SCOTTeVEST, Fox News, and a Dunning-Kruger nightmare

Fox News, where getting the hard story requires a lot of legwork.

At first it was hilarious, but the more I thought about it the angrier I became. Lots of things seem to work that way these days.

SCOTTeVEST is a company that makes vests, but not just any sort of vests. Their vests have…wait for it…pockets! Where do you find customers ready for such a mind-shattering concept? On Fox News, of course.

In a story gaining surprisingly wide coverage on rightwing media, the company’s CEO, Scott Jordan, made some candid comments on Facebook about the channel’s audience. Here’s what he said:

“I love meeting new people that recognize me and my company from all of our television commercials. I am on the ski lift and the following exchange just happened and happens often.

“I ask “what network they saw me?”

“Invariably people say FOXNews.

“I laugh to myself, and tell them that we primarily advertise on Fox because we find their viewership to be extremely gullible and much easier to sell than other networks.

“The look on their face at that time is priceless. I am not kidding you.

“I get to tell them they are f&^king idiots while getting rich off them.”

As revelations go, it’s about as remarkable as a vest with pockets. Everybody in media knows Fox’s value-pitch. Reeling in viewers with scary stories about colored folk delivered by Hooters waitresses in short skirts, Fox News has built a machine for reaching a gullible, aging white audience with some loose cash. The “Tech” section on the Fox News website features an article asking whether texts can really be deleted. Are you looking to sell gold coins, phones with large buttons, or vests that feature pockets? Fox has lined up your marks.

On the surface it’s an amusing story about your political opponents, but the more it rolls around your head the darker it gets. Jordan’s admission launched a live, uncontrolled, human-subjects trial of the Dunning-Kruger effect. We’re getting a look at the cynical opportunism that has eaten the Republican Party. We’re seeing how relatively easy it is for a well-born, but otherwise mediocre white guy to get rich in this country. We’re glimpsing a preview of how Trump voters will respond when the indictments start landing. At an even more disturbing level, this incident demonstrates the elusiveness of reality itself in a data-centric world – a challenge bedeviling all of us regardless of how bright or insightful we think we may be.

There’s more here than can be covered in a single blog post. It’s tough to even know where to start.

In summary, a guy who’s kind of a dick became a millionaire selling useless crap on Fox News. He admits to the scam in a moment of ill-tempered, social media candor. Strangely, his comments are amplified all over rightwing media. Wouldn’t The Blaze, PJ Media, Brietbart and other tentacles of the rightwing vampire squid be reluctant to reveal the formula? Not at all. People who make a living on this grift understand their marks. Fox viewers don’t see this as a revelation, but an attack on their tribe. Jordan’s rash admission only intensifies their loyalty to the bloodsucking leeches who deliver their preferred reality.

Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Also, never argue with a cultist. No data will shake someone’s attachment to a tribal reality. Cognitive dissonance only inspires hostility. A quick Facebook search produced the following sample of responses from Fox viewers to Jordan’s admission:

If this guy Scott Jordan is so proud that he insults his customers, I say those customers boicot his company. I never bought a Scott e Vest, and never will, knowing this.

Another rich execrable idiot. He can kiss good bye my buying any of his merchandize! Welcome to capitalism, Scott Jordan!

Here is probably the reason that Jordan stepped down last year from his business he founded. Like too many LIBERALS he is Mentally ILL.

I’ve been looking forward to getting ScotteVest products for me and my family. What a great product, solves lots of problems we face with regular clothing and how to deal with all the electronic stuff.. Well thats not going to happen because I’m a FOX VIEWER. So not I don’t shop at Bed Bath & Beyond and now I’m adding ScottEVest to my boycott list. Maybe your company will survive with all the corrupt FBI & DOJ as customers….

This one is my favorite:

Apparently Scott Jordan is the idiot……sad because we have some of the Scottevest products and really liked them….

Yes. The guy counting his money and laughing at you on the ski slope is “the idiot.”

Last year I wrote an angry screed about the “conservative” hucksters who make a living exploiting my father. This incident pulls back the veil a bit farther, exposing the mindset that keeps the conservative vampire squid in business. Figures who’ve sold their souls to profit from this grift deserve derision, but the story has much darker implications extending beyond the Republican bubble.

We live in an age of magical realism, an era in which reality has grown impossibly strange and almost hopelessly elusive. There’s a temptation to laugh at the response of our least prepared and perceptive brethren, but no one rests above this tide. None of us individually possesses the biological firepower it would take to keep pace with our technology. In an age of AI and virtual reality, our software has already outclassed our wetware.

More and more, we have come to lean on tribal reality to supplement our declining capacity to establish reality on our own. A tribal reality benefits from lots of people gathering and processing information, but it is vulnerable to defensiveness and exploitation. A shrinking world and the exponential explosion of computing power has sparked a biological arms race with no certain outcome, unleashing a Dunning-Kruger nightmare. Our only antidote is a dose of humility and a willingness to embrace a degree of ambiguity that can challenge our sanity. Life in a world of persistent uncertainty may be too much for many of us to bear, but we have no choice.

40 Comments

  1. “A shrinking world and the exponential explosion of computing power has sparked a biological arms race with no certain outcome, unleashing a Dunning-Kruger nightmare. Our only antidote is a dose of humility and a willingness to embrace a degree of ambiguity that can challenge our sanity. Life in a world of persistent uncertainty may be too much for many of us to bear, but we have no choice.”

    Speaking of which, this The Economist special report about the next two decades of warfare is required close, sober reading:

    https://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21735477-war-still-contest-wills-technology-and-geopolitical-competition-are-changing

    The tl;dr of it is:

    > We are in the middle of an autonomous-weapon arms race with China and Russia

    > that we are losing for various reasons institutional and because

    > we have more qualms about developing insane genocidal robots and taking down entire satellite and global networks than Russia and China have and

    > a repeated inability to respond effectively to gray zone conflicts both countries have developed to procedurally gain higher ground,

    all of which is surmountable and peacefully preventable via multilateral agreements, but

    > about that last point, ‘multilateral agreements’ and ‘Donald Trump’ = China and Russia sitting gleefully back, ready to jump in and take over the moment any of 45’s ideas ever come in to effect at any level.

  2. Meanwhile, we see that the FBI just became another tool for this regime. With McCabe quitting, the path is clear for Wray, who was appointed by the puppet tyrant, to hire another fascist for the deputy director role.

    Sure, Wray could have fired McCabe some time ago, but there would have been some kind of firestorm, not that public or political opinion means anything to this crew. But now, there won’t be a peep.

    You can bet that any co-operation that Mueller was getting from the FBI will be heavily reduced in the near future.

    1. The attacks on our democratic institutions are in high gear with the Nunes memo release, authorized by the Republicans on his House Intelligence Committee. McCabe is just the first of many. Rosenstein will be next, then Mueller. This is a sordid, sad time in America’s history.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/republicans-vote-to-release-memo-alleging-fbi-missteps-while-surveilling-trump-campaign-operative/2018/01/29/750fb150-0535-11e8-b48c-b07fea957bd5_story.html?

      1. And when Mueller is removed, I doubt there will be nearly the political blowback or public groundswell of outrage that I or others have predicted. The coup is nearly complete, and the puppet tyrant and his handlers completely entrenched.

        The U.S.’ move to a dictatorship, or rather an oligarchy with the puppet as the face, is now something that can be measured in months.

  3. For Chris and others:

    When news breaks that worries you or pisses you off, do you come to Political Orphans to see if or how the commenters discuss it?

    If so, your behavior is no different than FOX News viewers who expend 32 hours per week — or essentially a full time job — tuning in to enjoy the latest outrage. These emotions, though negative, are thrilling, and engaging in a community that shares your perspective on them gives you a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

    The difference is scale. We’re all against the billion dollar FOX News machine, right? So let’s keep building THIS zero-dollar machine. But still, the behavior is the same.

    As for Scott Jordan himself, that “moment of ill-tempered, social media candor” is pretty much Twitter’s business model too. The same Twitter usage that underwrites 45’s influence by causing every last dumbfuck thought to ricochet through news and social media is the same Twitter usage that brought us Martin Shkrelli, Kanye West’s latest incarnation, and that one flat-earther rapper. Saying outrageous things on Twitter is low-budget advertising, and the people who are best at being outrageous are largely narcissists and con-artists, if not both, because they have no shame.

    This entire post is merely amplification of FOX News’ and Scott Jordan’s messaging. It works the same way reality television and supermarket tabloids work. The people who actually consume that content get a thrill from the scandal and the folly (this is why Huma Abedin, person of little meaningful influence, is a FOX News superstar, one of their favorite characters. She’s a ‘foreign-named’ connection point between already scandalous main players such as the Clintons and Anthony Weiner. She’s a perfect character for the ongoing narrative of FOX News’ political soap opera, an epic longer than The Young and the Beautiful). The people who don’t consume the content amplify it by their outrage at the people who consume it — leading to the message getting out to those who want to receive it. Millennial liberal coastal elitists watching The Daily Show then look up that particular FOX News segment on YouTube, sending it up the algorithms and making it attainable to FOX News viewers. And on it rolls.

    By the way, this is also why I’m not going to read Fire & Fury. Based on what I’ve seen, it’s less Bob Woodward and more Entertainment Tonight. The segments I read during early advertising weren’t about decisions and actions taken, but piece-by-piece descriptions of character reactions. “Trump’s face went from shocked, to worried, to disbelieving, but then finally to resolve.” No interviews about how the situation felt and what the character chose to do under the circumstances. Compare to Woodward’s Bush at War trilogy, where the dramatic emotional moments serve as launching points to discuss how those feelings led to decisions that influenced policy, which the characters attempted to describe their logic behind. Fire & Fury is just a play-by-play re-enactment of the dramatic highlights; as much the decay of media into reality television logic as 45’s own presidency. We already know what happened — the difference is Fire & Fury gives you those BTS interviews in the casting chairs where the main players get to go, “She said WHAAAAT?! Bitch crazy.”

    This dynamic existed before the Internet and machine learning; what those things did were decay the institutions that held the influence of outrage media at bay. We may be ill-prepared to handle our modern technology, but the Dunning-Kruger nightmare isn’t really all that expanded since at least the 90s. People’ve always watched stupid shit, and then bought the advertising.

    1. Regarding discussion below debating relative levels of intelligence and the respect paid to people of different intellectual capabilities and backgrounds:

      1) “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.” ~~ Kay, Men In Black.

      2) American culture is far more anti-intellectual than intellectuals are condescending to non-intellectuals. One thing pretty much every American can agree on is “Question authority.” The result is a wide-ranging and endemic despising of expertise, from both the right and the left. Dunning-Kruger is actually a great place to understand that, as every person thinks their own expertise grants them expertise in non-overlapping magisteria. This is why doctors and engineers are some of the easiest groups to scam — they have a lot of knowledge and a lot of money, but lack financial and emotional knowledge. So their self-awareness of their own knowledge defines them as ‘smart’, but they make stupid decisions regarding areas outside their expertise.

      Hence why FOX News is filled with weather men who disbelieve climatology. They’re weather men, not climatologists.

      Question authority, but make sure it’s actually an authority and try to actually listen to the answers.

    2. When I learn about an action that seems wrong, irrational, dangerous, I go to multiple news source reports – principally online, mostly newspapers but also Politico, the Atlantic, the WSJ (when I’m not pay-walled), and I also check this blog. When you keep up with current political events, you are able to sense when there is going to be trouble. We in the general public do not have direct access to the halls of power and the best most of us can do is to stay current, be highly selective about news sources you read/watch, and think critically. Do I have a liberal bias? Yes. But I really do make an effort to look more deeply at what is happening and I think those who post on this blog are similarly inclined. I respect the opinions, experience and wisdom of the Political Orphan contributors but I read other sources just as I know they do.

      The challenge right now is there is so much happening all the time that it is easy to have information overload. There are no shortcuts to critical analysis but there is a rational way to pursue the truth.

    1. It’s a matter of getting carried away by a desire for acceptance by your chosen group, the sense of tribalism, and the resulting defensiveness when you’re attacked.

      It can happen to anyone and everyone who’s ever been faced with peer pressure.

      As for the article about whether text messages can ever truly be deleted, I think it’s informative for older people who are still learning the ropes of computers and the internet. Not everyone is tech savvy. Heck, people of all ages get carried away and send out nude photos of themselves, unaware or momentarily forgetting that text messages can come back to haunt you.

      1. Look at all these ladies who succumbed to sex with Steve Wynn when they could have walked out the room. They succumbed because they felt pressured by him. Some just laughed with him and downplayed the situation, instead of calling him a creep to his face like he deserved. All so as not to make waves. Same with ladies who agree to sex without a condom, so as not to anger her partner, or because it would be “inconvenient.”

        Just pointing out how common sense and intelligence can go out the window in certain situations. If anything, it’s a lack of confidence, or maybe weakness.

  4. Hi Pirannha
    I have always found that the average man is a LOT brighter than people think – he/she may not have been trained in critical thinking – but the engine is there

    I hated some of the graduates I have worked with who seemed to think that because they had a degree they were in the top 10% – IMHO having a degree means you are NOT in the bottom 10% and that’s about all

    This denigration of the common man gets into the Randian stupidity that only a small percentage contribute – which is bollocks
    Working on manufacturing improvement the best ideas ALWAYS came from the shop floor – the smart guys in senior management never contributed anything worthwhile

    1. Duncan, I have worked next to amazingly smart people, smarter than most doctors and lawyers, and management types. And denigrating them is a large part of why they throw a bomb like trump amongst us.

      Life doesn’t sort us well, not that I think we should be sorted.

      I consider Fox viewers like those who watch televangelists and send money that they cannot afford to lose. There is something wrong with their thinking, something didn’t work right. They were not taught critical thinking for sure.

      Mabe some were trained down instead of up.

    2. What I’ve concluded about education- if I see that you have a degree, that’s a sign that you were exposed to knowledge. But I’ll need to see proof that any of it took. Degree or no degree, I’ll be observing whether or not you have any clue about what you’re supposed to be doing/ what’s going on.

  5. I wonder if women are poised to offer an answer to the problem of uncertainty….which, if they are successful, will unleash a powerful new political and social coalition. What’s different is the level of sustained engagement. I could literally attend an event a day focused on any number of political events….and the one thing they have in common? They are organized by women. They are taking a cue from the Tea Party in their local efforts. What they lack (at this point) in major donor support, they are making up for with hard work and enthusiasm. I am so very proud of these young women and will do all I can to support their efforts. Lead on!

    https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/01/womens-march-2018-from-pussy-hats-to-the-polls/550742/?

    1. I’ve been wondering how the women’s marches were perceived by others.

      My shrink mentioned a protest he once participated in featured burning, overturned cars (some shrink, right?).

      And I couldn’t help but notice that chron.com filed the story under “lifestyle.” (Was it the pink?)

      Without explosions and rabble-rousing, a couple million women walking together apparently is just not much in the eyes of some.

      Fortunately for me, On The Media had informative interviews with scholars who have researched protest movements for years and years. They’re available as audio files only, but worth the time, I feel.

      https://www.wnyc.org/story/power-protest
      compares Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and the Women’s March in terms of what they added to the political and cultural landscape. The discussion of “signaling” as political play is fascinating.

      https://www.wnyc.org/story/breaking-news-consumers-handbook-protest-edition-1
      discusses the classic fails of media coverage of protests, also interesting.

      1. I submitted two well written articles to the Woodlands Villager Newspaper and the Conroe Courier that spoke to the great interest women from this area have in participating in womens’ marches. I noted that the Spring/Montgomery area fielded 3 full buses plus any number of carpool groups of women and men/children to attend and participate in the Houston Womens March. I thought it was significant given the strong conservative area. Neither paper ran the articles. I emailed with the editor of the Villager and he told me that this was not considered a “local event” and therefore would be covered by the Metro Houston Chronicle staff. I disagreed and tried to make the case that this was very much a local story. The articles weren’t printed. I write decently well, have a good nose for a story, and have decades of experience of working with editorial departments in newsprint media. This is what we are up against but one thing I can state with confidence: Ignore the women’s grassroots movement at your peril.

      2. Ignore the women’s grassroots movement at your peril.

        Mime, that’s kinda what the first interviewee suggested.

        She mentioned how women’s groups are focused on electoral impact more than high drama.

        I know 50 women just waiting for the primaries to be over so they can hit the streets.

      3. I’ve read various things about the marches getting less coverage you one might expect. I agree Bobo, these are ignored at a politician’s peril. Nice to have the Mayor, Mayor pro temp, Police Chief, and DA speak at the rally. I was also very happy that the lady signing the National Anthem picked a key in my vocal range.

      4. I especially found the first audio file interview of Zeynep Tufekci interesting. ” marches can be an important signal about the underlying capacity of a social movement, but only insofar as they indicate the ability to have other significant social and political impacts. ”

        One area I don’t think she emphacized adequately is that the 2018 Womens’ March is less about sending a message without than it is to affirm and extend power to those within the march movement. As has been stated in several articles, the 2018 march is more purposeful – GOTV, inspiring women to run for office, building a focused, organized movement at the grassroots level. Women aren’t waiting for someone else to organize them, they are coalescing into their own structure – even if the organization is home-grown, not professional – the energy and commitment is there.

  6. To be fair, I think there is a lot of hooey attempting to target those on the left as well. Laughing at “right-wing nuts” and then sharing a completely bogus left-leaning meme is something I see happening all to often. But the scale at which FOX can reach the public puts them into different bucket entirely. I’m recalling videos from a few months ago showing Hannity viewers proudly throwing their Keurig coffee machines out of windows in protest.

    The tribalism is strong!

    Moving past FOX we get to Alex Jones, who’s business model is even more explicitly tied to marketing garbage. John Oliver points this out with typical over-the-top ridiculousness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyGq6cjcc3Q

    I wonder how much of this has to do with an aging generation that did not grow up with the internet? FOX viewers tend to skew older. Maybe this problem will start to solve itself through the passage of time?

    1. Scammers and conspiracy brands have been around since the dawn of time, technology just makes their reach exponentially larger.

      Maybe what ultimately happens, and we might be seeing this already with these clearly ludicrous distraction/conspiracies floated by the GOP and their backing brands, is that it dawns on enough of us how easily we’re fooled. Then the shame of being fooled starts to outweigh tribalism. There’s no substitute for a good shaming!

      1. If conservatives don’t want to be fooled, they need to watch something other than FOX and listen to something other than Limbaugh. As a liberal, I know I listen, watch, read more sources with Progressive focuses; however, key is how to distill/process the information presented by people with more intimate knowledge than I am privy to and develop one’s own positions on issues. IOW, question what you hear; look for counter-reporting; think about it critically.

        The massive amount of information out there makes this challenging but definitely possible if we work at it. Anything else is irresponsible and lazy.

    2. Thought: it probably doesn’t work as well on “the left” because it’s a much larger coalition group with different interests. Hence the reputation for infighting, etc. Little doubt one could attack each subculture individually, and similarly, but there are more of them.

      This is also why I think appeals for “the left” to adapt certain right wing messaging or parliamentary methods needs to be evaluated with caution. It’s a different, and more diffuse, audience.

      1. Diversity is a strength and a weakness of the Progressive/Democratic party. I believe the majority of Dems agree on core issues, but the party does suffer from lack of cohesive management….Still, I’ll take that over lock-step, party first thinking.

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