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The Robot Judge

The Robot Judge

    If you have been watching CNN, you know Anderson Cooper has been reporting about the discovery that a sitting judge is actually a robot. His name is Gonzalo Curiel and he is presiding over the Trump University case.

    Curiel looks human on the outside, and he has passed as human for decades. But Cooper made it clear in his interviews yesterday that while science understands that 100% of humans are biased about just about everything, this robot judge is not susceptible to being influenced by his life experiences. It sounds deeply implausible, but no one on CNN challenged Cooper’s implication that Judge Curiel is the only bias-free entity in the universe. Ergo, he must be a robot.

    Anyway, lots of folks on Twitter are asking me why Trump would accuse the robot judge of being “Mexican” when that is obviously a racist thing to say. Did Trump make a huge mistake, or is it some sort of clever persuasion thing?

    Let’s dig into that.

    For starters, it isn’t appropriate to label people – or robots – “Mexicans” if those people or robots are created in America. For example, I have an American friend with Italian heritage who often refers to herself as “Italian,” and obviously that is a case of self-racism. I find it offensive.

    This problem isn’t limited to my one friend. I also know an American who calls herself Croatian and another American who calls himself Indian. I can barely stand to be in the same room with those racists. Worse yet, they seem unclear about the distinction between their ethnicity and the country where their parents grew up. It isn’t the same thing, people!

    But right-and-wrong aside, is it a good legal strategy for Trump to sow doubts about the objectivity of the robot judge? It seems to me that the trial can go one of two ways.

    1. Trump wins in court, in which case, Trump wins.

    2. Trump loses in court, in which case, Trump says Democrats rigged the system to give him an unfair trial. We’re already primed to believe it.

    From a legal perspective, race is not a reason to remove a judge. I haven’t heard anyone argue otherwise. But from a persuasion perspective, Trump is setting the stage for whatever is to come. So yes, it is smart, albeit offensive.

    Some have asked why Trump’s legal team hasn’t asked for the judge to be replaced. My guess is that they want to keep him because they expect to lose the case and they plan to pin it on the judge. That’s how I would play it.

    The one small problem with Trump’s strategy of questioning the robot’s objectivity is that it creates one more point of confirmation bias that Trump is a racist. Here’s what we have so far:

    1. Trump wants to protect the melting pot that is America from the non-Americans who want to get into the country illegally. That’s the job of the President, and yet…it sounds a bit racist. That’s point-one of confirmation bias.

    2. Trump said immigrants from Mexico are rapists. Under normal circumstances, a listener would understand him to mean that the socioeconomic circumstances of being an immigrant are correlated with higher-than-average crime rates of all types. But because you think Trump is a racist, your cognitive dissonance turned it into an accusation that all Mexican men, women, children, and unborn babies are rapists. 

    To make things worse, Trump is pro-life. The implication is that Trump believes one-month-old fetuses from Mexico somehow escape the womb at night to do their raping. It sounds implausible, but once you know Trump is a racist who thinks every single Mexican is a rapist, you have to assume he was talking about the fetuses too. That’s a tell for confirmation bias.

    3. During one CNN interview Trump did not disavow the KKK in a clear and quick fashion that viewers expected. He did disavow the KKK and David Duke before the interview, and plenty of times afterwards. But that one time on live television he didn’t hear the question (he says) and he responded inadequately. It seems implausible that a candidate for president would intentionally avoid disavowing the KKK on live TV, but once you assume Trump is a racist, confirmation bias kicks in, and you assume he did just that.

    4. Trump suggested a temporary ban on Muslim immigration until we can figure out what’s going on. That sounds totally racist…unless you know that Islam is open to all ethnicities…and as practiced in many places is incompatible with the Constitution of the United States. And ISIS is trying to get terrorists into the country by posing as immigrants. Viewed in isolation, the ban on Muslim immigration is offensive and problematic. But viewed in context with all of the other confirmation bias about Trump, it turns into evidence of racism.

    5. And now Trump believes a judge might be biased because his parents grew up in Mexico. On one hand, every person in the world thinks that is a legitimate risk. On the other hand, when viewed in context of all of Trump’s other confirmation bias, it looks racist as hell.

    I’m probably leaving out a few points of confirmation bias. But you get the point. Once you see Trump as a probable racist, you see “evidence” everywhere, even if there is none. That’s confirmation bias.

    Judges have bias too. Except for the robot kind like Curiel.

    For new readers, I endorse Hillary Clinton, but only for my my personal safety. I don’t agree with any of the candidates on policies.

    If you like geometric shapes, you might like my book because is shaped like a rectangle.

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