Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Groupthink Critics are a Tiresome Herd

Roger Sandall, doing what few men have done before, courageously denounces groupthink in his essay The herd instinct:
I once attended an event at the Sydney Opera House where some 2500 people had gathered. A Danish percussion group were performing and they wanted the crowd to participate. Their leader stood and gave orders—clap, shout, stand, pat your knees—and 2500 men and women obeyed his commands. I myself declined to take part, but the elderly woman beside me, with shining eyes, followed every movement as though she had been waiting eighty years for instructions. She would have stood on her head if they asked.

Asserting one's individuality by opting out of a sing-along! What an independent spirit! Surely he will pay for his refusal to join the notorious herd that is the audience at the Syndey Opera House.

I'm a loner myself, but I know when my habits are being flattered. Anybody who feels superior to a grandmother enjoying herself needs different role models for his self-comparison.

Sandall goes on to repeat some obvious individualist errors, blaming collectives for error but finding truth in the solitary refusenik. He claims rational thinking is an individual activity, with little recognition of its inevitably contingent social character. He praises the leader, with little awareness that leadership presupposes a group to lead; it is also, like rationality and irrationality, learned in groups.

Arts and Letters Daily needs to find some better material, or I'll have to find a better aggregator for essays of intellectual interest.

1 comment:

Histor the Wise said...

Obviously this fellow has no sense of humor, or he would have played along. After all, it was quite harmless and goofy.

I would happily participate in that sort of thing, just to say I did it.