Groupthink: thinking so dominated by the desire to maintain unanimity of thought in a group that critical thinking is suspended or rendered ineffective. (Chaplain, 2010, p.201)
Extrajection: attributing one’s own characteristics to another. (Chaplain, 2010, p.169)
Projection: 1. attributing one’s own traits, attitudes, or faults to others… 3. a prediction beyond the given data. 4. perceiving one’s personality traits, needs, desires, goals etc. in unstructured stimuli, such as ink blots… (Chaplain, 2010, p.358)
Psychological warfare: a general concept referring to all attempts to weaken the enemy’s ability to wage war by weakening their moral, with corresponding attempts to strengthen one’s own war potential. (Chaplain, 2010, p.366).
Groupthinking and extrajection…
In the last few months (and even years in some cases), I and others have been both witness to, and on the receiving end of all four of the above. It seems a vast number of the Atheist movement are unable to exercise the same level of critical thinking that we demand from others or even mock people for apparent lack thereof. This is not restricted to one side of the ‘A+?’ battle of wills, with one side declaring that what ‘A+’ is demanding (yes,demanding) already exists – humanism – and they do have a point, with some sneering before hearing them out, and the other side bull-headedly declaring that A+ stands for positive social justice and asserting that all who oppose or criticise them in any way are anti-social justice. These assertions are rubbish. For a start we only really have people’s online personas to go by. We don’t really know any of the people we meet online. We just have to trust, they are who they say they are and hope they’re not some cyber-stalking head-case. So, that said, assuming we ‘know’ the politics of an individual that we meet, by sheer chance, based solely on a few comments made on a forum is utterly absurd.
This is where the groupthink has kicked in. Anything less than 100% support to either side (in some cases) has become, to some, tantamount to an outright betrayal of the ‘movement’ and condemnation of all ideas. This is not the case as one can agree on principal with an idea and yet have qualms over the finer details. The slightest criticism now results in slurs against characters, accusations of trolling, and ‘questions’ about one’s moral integrity (you know, the same conduct that we condemn when we get it from religious trolls that post on atheist threads). That’s one hell of an assumption to make about an acquaintance that you wouldn’t recognise in the street, and in most cases those making those assumptions and hurling labels around as epithets are the first to call people out when they are on the receiving end.
It is both naive and asinine to assume (or assert) that just being an atheist equates automatically to being ‘nice’. It is equally naive to assert that those who choose not ascribe themselves to any particular cause or label are bigoted. I have always had a humanistic outlook. It’s how I was brought up. I’m vocal about a number of issues about because I have neither the time or resources to apply that in a physical sense, but what I do is no less valuable an action than physically going out and ‘doing the work‘. Many charities (such as http://responsiblecharity.org/ which I’ve been supporting Hemley on since day one) rely strongly on volunteers giving up their time to raise awareness in whatever ways they can, while other’s volunteer for the on site grafting. Nor I do not think other humanitarian causes are less worthy of attention: I have merely had to narrow down what I do and others are free to follow their own causes: it’s not a competition.
I’m all for positive action to achieve REAL social equality but we cannot expect everyone to jump to and support every cause and project around especially if there is a ‘by fair means, or foul‘ clause attached to it. THAT does not sit right with me. It should be ‘by fair means, or not at all‘. If we cannot do it honestly, then how are we fit to criticise other injustices? Just because an individual does not support our chosen project or cause, it does not mean they are lacking in empathy or necessarily ‘against’ us, or any number of negative connotations someone might dream up and hurl at someone else in order to defend their own position. That is NOT debate. That is NOT discussion. That IS browbeating and guilt tripping and those who engage in the practice should feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Character is judged through action, and actions like that, I find sickening and I will not be a party to them. Nor will I be tricked through, omission of information, into putting my name to a project which cannot live by its own standards of behaviour. People will have their own reasons for joining in or not joining in: none of us are accountable to any but the laws of the lands we live in, and our own consciences. We give to charity and volunteer our time in other ways but must we therefore leap on the A+ bandwagon? No. It’s up to the individual and nobody has the right to guilt anyone else out of following their own conscience in favour of some hair-brained agenda or other.
When somebody disagrees with a course of action, or claim being made, it does not make them a libertarian or right-wing, or anything else: all it means is they disagree.
This is war psychology and it generally paired with projection as a result of group think, when other members cannot think of a valid counter-argument. As we know, groupthink situations occur when there are a minority of critics/proponents of a course of action within a group situation and the majority is determined to either force, or not to allow, a change in either action or attitude.
Generally, on the online forum situations, it comes in the form of accusations of dishonest motives and projection undesirable traits such as aggression and other trolling behaviour, which weren’t actually there but were attached to the accusation in order to justify discounting any criticism. It is used to attempt to discredit opponents and avoid giving an answer which might show the user of this tactic in a less than favourable light, rather than admitting that the criticism might actually be valid. Other group members will chip in to argue the toss and try to bully any and all opposition (which is usually in the minority) round to their way of thinking by hurling labels around, and making negative assertions about their character. When this fails the aggression is projected back on to the critic and they are threatened with banning (rather than just banning them) in an attempt to silence them and claim a virtual and public victory. Any supporters of the minority voice are equally shouted down.
Suspension of Critical Thinking, Failure to Adhere to Equal Standards, & General Lack of Consideration for Others (when no longer convenient to need)…
It seems that the first project of A+ is in the planning stages: transcription of atheist podcasts and videos for the deaf and hard of hearing. It’s a good idea. My one concern when I first learned of this project, via Greta Christina’s blog, was that the producers of these videos and podcast would be consulted (a fair few in the atheist community are in strong disagreement with the A+ movement – or their conduct toward critics – and may understandably object to their work being tampered with by the off-shoot group). I wanted to be sure, so I could make an informed decision before offering my assistance and then having to withdraw it after a disagreement, that if a video-blogger’s or podcaster’s decision was ‘no‘ then their wishes would be respected as they have a justified say over who does what to their work. I did not suggest transcription should not be done. In fact, I repeatedly stated the that the project was a good idea.
My support for the idea was consistently ignored in favour of trying to shut me down with accusations of ‘derailing‘, ‘dumping on a project‘, ‘being aggressive‘ (I was on the receiving end of the aggression btw), ‘sarcasm‘ (I’ll give them that one) etc. Yes, I am sarcastic at times, especially when pointing out such blatant hypocrisy. Okay, it’s not a problem which has occurred yet, however I work on a philosophy that prevention is better than cure. If you pre-empt potential problems and plan for their avoidance (like not deliberately circumventing people’s personal autonomy over their work, for instance), the problems are less likely to occur. I can see their attitude of “we’re going to do this regardless of what anyone else thinks, and if a few people’s rights get trampled on, it’s for the ‘greater good’, so they and everyone else can stop whining” is going to cause them a great deal of problems. I will say this, if the A+ers truly care about social justice as much as they claim to, then the protection of everyone’s rights should be paramount to their concerns: they don’t get to ignore inconvenient truths whenever it damn well suits them.
The people orchestrating the project seem to disagree with the importance of a private person’s authority over their work. They ‘won’t let the project be bullied like that’ (because producers objections to their work being co-opted without their prior knowledge or against their wishes is obviously ‘bullying’ behaviour, isn’t it. The same way objecting to having bogus religions (tautology, I know) down our throats is ‘persecution’). By that they mean they aren’t planning on giving people even the opportunity to refuse participation, but instead to just charge ahead regardless and impose it on people whether they like it or not. Besides any legal considerations, asking first is just a basic common courtesy that any of us would expect to be treated with. What is so heinous about asking for some simple good manners to be exercised? Do they cost anything? No. Do they hurt? Not the last time I checked.
They have decided that their project is for such a good cause that it trumps the rights of any objectors and that this web-page has given them a legal free-pass to transcribe the work of private individuals with or without their permission. Never mind that the site refers to in-video closed-captioning* (rather than full and separate transcription located elsewhere and out of their control) of commercially produced video media, and says nothing at all regarding podcasts or radio broadcasts. Add to this the fact that those, referred to in the article, who objected to the legislation were registered entertainment companies. They were not private individuals expressing their own views on blogs on the internet.
*Doesn’t YouTube already have an automatic in-video closed-caption function anyway?
- Chaplin, J. P., Dictionary of Psychology (2nd revised ed.), (2010), eBook, B0036S49B4, Published by Dell.