Bloody shovel

We shall drown, and nobody will save us

Groupthink

Nydwracu linked to this Tweet over here, which I found quite amusing.

Often the decline of Western Civilization is linked to the increasing numbers of foreigners in our midst, and often there is a tacit assumption that the decline is linear: the more NAMs the worse the decline. Well that doesn’t explain why Whitopias like Vermont or New Hampshire were so overrepresented in this last example of retarded celebrity worship.

For some reason this table reminded me of this video on bloggingheads.tv:

http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/1345?in=31:56&out=47:06

I saw this clip years ago, and always wanted to write about it (there’s a draft lost somewhere in my wordpress dashboard with the title: The Enemy), but it always pisses me off so much that I just can’t come with any coherent writing, besides calling the guy a revolting douchebag (tell me those “yeahs” don’t remind me you of Bill Lumbergh) and the woman a vapid whore.

Special attention should be paid to 31:10 when they start talking about James Watson. The douchebag starts saying how when he wrote about it, people (more knowledgeable than himself) would tell him that Watson was right and there’s plenty of scientific basis for saying black Africans have genetically low IQs, and the vapid whore says “Really?!”. If she were 20 years younger she’s say “OMG Wow, just wow”. You get the picture.

Of course all this comes down to the concept of groupthink. Why do intelligent white people show outrage towards James Watson when they don’t really know shit about the facts? Groupthink.  And why do old-stock Yankees in New Hampshire and Vermont retweet like crazy a selfie of a bunch of actors in the Oscars? Groupthink.

Now, Groupthink is a quite well established concept in psychology, although it suffers from serious neglect, as it doesn’t fit the zeitgeist, or more accurately, it goes against the basic Christian concept of individual sin, and its bastardized Enlightenment idea of the autonomous individual. A good recent takedown of the idea of individual rationality was published in the last annual question at Edge.org here.

The problem with groupthink is that we tend to think that it is correlated with  IQ, as more intelligent people are less prone to groupthink than less intelligent people. Nobody’s surprised at Africans penis theft panics, or Indians dying in hundreds in some temple stampede. People are sheep, and dumb people more so. But that doesn’t explain a lot of things. It doesn’t explain why it was Vermont retweeting that retarded Oscar selfie rather than California or Florida. There’s something else.

The obvious answer is that there’s something about Yankee culture that produces more groupthink than other cultures. Tocqueville famously wrote about how all those free and independent republican Americans were so much sheepish than the old world peasant subject of feudal lords and ancient superstitions. There are only so many ways to solve the Coordination Problem. You can have a strong and unequal hierarchy, which keeps people subject by force and custom even if they complain and joke about it. Or you can abolish all hierarchy and make people free and equal, but how do you coordinate them then?

Groupthink, i.e. mutual surveillance, periodic witch-hunts, frequent rituals to confirm the social bonds of the village (and check who’s not as enthusiastic as the others).

It’s a tough choice.

30 responses to “Groupthink

  1. reakcionar March 4, 2014 at 10:38

    I had to stop listening after 5 minutes, it’s just too horrifying. This conversation reminded me of some artistic-liberal arts college students I knew a few years ago. Within that circle, any coherent statement about the world was met with scorn, and only duckspeak was rewarded with approval. Chicks in that group were horribly empty (of both feminine virtue and whorish attractiveness), and seemed like they could achieve orgasms only through the overwhelming sensation of high intellectual and moral superiority.

    I agree with your idea on IQ and groupthink. Smart people often have stronger hamster, spinning their rationalization wheels in order to satisfy the reptilian need for power and status.

  2. cyder534 March 4, 2014 at 11:15

    I have to admit. I quite took to the Oscar photo bomb by Benedict Cumberbatch. He was photo bombing Bono from U2 though.

  3. Handle March 4, 2014 at 12:15

    Of course, this makes me want to make a 2×2 matrix. High and low groupthink vs hierarchy societies. Top of my head thoughts, but I wonder who you would put in as exemplars:
    H-GT, L-HR = Yankees
    H-GT, H-HR = Japanese
    L-GT, H-HR = Italians?
    L-GT, L-HR = Bushmen?

    Thoughts?

    • spandrell March 4, 2014 at 13:03

      If my post has any sense, it means that both L-GT, L-HR and H-GT, H-HR are empty.

      I certainly don’t see the Bushmen as being freethinkers, and the strict hierarchy of Japan has the strange property of being incapable of making the subordinates obey the top. See the famous Japanese ministries contradicting each other, Prime Ministers changing every few months, etc.

      • Handle March 4, 2014 at 13:27

        It’s hard to tell how freethinking some group is when there’s not much to think about. My experiences with American Indians reflect that, though, there is naturally a lot of tribal variation. But you see a lot of variety of views and highly opinionated individuals who stand up for their position and stubbornly resist group pressure for conformity. And then … sigh … as soon as the whiskey starts flowing there’s definitely going to be a homicide about some stupid argument, so maybe some more groupthink would be a good thing. I would say their tendency toward hierarchy is low, but then again, I never saw then during the tribes and chiefs days, so I’ll have to read up on what observers at the time thought. But, again, like with intelligence, it’s hard to tell much about hierarchy if your group size is low and primitive people usually have some kind of chief. There’s always the example of the Mayans and Aztecs. Hierarchical, but who knows how free thinking.

        • spandrell March 4, 2014 at 13:54

          Maybe inequality is a better indicator. Hierarchy can be hard to measure.

          In Japan they often say that pre-war Japan was a much more light-hearted, easy going society where people spoke their mind and were merry. They also had an official aristocracy which owned everything and peasants were lucky to grow beyond 1.50m.

          • Handle March 4, 2014 at 14:30

            I think that’s a good insight. Also, I think another measure is the level of development – the scope or scale – of a society.

            This is like the bouquet metaphor for intelligence specialization (Sailer here). At high intelligence, you see people who are all-math, or all-verbal, or combination of both that you still recognize as smart. As low intelligence, that kind of differentiation doesn’t seem to matter or show up much.

            If you’re going to get beyond Dunbar-number levels, you need more intelligence and some kind of social coordinating mechanism. If you don’t have those – then you’re at the stem of the bouquet, and it’s hard to tell what’s going on.

            But as you start growing larger and more complex, it means that at least some people are getting smarter, and they also need some way to organize the mass and keep it together and aligned to prevent it from splitting up.

            And social coordination can be all-hierarchy, all-moral-conformity-enforcement-mechanisms, or some equally effective combination of moderate amounts of both.

            • spandrell March 4, 2014 at 15:03

              Yes, which means that the larger the society, the more the total amount of glue it needs, so if it gives up on one sort of glue, it will need industrial amounts of the other. So you get Yankees who have a huge society but little hierarchy/inequality, so to coordinate they need industrial amounts of groupthink.

          • fnn March 6, 2014 at 00:13

            I read somewhere that officer school (which started quite young) in the pre-war IJA was so tough that the officers were on average shorter than their men.

      • Lesser Bull March 4, 2014 at 20:30

        Your post makes sense with all four slots filled. There is no fundamental requirement that a culture solve the coordination problem very well. What you are calling empty slots could work well as relatve failure modes when filled.

    • Anthony March 6, 2014 at 00:21

      L-GT, H-HR – not Italians.

      One has to watch out for groups or societies where there are more than one groupthink-attractors. For example, the French were famously *either* Catholic mystics after Blaise Pascal, *or* Cartesian atheist rationalists. You see that on specific ideas, too – most people asked about gay marriage will start their answer with “of course”, whether the answer is yes or no.

      • Handle March 6, 2014 at 00:24

        Do you have any suggestions for which groups would best fit the cases?

        • Anthony March 6, 2014 at 02:29

          Not really – my knowledge of other groups doesn’t cover this very well. Perhaps Russians for L-GT, H-HR? During Soviet times, the state tried to get H-GT by using H-HR; I get the impression it didn’t succeed very well. The Victorian British, and possibly at least through WW2 were L-GT, and seemingly H-HR.

          American blacks are H-GT and L-HR, probably even more than Yankees. (Though probably not more so than American “progressives”.)

          Spandrell points out the anomaly of “the strict hierarchy of Japan has the strange property of being incapable of making the subordinates obey the top”; I suspect that at least in part, this is because the “top” isn’t where it appears to be, though he’d know much better than I. Is successful resistance to change a sign of L-HR?

          • spandrell March 6, 2014 at 02:47

            Russians fit nicely.

            Japanese are extremely conformist within the immediate peer group, not the larger unit. Colonels were obeyed alright, generals… not so much.

          • Handle March 6, 2014 at 02:48

            I want to place groupthink in a larger category – maybe ‘beehive tendencies’

            and just like there are social glue trade-offs between hierarchy and bee-hive tendencies, there are multiple manifestation of the bee-hive.

            One is groupthink, and there is also strength-in-numbers, and maybe some other ways to do it too.

            For example, look at the way people travel. When I’ve traveled, I preferred to go alone, or temporarily team up with a buddy. And I would meet lots of Westerners who would travel alone or buddy up with a friend. Or in middle age you would see Western couples and families traveling by themselves. I wouldn’t see lots of Asians traveling that way.

            Old Westerners prefer guided group trips. But I would notice Asians in large guided groups not just in middle age, but even what seemed like some college-age kids.

            I thought it was ‘well, you know, extreme foreign travel is scary, and Europeans and South Americans speak English but nobody speaks Japanese’ – but I even saw this in Okinawa, where Mainland Japanese were visiting their own country (like Americans visiting Hawaii) in these large groups that made me cringe.

            To me, I think, ‘whoa, bee-hive. I like my space and flexibility to explore how I choose. I’d hate that.’ To them, they probably think ‘Whoa, lonely wolf, overwhelmed by being lost and confused and puzzled all the time. I’d hate that.’

            I’m not sure what the best place is to place tendencies like that in the organization of this concept.

            • spandrell March 6, 2014 at 02:55

              That sounds very weird to me.

              Young Japanese are famous for travelling abroad on their own. I’ve seen lots of geeky, razor thin Japanese men travelling alone without speaking English, never interacting with anyone. I usually talk to them if I’m bored on an airplane or bus, and it’s funny to see just how fucked up lonely they are.

              Japanese girls tend to travel in pairs, last year a pair of college girls was killed in Cappadocia by some local guy.

              Old Asians (and most Chinese today) travel in groups because it’s usually a company trip, it’s all organized for them. I’ve never seen a big group of young Asians travelling, unless it was a school trip. Most young asians today are so atomized that they just don’t have enough friends to make a large group, less to actually organize everyone’s schedules to have a trip together.

  4. Candide III March 4, 2014 at 17:36

    For balance, even for New York, 26000 tweets is just not a huge amount, to say nothing of 320 tweets in Vermont. Before drawing any conclusions, I’d like to know what twitter activity was sampled, how these ratios were calculated etc., what else was retweeted by the persons who retweeted the Oscar selfie (whatever the hell that is), and also how representative of the general population is the twittering population (my guess: not very).

    High IQ by itself does not make a person immune to groupthink, rather the contrary, as reakcionar mentions above. A certain amount of mental discipline is required to be able to avoid groupthink, and most modern education does not appear to be geared to provide this kind of discipline. A good STEM education or real IT experience seems to provide some of it (which accounts for the prevalence of these people in NR), but not quite in the same areas as, I believe, the classics-heavy pre-war “liberal education” did.

  5. cassander March 4, 2014 at 18:28

    I’m not sure that twitter is a good measurement here, a more perfect medium for encouraging vapidity and group think could not be designed.

    • spandrell March 4, 2014 at 18:59

      The point is not the absolute number, but the relative number or groupthink on Vermont compared to, say, Florida.

      • Handle March 4, 2014 at 19:32

        It’s just begging for a Herfindahl–Hirschman Index regression analysis. Given any particular n-characteristics profile, how much ‘industry concentration’ is there in your cohort’s tweets? Now compare cohorts.

        The thesis her, I think, is that it would look like one of those ‘American Nations Maps’ that JayMan likes to put out. High levels of conversational-homogeneity and tweet-topic concentration in the old-stock Yankee Northeast, more individualism / eccentrism elsewhere.

  6. thrasymachus33308 March 5, 2014 at 06:15

    Orwell wrote something about this, how the English upper class worked by a kind of consensus- groupthink is the harsh word, unspoken consensus a neutral to positive one- about what was and was not acceptable. He did it in the context of commenting on the horse people in Gulliver’s Travels, a group based on English gentry.

  7. RS March 5, 2014 at 23:18

    It’s colder, northwards, of a winter’s eve. Fewer people in Vermont will just have been out of the house for a hazelnut coffee that mankind needs to know about, or will have just run into so-and-so and it was swell to see him. Some of those states are also extremely rural ; others, admittedly, not at all. Call me a genius/ jerk, but your post seems like a thin-beer rationalization for being less paleo than before. Well, I’m not saying you must hew to some school of thought, or that I never change my outlook or have all the answers. I’m a bit bewildered actually.

    The talk about Limeys is usually that they’re individualist (that was Spengler’s opinion, and I think many people’s) and lightly aspie-ish, or inferior in psychological insight (Nietzsche’s opinion). There is some weird gap in the English mind: utterly towering art on the one hand, and sci/tech on the other . . . utterly . . . Tallis is my #1 artist.

    Yet the stuff in between, that partakes equally of intuition and ratiocination, namely philosophy as we Continentals understand it (I’m not very English-blooded, and I think I feel that fact), philosophy with some emphasis on wisdom and ‘outlook’ — and also psychology — not so great, not real amazing. William Sommerset Maugham might be one exception, and obviously Shakespeare, and Blake. By psychology I mean the old sense in which methods are mostly informal and great psychologists besides Blake and Shake-speare include Moliere, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Dostoevskij, Montaigne, Rouchefoucauld, or Chuang-tze — though I think all ten of those would be entirely interested to read Kahneman and Tversky, and would see most of it as fascinating insights that happened to come from more formal methods, but not very different in essence from other insights they got from a lifetime of contemplation, scrutiny of intuition, and unstructured observation.

    English are said to be more tolerant of eccentricity than Americans. So too are Southrons said to be more tolerant than Yanks proper. I suspect both of those are true. If you just act how you act, Dixie people aren’t going to freak out. Though actually Maine people don’t either. There may be a minor Alaska effect in Maine. Strange and independent-minded people have migrated to Alaska, and to a lesser extent maybe Montana/Idaho and the whole interior west, because with an infinity of wilderness all over the place, whatever you feel like doing or being ain’t really my problem, mos’ like. Looking at English documentary TV and Sherlock Holmes and stuff from maybe the 70s, 80s, I see this (haven’t actually been to England to speak of). Holmes is kind of the original phreekozoid hero in artibus, whereas Gogol (the man himself) is perhaps the same sort of thing in real life. In my adulthood it seems like the English have closed the gap though, becoming more American on this axis.

    > It’s a tough choice.

    Hardly

    • RS March 5, 2014 at 23:41

      Also a second factor is that Maine is just not very elite, and nor are the other regions I mentioned. Only the Northeast and West coast are, really.

      I think eliteness drives more conformity in America than it does in Europe, because Americans don’t have 1,000 continuous years of high art, from whose existence we may infer 800 to 1,000 years of continuous schooling in what to do and be when you are elite. It adds up. After the Great War and the 60s this schooling is rather eroded on both sides of the ocean, but Euros have more of it left over after this erosion.

      In XIX England it’s a gentleman that you think of as being quirky and different. In my American lifetime I’ve found the blue collar man more likeable, unique, and charismatic, on average. But I have spent more of my time with white collars, obviously ones who are hyperintellectual and odd. Other American white collars of my day are not my thing, by and large.

      • RS March 5, 2014 at 23:59

        I think I left my point marginally clear. It is that Americans don’t quite know what to be when they are elite (plus, it is a little awkward being elite given the country started with a proto-1789) . . . so the conclusion is that they should simply be like each other — other American elites. Hence conformity in the elite.

  8. RS March 6, 2014 at 18:04

    I’m sure you’ve been to all-White areas, and not only to all-Asian ones — even though, like me, you might not have lived there much, and never seen it at all until adulthood.
    Well, what was that like? To me the ‘putnam magic’ of ethnic uniformity = natural understanding and community and meaning was quite evident. There was something to it when I was in an 93-IQ Whitezone, and likewise a 102- and a 105-IQ Whitezone. I have never been to any pure ethnic zones of other races.
    IMHO you over-conflate philosophy with our individual lives. KK writing some bureaucratic report, or you making Japan 0.000 001% less Japanese simply has no significance. Nor does my teaching five random people English, even though that is a bad thing in my mind. It is hypocritical, but explicitly-conscious hypocrisy is fifty times less abundant, while also fifty times more benign than normal hypocrisy. You see what it is, so you don’t change much in its direction, because you don’t want to: hence the benignity. It doesn’t snowball. Its not a good thing that you should actively try to increase, but etc. The problem, which is going to annihilate us all, is the blithe-to-proud, mostly-unconscious, snowballing, spreading and ramifying hypocrisy about everything short of whether the sky is blue.

    • spandrell March 6, 2014 at 18:15

      Focus dude, focus. I should put a length limit on comments.

      • Alrenous March 9, 2014 at 11:05

        It’s new, though. RS reliably brings up topics I don’t see anywhere else.

        But yeah. Some kind of discipline would help. I would do it by breaking comments up into topics.

        >To me the ‘putnam magic’ of ethnic uniformity

        Bit worse than that, really. A neighbourhood of English Gentlemen is a sublime thing…if you’re a gentleman. Even aristo Brits don’t fit in.

        >that partakes equally of intuition and ratiocination

        Brits have a serious prejudice against intuition, I think. Got picked up by science in general, comes out in science articles a lot. See also comments on intuition pumps. And measuring health by how healthy you feel. I think it’s historical. Never occurs to train the intuition, rather than dismiss it. It’s probably related to Brit prejudice against children, (home of ‘seen and not heard,’ which seems particularly extreme) as childhood is the time to be getting to know one’s subconscious murmurings.

  9. Butch Deadlift March 11, 2014 at 04:14

    Humans are born conformists.Experiments show that if you teach a set of behaviors but throw in some obviously silly steps, humans will repeat the silly steps while chimpanzees and autists will delete the silly steps. Even though humans are better than autists at figuring out which steps are the silly ones, humans do them anyway.

    High IQ makes you better at learning. So high IQ humans can learn and follow an extremely complex series of behaviors, not leaving out a single step, no matter how silly it may be. So they get to be Brahmins and get jobs reciting the Vedas instead of working in the fields. Low IQ makes you bad at learning. So low IQ humans struggle to learn what is expected of them and they sometimes fail to correctly perform all of the steps in a given behavior. So, for example, they notice racial differences and verbalize them when they feel safe. But they also get into accidents with large industrial machinery more often than one might expect.

    This explains why high functioning human populations like the Germans can transform from the perfect Nazis into the perfect liberals overnight, once it was conclusively proven that Naziism is uncool.

    This means that liberals are, in a way, the best of us. Specifically, high IQ liberals who aren’t suffering from an obvious dysfunction that draws them to liberalism. They’re the humans who are most capable of learning complex behaviors and repeating them without missing a step, even when they seem counter-intuitive, self-contradictory or self-defeating. Unfortunately, they’ve ended up with an extremely destructive set of behaviors, a set of behaviors which they are diligently carrying out.

    This implies that we on the alt-right are not the best humans. That seems fair. There are a lot of smart people on the alt-right, but many of us are malcontents or contrarians, others are autists and the vast majority of people who express vaguely alt-rightist sentiments (rednecks, etc) are just the folks who aren’t capable of fully of performing what has become an extremely complex, counter-intuitive and difficult set of behaviors.

    Kind of depressing but it does imply that once liberalism is as thoroughly defeated (and uncool) as Naziism, we won’t have to worry about many recalcitrant stay behind liberal werwolves, high IQ liberals should make a seamless transition to their new roles as witchdoctors or shamans.

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