In 1995, McArthur Wheeler was arrested after robbing two banks. He was easy to catch. Rather than wear a mask, Wheeler covered his face with lemon juice, which he believed would make him invisible to the bank cameras. When police arrested him, he was stunned. Wheeler was so certain that he had outsmarted the technology that he believed he would never be caught. This became the basis for a study by social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, who argued that people of low ability have a cognitive bias that causes them to overestimate their own performance. 

We are watching the largest national experiment of the Dunning-Kruger Effect play out in real time. America has become ground zero for international embarrassment as COVID-19 continues to spread at a rate far higher than it did in March. Despite the facts, people refuse to wear masks and continue to see this as an issue of “liberty.”

The experts continue to warn us to take precautions against COVID. They have spent most of their lives studying infectious diseases.

Non-experts use conspiracy theories to justify ignoring these warnings. They speak as if they are experts because, like McArthur Wheeler, they overestimate their own intelligence. Ignorance can only be tolerated for so long before we are forced to call them what they are—a threat to national health.

The payoff for their loyalty to misinformation is preventable deaths in the tens of thousands—if only they showed a little respect for the lives of others.