. But she did feel she knew enough to consider all the other side’s supporters pea-brained. I hasten to add that there was doubtless the same kind of ignorance on both sides of the electoral divide. My point is simply this: the nature of the human mind is such that ignorance is no bar to strong opinions on any topic, and on the contrary is likely to correlate. As the old adage has it, empty vessels make most noise. While our elective oligarchy is a reasonably good insurance against tyranny, we should never kid ourselves that it has a lot to do with sound argument. There is no more of a requirement to pass a test of mental stability, intelligence, knowledge or competence to be a voter than there is to be an elected representative; so it’s no wonder that elections are as prone to yielding odd outcomes as they are to delivering hapless governments. The waspish H L Mencken put it succinctly: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

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