Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. (Wikipedia)
Why ingloriously? Well, when one refuses to jump on the bandwagon of a political group but still voices opinions on social issues, they are likely to be sworn at from all directions, whereas normally they would only be targeted by the opposition. For some reason, people feel the need to stick a label on themselves, to get a sense of belonging and backing. And why not, to absolve themselves of any personal responsibility for the world view they are supporting.
So, you’re against demonising economical migrants? You must be a socialist! Commie bastard! You and yours are what’s wrong with this world! Air heads with no sense of practicality!
So, you don’t think graphic sex-ed should be introduced into primary schools? You must be with the far right! Neo-Nazi bastard! You’d probably love to live in the times when minorities were oppressed!
Public figures I have a lot of respect for have long argued that belonging to groups muddies one’s awareness of the world and imposes conformity on many levels, until an individual is unable to think outside of the party line.
People find themselves rallying for causes they have marginal interest in or little understanding of, at the initiative of party or group leaders, whose sole purpose might even be to lead all members in a different direction or get them to waste their energy in futile ways, having no real impact on their society.
Also, they tend to read publications associated with their political choice, taking the bait on the constant agitation caused by the mainstream media, which leaves people little breathing space between one fit of indignation and another.
In the UK, one way of defining one’s stand is by reading the Daily Mail or the Guardian, aka fascism versus social justice warriors. And fascism this time is no exaggeration. Here is a link to a short test containing ten highly appreciated comments from the Daily Mail and declared far right website Stormfront; see if you can tell where each was taken from. I got half right the first time; less than half the second. We’re talking about the same crowd here.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy reading clever discourse on either side on issues I am interested in; I cannot, however, comprehend how someone can censor themselves to completely acquiesce to a ”collective view”. Humour is a good way to deal with the absurdity of extreme attitudes; however, people seem to take politics very seriously nowadays and become Facebook warriors on behalf of groups which don’t represent their interests and couldn’t care less about them.
We’re starting to see the rise of radicalised majorities in so many countries; radicalisation is no longer associated with fringe groups. I am convinced social media and the participation people imagine they have in the public arena are partially to blame for that. Suddenly it’s acceptable to push for the dominance of one ideology or social category to the detriment of all others. Everyone is a fucking warrior nowadays, ”standing up for what they believe in” to the point of swearing at random strangers on the internet.
If you don’t watch TV and don’t take an interest in the local political scene you’re regarded as strange. Some even burst with righteous indignation that you have a duty to get involved, to be socially active. They fail to understand that one’s main duty is to remain sane by not soaking up the poison of hysteria on a daily basis, often over inconsequential matters, to be forgotten the next day.
Running around like a headless chicken trying to spread ideologies you sometimes don’t even understand does not make you sane, a good citizen, a good human being etc.
Between signing ten petitions and debating twenty people on forums, all while trying to also survive, one has very little time to reflect on the fact that they are letting an abstract concept made up by others define them.
Labelling oneself as left wing nowadays tends to include supporting the following ideas:
- Every demand made by a minority is a civil right.
- Minorities are oppressed by default, even when they fail to realise it.
- When the member or advocate of a minority is criticised, it’s always on the basis of hatred towards their innate characteristics.
- Tolerance and intolerance go hand in hand. Provided you’re on the right side.
- One must fight for peace and love with all the aggressiveness they’re capable of.
- My ancestors were oppressed by your ancestors or vice-versa; we have unfinished business.
- Equality means minority privilege.
- Gender is a social construct with no basis in human biology.
- Every social program or art form must be ”inclusive” of categories it has nothing to do with.
- Causing offence is a crime.
On the other side of the debate we find these brilliant ideas:
- All foreigners are intruders and seek to rob your country, even in discrete ways. They are generally not to be trusted.
- Whatever is written in the Daily Mail is true. The Daily Mail isn’t just mindless agitation and manipulation.
- Mobs calling for mass deportations and pitch fork community actions are legitimate.
- Anyone who rejects right wing attitudes is a Marxist.
- Hatred of the poor can be efficiently masked by claiming to stand for a meritocracy.
- Immigrants will breed Europeans out of existence. At the same time though, how dare native women breed so much without being able to secure a career first. Shame on them. Screw the next generation; who even cares about that.
- The poor should be sterilised. Yes, many right wing individuals include that in their discourse, even if toned down.
- Everything is outrageous. Being a quintessential finger-pointing dick is OK if one promotes moral values. Morality and kindness needn’t be related.
- Far right groups sporting uniforms and berets are Europe’s hope for tomorrow (as opposed to clowns).
- Whatever happens in the world, if you dig deep enough, the Jews are behind it (that doesn’t apply to American right wingers, as they generally support Israel).
Meanwhile, both orthodoxies tend agree on a few issues:
- People must label themselves and others, playing a part in the farcical game of political debates.
- There is no middle ground on important issues (such as immigration).
- Political doctrines actually mean something, as opposed to being tools of manipulation and control.
- There actually is such a thing as genuine cohesion within ideological groups, although history teaches us that even hardcore groups split into factions eventually.
- Debating people on social media regarding political issues – or any issues at all – is not a complete waste of time (although it clearly is).
- It’s justified for people to hate each other based on labels and beliefs. It’s worth arguing with friends, neighbours and even family over them.
- The average individual has a say in the way their country is run and can influence the decisions of the ruling class by campaigning or other actions (even though it is clear enough that they only have power over their own mind and their will is disregarded unless it serves someone else’s purpose).
- It’s worth investing emotionally in a party or politician. Someday the right party with the right leader will come along (of course that never, ever happens).
I see people being bullied by peer pressure into taking on a political label and ”getting involved”, at times being shamed for not joining a crowd, as if their life were incomplete without it. If only they could stop for a minute, take some distance and see the whole spectacle for what it really is.