The Dangers of “Groupthink” in Today’s Society

Dawn Bevier

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There is more venom in these times and in the individuals that live in these times than perhaps ever before. And in all likelihood, a lot of this venom is due to the emotional rollercoaster of this pandemic, a contagion that has literally destroyed the fabric of the world as we know it.

People have lost their jobs, the economy is at an all-time low, and fear and uncertainty hover in the very air we breathe as humans. Joined to this fear and uncertainty is justifiable anger at a cruel and insensitive virus that could care less about the innocent people it crushes beneath its powerful footsteps.

And because we know that no amount of cursing this deadly epidemic will make it submit itself to our will, we are mired in fury and emotional upheaval.

But truthfully, this pandemic is only one single source of pain creating the highly combustible emotional climate in which we now live.

The influx of negative emotions created by COVID-borne situations has brought past sorrows to the surface. Negative feelings we have always managed to either control or repress now rise from the depths as our previous measure of stability or control in our world dissolves.

And to relieve ourselves of this buildup of negative emotions, we seek out partners who share our pain, communities that have endured the tears and history that we have. And when we find these groups, we also find understanding. Compassion. Acceptance.

But many of these groups exact a price for this comfort and sense of inclusion.

The price? Individuality and logic.

And armored with a common sense of trauma, some groups find a collective punching bag to suffer the brunt of their unhappiness: other human beings. Or rather groups of other human beings.

And when a group’s mutual feelings of anger are focused on another group, an unfortunate side effect is illogicality. Because at its core, anger is an irrational emotion. It is based on suffering, not sensibility. And when groups make this emotion a mandate for membership, it makes our world sicker than the virus which circulates throughout it.

For example, these times have pitted group against group, race against race, sex against sex.

And even though people may feel a kinship to members of the groups they interact with, when some of these groups demand allegiance to hatred and animosity rather than comfort and care, many of those members often choose to forfeit their individuality, morality, and logicality.

For example, if certain members’ own opinions of people or issues in the world differ from their group’s worldviews, they often try desperately to squash these opposing thoughts, even if their conscience begs them to do otherwise.

Why?

Because the camaraderie and solidarity that these groups provide are things they feel are essential to their emotional health.

Thus, the term “groupthink” comes into play

What is groupthink?

Psychologist Irving Janis coined the term based on his observations and studies of group choices made formed in situations of trauma and suffering.

Psychology Today explains Janis’s term, stating that groupthink stands for the idea that members of a group “tend to refrain from expressing doubts and judgments or disagreeing with the consensus” and that “in the interest of making a decision that furthers their group cause, members may also ignore ethical or moral consequences.”

Psych Central elaborates on this concept, noting that “anyone can fall into a dangerous type of groupthink if they are not prepared [and that] vulnerability and hopelessness are just two traits commonly exploited by dysfunctional groups.”

It goes on to state that “while most people may see joining a cult or subscribing to groupthink as a personality characteristic, more often than not, the person’s situation is to blame. Those who struggle from poverty, depression, isolation, and trauma, may be more susceptible to what a group may have to offer.”

And regardless of what type of people join these groups, the result of this joining often means the loss of important voices and perspectives. Especially those voices that preach the value of common sense and reason. And it’s causing some of the most fundamental qualities of positive change in our world to be lost, namely truth and understanding.

And if people continue to sacrifice what they know to be indisputable truths in order to be accepted by a group, a cycle of hatred and suffering will inevitably follow that will make the world an even more hostile environment than it already.

Truth number one ignored by “groupthink:” People are individuals.

Our society abounds with stereotypes about sex, ethnicity, race, and religion. We preach that this stereotyping is wrong, that each human is an individual being with their own vices and virtues. Yet people often align themselves with one-sided “groupthink,” even if it requires a willingness to accept things that they know are untruths.

For instance, I am a feminist. But I am also a woman who loves and admires many many men. I do not feel threatened by them, and I do not see them as my oppressors. Not all of them are good, but far far too many are for me to say that they are all poisonous to the female gender.

And with this simple opinion stated above, I’m certain to face much negative backlash from various groups of women.

But I don’t care. Why?

Because my statement is truthful and logical.

No one can reasonably dispute that each person is an entity in and of himself or herself and therefore should not be judged based on the actions and mindsets of others that correspond with his or her sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion. With that being said, it can only be nonsensical to say that a group of “others” is completely good or completely bad.

But in today’s world, if people acknowledge this truth to some of the respective “groups” with which they normally feel allied, they may immediately make themselves targets of censure (if they’re lucky), or they may be “canceled” altogether, cast out merely on the difference of one incontrovertible truth.

More logical statements today that will cause a member of a various group to be nailed to the cross?

Not all men view women as the “lesser sex.”

Not all women are man-haters.

Not all cops are bad.

Not all whites are racist.

Not all persons of color hate whites.

This list could on and on…and on.

Can you imagine how much fury I am inarguably conjuring in certain groups by these ideas?

But each of these facts is irrefutably true. And many times to avoid alienation and keep harmony within a group (conditional though it may be), people allow their sense of logic to be thrown to the winds, the very logic that could hold the key to a more humane and compassionate world.

Truth number two ignored by groupthink: Our actions are often hypocritical.

Many of the groups in today’s society are blind to the reality that the very things they criticize another group for are actions they themselves are taking in retaliation.

For example, for centuries women have fought against sexism and treatment as second-hand citizens at the hands of a culture dominated by male privilege. And no one can deny that their anger and indignation is righteous when they are perpetually labeled as frail and passive creatures who lack the power, force, and talent of men.

This issue has been a hot button one for years, but the fires of female anger have risen in part because even the president of the United States has been the perpetrator of sexist comments.

For example, in the last presidential campaign, Trump spoke of Hillary Clinton to ABC News anchor David Muir stating that “I just don’t believe she has a presidential look, and you need a presidential look.”

But in their age, staunch feminists often employ the same one-sided thinking of which they say Trump and all men are guilty of concerning women.

In an article by Christina Rosen entitled “Man-Hating Goes Mainstream,” she alludes to the fact that “for years, it’s been popular on feminist twitter to reveal one’s man-hatred in 140 characters or fewer. Feminists attach #BanMen and #KillAllMen to their tweets or proudly display misandry merchandise purchased on Etsy with slogans such as “Men Are Scum.”

She goes to cite that “Feminist Jessica Valenti once posted a picture of herself on Twitter wearing a T-Shirt that said ‘I bathe in male tears’ while denouncing ‘misogynist whiners’.”

The truth?

Unfair labeling due to gender is unfair labeling, and sexism is sexism.

And certain groups that declare gender labeling is wrong and then do the exact same thing is a fact often ignored by these extremist groups. In their collective outrage and hurt at sufferings they have endured, they fail to acknowledge that two rights do not make a right.

And because some members of these groups know that stating the obvious hypocrisy of the situation will label them as traitors, they remain silent so as not to disturb their position of harmony within the group.

As a result, tensions between the sexes continue to rise and the mistruths of both sides engender even more division amongst us as a nation.

The bottom line:

Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

And groupthink serves to perpetuate many of our society’s ailments.

Free thought and the expression of that free thought once made America great, and in these troubling times where we often feel the need to commiserate with others to escape the emotional and physical chaos of the world today, we must not allow our desire for acceptance to suppress our voicing of the truth.

If we do, the embarrassing past that haunts us will the future that we recreate. And I don’t think that’s what any group wants, regardless of their platform.

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