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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Feigned ignorance

Ignorance is bliss. At least for some. Too much knowledge can be a genuine burden. Feigned ignorance is different. It's an excuse for inappropriate behaviour. To put it mildly. Feigned ignorance and reverse psychology (a next blog) are somewhat related. Feigned ignorance is the second step towards reversed psychology. Shame is the very first step. Plausible deniability is something entirely different as there is no shame involved (e.g., Crimea).

To put feigned ignorance into context, I present some examples:
- 1915 Armenian genocide of some 1 - 1.5 million people: "they attacked us first";
- "Ich habe es nicht gewuszt" (I didn't know): excuse by German WWII soldiers at Nuremberg trial;
- MH17 attack by Russian BUK missile and subsequent Russian spin-doctor explanations;
- feigned memory loss in civic and criminal court cases.

There is a hybrid version between ignorance and feigned ignorance that does not involve shame but some kind of reversed shame which comes close to proudness. Let's call it religious ignorance:
- denial of Evolution theory as it's not in line with the evolution as described in the Bible;
- parents' refusal of vaccination to children (e.g., US measles outbreak).

On 12 April 2015, the Australian PM took a drastic step towards religious ignorance by announcing that Australia intends to stop welfare payments to parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. The "no jab, no pay" policy may cost parents more than A$11,000 a year per child in lost benefit payments. The PM said that there would only be a small number of religious and medical exceptions to the new rules which are supported by the Labor opposition and due to come into effect in early 2016. The PM said that his government was "extremely concerned" about the risks posed to the rest of the population by families who chose not to immunise their children. "The choice... is not supported by public policy or medical research nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of child care payments".

I don't believe that the Kremlin ordered the shooting of MH-17. Yet, the attack was done by a Russian missile, in attendance of a "former" senior Russian military commander who was supervising a (probable) Russian missile crew. Admitting this immense mistake was not an option given Russia's strategy of plausible deniability in Ukraine but also its loss of credibility following its excuses for its invasion of the Crimea. Few would believe Russia that the MH-17 shooting was a tragic mistake. Hence, a no-win situation for Russia. Feigned ignorance was all that was left. Yet, the Dutch PM has vowed to bring those responsible for the MH17 crash to justice which so far looks promising.

On 12 april 2015, Pope Francis described the World War I-era slaughter of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks as the first genocide of the 20th century. “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it,” the Pope added. That same evening, the VPRO TV documentary "Bloedbroeders" (blood brothers), gave an interesting insight. Two Dutch friends, one from Turkish and one from Armenian descent, were interviewing Turkish people in search of what actually happened in 1915. The answers were either that this massacre never happened (minority view) or that the Armenians started the massacre by killing Turkish people first (majority view). 

While ignorance can be cured with knowledge, feigned ignorance can only be cured through public condemnation.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. Abraham Lincoln