Control and In-Group/Out-Group politics

What is the most vital aspect in human lives?

Nietzsche calls it the “will to power”; when we exist in a civilization, however, our minds are so busy being assaulted by homo loquax and his memetics that we seek instead control.

Control over ourselves first, and second, our environment including society.

How do you manipulate masses? Convince them to act on the basis of this control principle, namely by telling them that they have absolute control over themselves, so what they need is “freedom” to express that.

Nevermind that freedom is a negative formula; you are freed from something, but without that something, you have no need for freedom.

The best control viruses do three things:

  1. Tell you that you have absolute control over yourself and should do only what you want to do, mediated only by “within reason of course” or some other vague disclaimer.
  2. Tell you that you have a reason to justify your self-absorption, usually some form of moral Right or Good that is projected as being absolute (essence), even though it can only be spotted in situational instances.
  3. Tell you that there is another group out there that wants to take this freedom from you, and that they’re bad.

This makes people addicted to your message and to identification with your politics. You also can tell them what is Right, and have them run toward it, and what is Wrong/Other, and have them destroy it.

We can construe this as a form of In-Group/Out-Group politics:

SIT as a technical model appeared for the first time in a 1972 article by Henri Tajfel entitled “La Catégorisation Sociale.” Tajfel argued that people categorize themselves into groups and that these groups attempt to establish a positive sense of value by distinguishing their group, the in-group, from other groups, the out-groups. Positive group (and self) value is derived by making clear distinctions between the in-group and the out-group, distinctions which view the out-group in a negative manner and the in-group more favorably.

Tajfel’s theory relied partially upon studies that compared the formation of groups and social comparison that occurred in a United States Boy’s Camp in the 1950s which indicated that “as soon as the boys were allocated into groups, the groups began strenuously competing with one another, even though their members had friends in the other groups.

Accordingly, Tajfel defines Social Identity Theory as “that part of an individual’s self-concept which derives from his knowledge of his [sic] membership of a group together with the value and emotional significance attached to the membership.” This phenomenon is described in three dimensions:

1. Cognitive – recognition of belonging to the group,
2. Evaluative – recognition of the value attached to the group,
3. Emotional – attitudes group members hold toward insiders and outsiders.

Since SIT involves social identification and comparison, certain characteristic generalizations must be established concerning both the in-group and the out-group. This phenomenon of generalizing group characteristic is called “stereotyping.”

Indeed, negative stereotyping, which seems to be what Esler is referring to, is virtually always used to describe the out-group. On the other hand, those who belong to the in-group generally stereotype themselves in a more favorable manner. Thus stereotyping runs both directions, negatively toward the out-group and positively toward the in-group.


Notice how In-Group/Out-Group theory works both as a gentle way of emphasizing collectivism and competition, but when directed toward empty goals, as a superior method for making people bicker uselessly.

A historical example of a model for our current political system can be found in the origins of Christianity. As many of you have already surmised, secularized Christian dogma is modern liberalism — which is the heart of both Republican and Democratic dogma, as they are both defenders of liberal democracy:

Evolutionary theorists argue that identical twins will naturally treat each other according to the gold standard of morality: “love thy neighbor as thyself.” In kin selection terms, such twins have no room for conflict because their “degree of relatedness,” or “r” is 100% (r=1) (Hamilton, 1964). Their self-interests are identical with their concern for each other, because each twin is as genetically related to their twin’s offspring as they are to their own.

Have you ever watched a flock of birds dart across the sky like an animated cloud, turning on a dime, in unison, through three-dimensional space? Before the mid-1960s we knew what flocking birds were up to-they were surveying their breeding territory in order to assess its nutritional abundance. That way each female could adjust the number of eggs that she would lay, her objective being to prevent over-exploitation of the environment. How could natural selection produce such a morally sound arrangement? Simple, by group selection-birds that overcrop their territory would eat themselves into oblivion, leaving only environmentally conscientious groups to perpetuate their kind. Domestic sheep are a counter example. If not herded along, sheep will crop all edible plants beyond recovery. That’s the main reason that shepherds have jobs-because left to their own devices, or lack thereof, sheep would decimate otherwise renewable resources.

So why do individuals cooperate if there is no group selection? Two answers helped filled the gap and form the foundation of contemporary evolutionary theory: inclusive fitness (Hamilton, 1964) and reciprocal altruism (Trivers, 1971). For the purpose of calculating how fast a gene can spread, inclusive fitness is the realization that an individual’s total reproductive success should include his or her effects on the success of individuals who also carry the gene in question-i.e., relatives. So we expect relatives to cooperate. In humans, this covers everything from mothers nursing infants to nepotism in politics and industry.

Reciprocal altruism is “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” In humans this covers everything from two individuals sharing a load, to groups of individuals hunting Woolly Mammoths, to groups of people hunting other groups of people. The key ingredient here is payoff-reciprocal altruism works if each individual’s share of benefits is more than could have been obtained by not cooperating.

So where did Christian universalism come from?…Paul’s new target audience, gentile Christians, became an inordinately powerful in-group. Unlike Judaism, out-group members were encouraged to join, or were compelled to join, but payback for following the rules was to be reaped in heaven. Pie in the sky was Paul’s hook. Meanwhile, in this life, the proceeds of wars and tithes to the Church were shared disproportionately by supportive government officials and Church dignitaries, who were often one and the same persons.

The strategic practicality of killing locals and bringing slaves from afar was not lost upon God’s New Israelites. Because they were already there, Indians could not be pulled out by their roots, transported halfway around the world, and terrorized into servitude as thoroughly as Africans. Once again, in-group morality worked its magic. African slaves were difficult to manage before they were converted, but upon seeing the light, their spirit was chained to the bottom rung of an in-group ladder (Maier, 1993).

History is replete with in-groups that have disintegrated from within after running out of enemies to parasitize and defend against.

Love Thy Neighbor
The Evolution of In-Group Morality
, by John Hartung, Skeptic, Vol. 3, No. 4, 1995

Both major political parties in America work by this equation.


In-Group: self-made people, populist traditional values, economic sense, defense.
Out-Group: global warming nuts, godless anarchists, socialists.
Justification: freedom, specifically economic freedom.
Positive: the idea of not being indebted to take care of those without a clue, and the knowledge that most of humanity are worthless parasites barely evolved from apes.


In-Group: egalitarians, socialist values, pro-abortion, green.
Out-Group: anti-egalitarians, biological determinists, Christians, the Rich.
Justification: freedom, specifically social freedom, or the idea that you can do whatever you want and society will still take care of you.
Positive: the idea that you should do what is fair even if it is economically inconvenient.

At the heart of both movements: freedom, an inflated sense of self-worth for not being the Out-Group, and a sense of a good excuse to revenge oneself on those in the Out-Group (we call this “hatred” in non-technical parlance).

Why do our politics go nowhere? Because we’re still scrabbling over control. Republicans use collective-oriented control, and Democrats use individual-oriented control. But the end result is the same.

Instead of working to make ourselves better as individuals, we work to assert our Control, which we presuppose exists because we exist, even though we’re not necessarily disciplined — will is like any ability, talent plus disciplined work equals outcome — to take advantage of it.

In order to defend individual Control, we invent group Control, which means defending the rights of ourselves as a mob to be individuals who are not susceptible to the demands of the Out-Group yet gain the rewards in self-esteem and identification from the In-Group.

This is how you create a cult. How do you rule a nation? Divide the issues in two, and create an In-Group for each direction, then let them fight it out. The result will be that they cancel each other out and it’s business as usual, with the most financially savvy extracting wealth from the civilization and squirreling it away in international trade.

Eventually, this parasitic situation leads to third-world conditions, but you knew I’d say that.

Most of us are somewhere in the middle of the two political extremes. I would consider myself a Liberal by motivation (do what’s fair even though inconvenient) but a Conservative by strategy (history is a scientific experiment that tells us what’s right, and collectivism is inherent to civilization and technology).

But somehow, there’s no party for that.

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