Hit harder until success is achieved

I think what Trump is doing with the ban order is a variation on the availability heuristic – on looking for your keys under the lamp post even though you dropped them 20 feet away, because the light is better under the lamp post. I think he’s thinking, stupidly, that if you’re just harsh enough, you will have Great Success in preventing terrorist incidents in your vicinity.

He’s also reasoning backward while dropping a slew of relevant details in the process. He’s reasoning from “people whose parents immigrated from Mooslim countries have blown people up or away in Paris and Brussels and London” to “therefore if we ban people from a few Mooslim countries, even though they’re not the relevant Mooslim countries, then we will be safe.” The holes in the argument are rather dramatically obvious. Just for a start, there are a lot of majority-Muslim countries, and funnily enough Trump fixed on ones from which shooters and bombers have not originated. He must be thinking of “Mooslim countries” as a kind of soup, such that doing something to a few spots in the soup will spread out to affect the whole soup.

But also, of course, the shooters and bombers are a tiny tiny minority of whatever demographic they come from. They’re a tiny minority of people whose parents came from Pakistan, and those whose parents came from Algeria, and ditto all the other countries on the list of Mooslim countries, with Trump’s chosen seven down on the bottom. Also? They’re already here. Most of the shooters and bombers have been second-generation – a ban on new arrivals can’t touch the second generation, and is in fact very likely to motivate many of them to become shooters themselves. It might motivate me if I were one.

Yet Trump keeps grunting, like an idiot, that he’s doing this to Make Us Safe. He seems to think that Will and Force and Determination and Grit are all that’s required to get good results. He also seems to think that brutality works – that severity is somehow accurately pegged to effectiveness, so that the more severe we are, the better the outcome will be.

And he has the power to put his incredibly sloppy thinking into effect.

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