Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
Something absolutely fascinating happened to me yesterday. D.P. Monahan, who sometimes comments here, pointed me to a blog by someone called Hoyt who’d written a post on Matriarchy/Patriarchy. She (and her followers) use a type of argumentation, which is becoming more and more popular in the alt-right brigade. It closely resembles the techniques used by Sophisticated Theologians™ (I believe we have Prof. Coyne to thank for that term.)
In the context of Patriarchy, this took some very amusing forms. I’m paraphrasing but things along the lines of: Patriarchy doesn’t exist, but your comments are patriarchal! Men may control everything, but that doesn’t mean there’s a patriarchal system. You said there’s a classist patriarchy and now you’re using classist patriarchy talk, son! Son! How quaint.
But seriously, it’s interesting to see how once bad arguments are given a platform, even if there are blatant and extremely basic mathematical errors, people will still repeat them as if they’re valid. And done within a group structure that confirms the beliefs, it’s a recipe for, well, religious thinking. The sophisticated theology styled double talk leaving all the right gaps for people to hide in.
The comments piled on and on as the group confirmed and reaffirmed their convention(s). Or at least the illusion of convention, because if you take apart their comments, they actually had various different positions, but a unifying bond of tribal identity. In-group v. out-group. The group-think-confirmation factor seemed to be of extremely high importance considering the quantity and tone of reactions.
As I answered comments/messages, I wondered about the profiles behind them. There were a couple of interesting people making interesting conversation, an anthropologist and an ex-soldier/current writer, for example – but for the most part we’re talking about people who didn’t even get the basic if P then Q truth table. (Did I mention the hilarious Rasputin lookalike?) This led me to posit how/why signalling and affirmation might be so important within that type of group structure. It’s all they have, isn’t it? If they don’t have the skills to judge the quality of evidence, their only recourse (even if it’s not ideal) is to attach themselves to a larger organism in the form of a group, for safety reasons. For survival. So anything that challenges what they think is the stability or well-being of the group is taken as a personal attack, an act of aggression that threatens more than just their identity.
Does anyone know of any interesting literature on the importance of group conformity for survival? Or amongst which animals it occurs? I remember recently someone mentioning here animals running in packs off cliffs.