Amerika

Crowdism in the wild

An amusing little tidbit came our way today from those who study horrible things and report back to us so we, from our armchairs, can pronounce judgment and then go back to feeling smugly detached:

Anger is more likely among the young, those with children at home, and the less educated, a new study finds.

For one, people under 30 experienced anger of all forms or intensities more frequently than did older adults.

Those who were under financial strain tended to report higher levels of anger, a connection that could be particularly important in today’s flagging economy, Schieman noted. The financial influence tended to be stronger among women and younger adults.

Those with fewer years of education were also more likely to report feelings of anger and were less likely to respond proactively in a situation that made them angry (for example, talking about what made them angry).

Live Science

First, as with all modern media propaganda, we need to dial it back a bit: people who are more educated tend to be either smarter or more neurotic, or both, and so are going to have different ways of dealing with their anger. The uneducated may also be broke, not as intelligent, and without that useless complexity of personality that produces sophomoric college graduates.

But I found it interesting, especially comparing it to this:

Obama won the under-30 crowd by 34 percentage points. This bested Bill Clinton’s 19-point advantage over Bob Dole among young voters in 1996.

Obama attracted 56 percent of female voters. Unmarried women also voted for Obama over McCain by 70 to 29 percent.

Ninety-six percent of black voters supported Obama. He also drew the votes of two thirds of Hispanics.

US News

the_revolutionWe’re told time and again how minorities are disproportionately impoverished, so it’s not a great leap to assume that if impoverished people are more angry, many minorities are also more angry. This makes Obama’s audience and the people who elected him a match for the Angriest Americans category.

However, the fact that these people voted for Obama may have little to do with Obama. In fact, it was most likely a negative vote: against Bush, against the Anglo-Saxon majority he represents, against conservatism, against war and difficult decisions like torture and wiretapping. (I bet we’ll find in 50 years that every nation wiretaps, but carefully conceal it, except in the USA. Why: it’s massively effective, just as tapping cell phone signals lets us bomb terrorists.)

These negative voters are consistent and have been increasing in number, with a few interruptions, since 1945. We can characterize them by these traits:

  • Defined by not being part of the majority and opposition to perceived majority politics
  • Perception of victimization by large powerful entities like corporations, religions and governments
  • Belief in equality, including class war to level income levels, and civil rights extended to multiculturalism/diversity.
  • Belief in “progress,” or of finding a new way to create society that does not have the problems of the whole

The difficult with this crowd is that they’re half-right, which makes their message appealing but its results appalling.

For example, our moral standards as individuals have become corrupted, so we have unscrupulous people corrupting governments, religion and corporations. To compound the problem: when you are competing against other religions, branches of government or corporations, if the other guy does something unscrupulous and saves a bundle, he gets stronger — unless you race him to the bottom and do the same.

What makes them half-right instead of half-wrong is that they are reacting to the corruption of necessary systems; they are right that this corruption occurs, but par for the course with people who have a surface-level understanding, begin screwing up the minute they get past that realization. Their “solutions” are simplistic and ultimately destructive, as history would teach them, if their reading of history was not political and instead was critical.

But what makes them dangerous is that they are united by the idea that, if things are bad, people should band together and oppose them. Not create something better; not fix them; but throw the baby out with the bathwater, and throw the institution out with the corruption.

viva_la_revolucionThis plays into the ugly human trait of solipsism, or wanting to be able to do whatever one wants to do without the world proving us wrong. We don’t want consequences to our actions. We want warm fuzzy feelings, the ability to pursue our vices, and the ability to be whatever we want to be, mainly by thinking that we are — and again, without consequences.

Negative thinking, as we might call this reductionist and deconstructionist attempt, operates by finding what is disliked in reality and removing it from consideration. Its origin is conflict avoidance in a group: do not mention ugly truths that threaten any person, and the group will function together; altruism is practical empathy, but like all methods, it has its limitations. Negative thinking works by dis-associating complex cause/effect relationships, and replacing them with relationships based on the effect (internally) of external stimulus on individuals, which in turn causes them to trade internal tokens of goodwill externally, brainwashing each other into a false reality.

The problem with negative thinking is that it taps into that solipsism: throw away everything but what I want, and then I’m here alone with comforting visions of myself and the world, even if they don’t correspond to reality. Get enough people thinking this to band together, and you have The Crowd, which is a cross between a lynch mob and a coffee klatch where everyone agrees that their vision is the true one, simultaneously cementing what that vision is, compelling everyone to go along with it, and starting off on a political path of being opposed to things instead of for things.

It’s destruction versus creation, and it is based in the low self-esteem and solipsism of individuals, even if it is half-right in its diagnosis of problems among us. It ties in to the greater power of negativity than positivity: it’s easy to recognize a threat, and more important to recognize a threat than a non-threat, so we can all band together to lynch the threat but then, we have no plan.

That’s what happened in 1789, when French revolutionaries killed their aristocrats and only then found they were incompetent at running the country and attacked each other, and in 1968, when hippies threw out the old way of doing things only to find out they caused an intensification of the cold war alongside degeneration of everything and everyone around them.

Negative thinking isn’t positive. In fact, it’s downright corrosive.

In the past decade, the neuroscience of social behaviour has blossomed. A major catalyst for this has been the discovery of what seems to be a physiological mechanism for social interaction, located in the brain’s “mirror neurons”. These have been seen to fire not only as a monkey, say, grabs a peanut, but also when the monkey sees an experimenter do the same thing. Imaging experiments in humans have similarly revealed parts of our brains becoming active when we see someone moving, or even when watching a walker hidden among moving dots. It seems we are not just observers of the social scene but that we automatically share the experiences and emotions of the people we are observing.

This is only half the story, though, as interaction between people extends far beyond this. When I see you in pain, I feel your pain and my face automatically expresses this pain. What’s more, you can see by my expression that I share your pain, and you are comforted by the knowledge someone else shares your pain. You are responding to my response to you.

Such interactions are a feature of many aspects of everyday life. They come to the fore when people play music, so in one of our experiments we got two people to tap a simple beat together. You might expect a leader and a follower to emerge, with the leader trying to maintain the beat, while the follower synchronises with the leader. Our twist was to also study what happened when each person could only hear the other, but not him or herself. No leader emerged: both players became followers, continually and mutually adjusting their taps to each other.

New Scientist

Crowds are formed of people who want no leader, because a leader represents the limitations of reality, which they see as negative. What makes a crowd dangerous is that no one is to blame. We all came together, we hung that guy but good, but there was no leader. It just happened. No consequences.

Crowdism abuses our sense of empathy by implying that we are all damaged victims, and that therefore, we share this victimhood and can fix it by finding the biggest leaders there are and destroying them.

Nevermind that reality, which the leaders were merely the messengers of, is out there — we’ll deal with that later, and remember, it’s no one’s fault.

When you find this “no one” guy, let him know he’s been screwing up a lot.

John Penrose, the Shadow business minister, said wording in the Equality Bill could mean employers discriminating in favour of minority applicants rather than handing out jobs purely on merit.

He sought assurances that measures designed to promote ”positive action” – ensuring equal treatment for those with certain ”protective characteristics” such as race or sexual orientation – would not lead instead to positive discrimination.

The Bill seeks to allow employers to take on candidates who have a ”protective characteristic” in preference over someone else as long as they have the same qualifications.

But Mr Penrose said the wording – ”as qualified as” – was unclear and should be rephrased ”equally qualified”.

The Telegraph

Here’s where it gets rough: victimization as a meme produces in us a tendency to fit anything we find in the world into that narrative.

For example, if we see a large corporation near a bunch of impoverished people, we assume a causal relationship: the large corporation impoverished them.

We do this because when we’re in a mob, we assume everyone else is like us, since we’ve all equally deferred to the mob mentality — a leaderless leader, a directionless direction, a negative positivity, an inverse of cause/effect that instead becomes “because I feel an effect, I’m going to assign a cause.”

We then start demanding revenge.

Revenge is most violent in the form of revolutions, which usually happen when the Crowd surges in numbers at the same time the nation-state hits a rough patch: bad harvest, economic depression, a bad leader, disease or a difficult war.

Most commonly, revenge comes in the form of the crowd demanding a subsidy. We the victims would have the same thing as others, goes the narrative, except that they’ve been favored by whatever big thing (corporation, religion, government, majority) has made them rich. So take some from them and give it to us.

Again, half-right: people want to help others through empathy. But then they use that empathy as an excuse to smash those who have succeeded, painting them all with the same wide brush, so the honest business owner and the billionaire swindler are one and the same, in the eyes of the mob.

As a result, they create a society based on subsidies, which tries to penalize the successful down to a level where others are equal to them. Penalize is a strong word, but taking from those who do succeed to give to those who have not is a form of penalty. It’s taking-from, not creation-of.

This creates an environment that inverts the role of any successful society:

  1. Reward the good.
  2. Punish the bad, so the good are protected

Instead this becomes:

  1. Reward the troubled
  2. Punish the successful, so the troubled are protected

If you see in this an intense frustration, ambition killer and depression for any who rise above the average, you’re correct. They will rise only to be made a target, have things taken from them, and endanger themselves because now they’re presumably part of that problem — the big thing everyone’s sure is oppressing them.

So they do a very, very simple thing that’s part revenge but mostly common sense: they shut up and do the average.

Assembly line #3 is cranking out defective engines? Don’t rock the boat. Stay quiet.

Local councilman is corrupt and takes bribes? Don’t make yourself a target. Stay out of his way.

Total idiots are getting promoted and ruining the economy? Hoard beets for your family, and hope to survive the winter.

Of course, this creates a total disaster for this society — because it has homogenized its people, eliminated the ascension of the more competent, and as a result, made a leaderless society. (Sure, it will have political leaders. But these are secondary to the neighborhood watch, the shift leader at work, and the community leaders who keep towns together.)

Social Democratic welfare States, I argue, are more suspect to a homogeneous political climate. The nature of any government bureaucracy is to reinforce its own importance and expansion. For instance, if you sit at the top of a health department and a new flu is out, even if it’s not really harmful to the public as a whole, you’ll want to take some–any measure against it to appear like you’re being effective. That way you’ll receive more funding from politicians.

With an ever-growing welfare apparatus, political parties will have to dedicate more and more of their energy toward maintaining and managing it, meaning a big part of their political agenda will revolve around tax rates and government policies. So even if you’re a Conservative and don’t trust governments too much, you’ll inherit a system that needs to be managed anyway. The chance of reducing or even removing a department or institute that already exists is minimal, and voters will feel less safe if you suddenly announce that a health department or a job center must go, since they are essentially seen as platforms of safety.

Once a society becomes Social Democratic or any socialist democratic variant thereof, it will therefore effectively homogenize its political arena and limit it to a liberal-leftist battlefield where small government changes become hot topics during elections. If you look at America right now, you have one major party that wants to reform but keep an old health care system, while another big party in power wants to reform and change the current system. In Sweden the health care discussion exclusively revolves around what the tax rates should be, not about any change to the system itself.

Corrupt

There are other players here: a leaderless society actually creates strongman leaders because without leaders in the middle, social problems proliferate, and so people need a big cop to keep them from the worst offenses.

But the concept is the same: if you eliminate rewards for the good, you strengthen rewards for being bad. You strengthen the revenge impulse and make anyone above average a target. As a result, you average your society to a level where, since everyone is equal, no one can rise above the herd and so point out fixes, make changes, or even lead in a new direction. It’s entropy in action because any choice is about the same as any other, so every social function converges on the default and an average, which declines over time as people become more disinterested.

This happens in all corrupt societies. Yes, we must mention Soviet Russia here; but what about ancient Athens and Rome? In each of these, political dogma — implemented by democracies in the name of equality — took over from common sense, and the good could not rise. In fact, they were endangered for having un-PC opinions, as Socrates found out. So they kept quiet, and the empire degenerated into a playground of rich brats who hired lots of servants who then turned on them, at the same time pointless foreign wars kept them drained of cash.

Insurgent 1960s social movements had demanded that the contributions and travails of women and minorities be included in the humanities curriculum; moreover that (domineering) white male faculty were unwilling or constitutionally unable to integrate women’s history, etc. into a new synthesis.

Therefore, separate women’s studies and ethnic studies departments were institutionalized, staffed primarily by women and minority faculty in the spirit of rooted (as opposed to rootless) cosmopolitanism. The separation was legitimated by the counter-Enlightenment social theory derived from Herder and German Romanticism: Only members of the cultural nation (defined in the language of blood and soil) were privy to the “consciousness” or “spirit” of their Volk; linguistic discourses were unique and incommensurable.

Meddling outsiders (the rootless cosmopolitans) could not get into the heads of the in-group and should not impose their universalist values, goals, and ethics upon “the Other.” And since American women and minorities were now defined as collectivities, as corporatist entities that had been “colonized,” it was the mission of these new departments to “struggle” against white male “hegemony” and the death-dealing “whiteness” enforced by Amerika.

“Liberal” historians were advised to broaden their horizons with “cultural anthropology,” replacing the outmoded and repressive “scientific history” with “cultural history.” It is the broad acceptance of the role of anti-imperialist activist scholar throughout the humanities that has led to what many libertarians and conservatives now decry as a recent left-wing takeover and the absence of intellectual diversity.

History News Network

This brief history explains the experience partially: whatever the majority is, it must be described as a form of Other and opposed, so that everyone gets enfranchised. In this convoluted logic, however, we rapidly move from trying to correct problems to becoming entrenched in a long term war: us, the individualists and the liberators, against those who are not concerned with our ideology and therefore, because we are good, must be concerned only with control.

Never mind that our agenda as The Crowd is also one of control, albeit a decentralized, negative one instead of a centralized, positive-assertive one.

This ideology comes in conflict with reality on many levels, but most notably, in conflict with biology itself:

About five years ago, genetics researchers became excited about new methods for “genome-wide association studies” (GWAS). We already knew from twin, family and adoption studies that all human traits are heritable: genetic differences explain much of the variation between individuals.

Full sequencing means analysing all 3 billion base pairs of an individual’s DNA rather than just a sample of 1m genetic variants as the DNA chips do. When sequencing costs drop within a few years below $1,000 per genome, researchers in Europe, China and India will start huge projects with vast sample sizes, sophisticated bioinformatics, diverse trait measures and detailed family structures. (American bioscience will prove too politically squeamish to fund such studies.)

The trouble is, the resequencing data will reveal much more about human evolutionary history and ethnic differences than they will about disease genes. Once enough DNA is analysed around the world, science will have a panoramic view of human genetic variation across races, ethnicities and regions. We will start reconstructing a detailed family tree that links all living humans, discovering many surprises about mis-attributed paternity and covert mating between classes, castes, regions and ethnicities.

The Economist

The problem with the Crowd is that they have no awareness of history or biology. They know only the now, and how they as individuals feel marginalized and angry, and so to avoid coming into conflict with ugly aspects of reality, they blame someone else.

Never mind that biology works by trying every possibility, and picking the ones that succeed.

Never mind that our own thoughts work by trying every impulse, and picking the ones that succeed.

Never mind that science itself works by considering every possibility, testing, and picking the ones found true.

In any system of sufficient complexity, it is impossible for any intelligence to know in full what will happen; the best we can do is, as I do in this article, point to patterns that in their cause/effect cycles are structurally similar. We are reliant upon guessing what might be the cause, coming up with multiple versions, and picking the one most similar to what we observe.

The Crowd is an inversion of this process: it picks a narrative convenient to its observers, promises an avoidance of conflict through revenge against manifestations of reality, and by compliance of the group enacts its leaderless, realityless consensual vision of the world. Then as it comes into conflict as that vision does not match reality, and its attempts fail because they are unrealistic, it defaults to its behavior: blame those who have leaders.

The result is a society out of control. It cannot make any decision that offends any member. It cannot sanction strong leadership, so is against making decisions. It cannot face any truth that is not popular. The society itself has become solipsistic, and by not dealing with problems, it perpetually creates negative results and it is no one’s fault.

A study released Wednesday which found that nine of 10 babies tested were born with bisphenol A in their systems has renewed calls for the chemical to be banned.

In the study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group, scientists found the chemical in nine of 10 randomly selected samples of umbilical cord blood.

Previous studies have found BPA in the urine of 93% of Americans tested. But Wednesday’s study is the first to find it in the cord blood of U.S. newborns.

Journal Sentinel

revenge_against_majorityWe all wanted cheap products. We wanted available jobs. We wanted to not be interrupted with troublesome facts. So we went with that impulse, which meant shouting down those who said that we as a species have a bad record of rolling out technologies before testing them, and now we see the result: near universal prevalence of chemicals that interfere with our hormone balance.

By the nature of crowds, we will not want to face this problem. But we must face it and others because, after two thousand years of prosperity brought on by agricultural society, and four hundred years of excess wealth derived from the industrial revolution, we are now finally seeing the consequences of our leaderless acts.

My suggestion to all those who want to oppose society is not to fall into its trap of negative logic, and start slashing at heads of the Hydra. Instead, use positive logic:

Form of a vision of what you know by history and introspection to be right, declare that vision to be the only true society, and work toward it while ignoring the defects, objections and squalling of those who want to continue our leaderless march to doom.

|
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedIn

Recommended Reading