I read a very interesting article yesterday.

Key to the modern world – the sinister groupthink by Christopher Booker.

The more astute may snigger at the paradox where I quote another's thoughts and agree with them, but there are two factors that exclude this as a drop of "groupthink" – the first is that I have held the view for some considerable time myself but haven't been erudite enough to express my views, and the other is that having read the article I thought about it and didn't just jump in with a mindless "I agree with that because he says so".

The septic tank of groupthink is one of the great curses of modern society.

At the shallow end we have the Social Media where nothing is questioned yet all is absorbed.  Someone writes that "scientists have found that ten million people a year are killed by jellyfish" and the immediate reaction is "wow! I never knew that.  I must retweet/share to all my friends".  A lie is propagated and the next thing there are calls on governments to eradicate jellyfish.  No one ever seems to look behind the lie to check the facts.

One of the most insidious and one of the most frightening of these groups is Avaaz.  Someone there comes up with a "worthy cause" and promptly several million members whack off gestures of support, and I can guarantee that only a miniscule fraction have understood, even less studied the "cause" they are voting for.  While I have nothing personal against Avaaz, and I'm sure the people behind it have nothing but the best intentions, their use of groupthink is scary.

At the deep end of the septic tank we have the major groups such as Warble Gloaming and the Health Fascists.  It is now widely believed amongst the general public that there is an alcohol and an obesity epidemic.  They believe it because they read about it in the papers or see it on television.  Yet these same people live their daily lives without ever seeing a drunk or an obese person.  I don't expect them to be au fait with the latest statistics [which show no such “epidemics”] but even the evidence of their own eyes is ignored.

I used to be a victim of groupthink on the subject of tobacco.  I used to sincerely believe it was bad – very bad.  But in the last few years I began to think for myself.  I began to read up on the subject and tried to keep an open mind.  But the more I read the more I became convinced that the groupthink was wrong.  One of the telling pointers was that within the "smoking is evil" camp, everyone was quoting someone else and no one was coming up with hard facts.  We hear of so many deaths a year caused by smoking but no one ever says where these figures come from.  There are those who will chide me and sneer at my beliefs but I would ask them – why are they so convinced I am wrong?  Do they have the facts that I somehow missed, or are they just parroting the groupthink – smoking is bad because everyone knows it's bad?

Warble Gloaming is another classic areas or groupthink and it demonstrates one of the primary symptoms – a demonisation of the "non-believers".  If you don't believe in the whole climate affair then you are a deluded Flat-Earther and should be ignored or even vilified.  The fact that the whole climate scam is collapsing around their ears is completely ignored – I see it's white but the groupthink says it's black so it must be black.

I may have said it before, but one of the reasons I rant here occasionally is not to convince people of my beliefs.  What I really want is for people to THINK.  When someone states something as fact, don't just accept it; question it and look at the logic behind it.  Don't be fooled by the old "science is proven" crap.  Don't fall for the "everyone knows that" trap.  If you want to put up a counter-argument, don't just parrot something you have heard somewhere else.


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Groupthink — 17 Comments

  1. Don't put yourself down. Your piece is more concise and as good as if not better than Bookers.
    Thinking for yourself does come at a price though which is the realisation that you have been conned.
    Once you accept the con and move on the genie is permanently out of the bottle and won't ever go back in.

    • As the old saying goes – philately will get you everywhere……

      Unfortunately, you're right.  When you realise the whole shooting match is a load of bollox, then the world will never be the same again.  A small price to pay though?

  2. Yes, I read that piece this morning, and thought it very good. I found particularly pertinent this paragraph:

    Some time back, a reader drew my attention to the book in which, 40 years ago, a Yale professor of psychology, Irving Janis, analysed what, with a conscious nod to George Orwell, he called “groupthink”. It is a term we all casually use (which even he derived from another writer), but he identified eight symptoms of groupthink. One is the urge of its victims to insist that their view is held as a “consensus” by all morally right-thinking people. Another is their ruthless desire to suppress any evidence that might lead someone to question it. A third is their urge to stereotype and denigrate anyone who dares hold a dissenting view. Their intolerance of “independent critical thinking”, as Janis put it, leads them to “irrational and dehumanised actions directed against outgroups”

    That could have been written specifically with the anti-smoking fanatics in mind, although Booker was applying it to the global warming mob more than anything.

    I went through the same epiphany with regards smoking as you, GD. The turning point for me was when they started with the 'second-hand smoke' malarkey. I just hadn't really thought about it before then – just accepted what we were told about smoking and its evils. I know better now.

    • That was the first thought that crossed my mind too.  I'm not sure quite when I started to question things but certainly it was the "second-hand" lark that really gave the game away.  As someone from the generations where smoking everywhere was the norm, it just made no sense to me that we were supposed to be dropping like flies.  Then of course I read The Book. Essential reading!

      • Ah, yes, Smoke Screens, I must order that one. I've got Snowdon's VGIF and Art of Suppression, and also MJM's latest, TobakkoNacht, all of which are very enlightening. I forgot about Richard White's book – thanks for the reminder.

        Hope this doesn't double-post – it timed out on me last attempt!

    • Nah!  The whole point of countering groupthink is to have your own reasoned [and as far as possible, informed] thoughts.  I now follow no road but that one I set out for myself.

    • I saw the Beeb the other night having a hissy fit about the icecaps melting and how we are all going to be drowned.  Now where have I heard that before?

  3. Groupthink is the result of an unhealthy herd mentality and usually based on fear and the need for security. It is characterized by people who have neither the ability nor the strength to stand on their own two feet and they require a like-minded herd around them to feel safe. Of course, the like-mindedness is simply the act of bleating the same herd truths endlessly in place of figuring out their own thoughts and opinions. As such it is the ideal weapon for large organisations corporates and political parties to exert control over their dependents. It seeks to stifle innovation and invention in favor of conformity and control. Modern America is a good example.

    • They should bring back the Cold War and the Catholic Church.  There is nothing like the threat of a belt of the crozier or the threat of nuclear war to keep people distracted?

  4. Excellent post. Funny thing, I've always thought for myself since I can remember–even as a kid. That might explain why nobody liked me…not even my parents.

    • I have always had a tendency to look at life sideways, though it has become more pronounced in the last couple of decades.  I think my father liked me, but he's not around now so I can't ask him.

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