My Mazamet

Life at № 42

Sophisticated Theology™ in Group Structures (and politics)

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, sonSon! 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.

Image result for 400 pound hacker meme

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.

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37 comments on “Sophisticated Theology™ in Group Structures (and politics)

  1. agrudzinsky
    October 19, 2017

    Many of these online conversations are created with the intent to spread crap. Don’t assume that the person behind a profile is what the profile says. It becomes more and more obvious that online discussions are often created and driven by professional trolls. Especially the discussions on divisive political subjects.

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/rosalindadams/these-americans-were-tricked-into-working-for-russia-they?utm_term=.imbyYDoPA#.pu8DZW7N5

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/michael-flynn-nicki-minaj-shared-content-from-this-tennessee-gop-account-but-it-wasnt-real-it-was-russian/2017/10/18/8b92fcda-b435-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/10/09/google-uncovers-russian-bought-ads-on-youtube-gmail-and-other-platforms/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_google-705am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.ee1da4e34d2d

    The same kind of crap goes on in Ukraine and throughout Europe. I think, the best way to fight these attempts to manipulate public opinion and pit people against each other is to stop reading those divisive political blogs and comments under the news.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 19, 2017

      I’m sure you’re right. In fact when I read comments now I make mental notes when I see unusual speech patterns and idioms. When suddenly the same rare expression appears from the mouths of 5 anonymous people in the same message board, something odd is going on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • agrudzinsky
        October 19, 2017

        That’s very common. Google “russian bot screenshot” in images. You’ll get tons of screenshots with identical inflammatory phrases tweeted from multiple accounts. Here is an article about that.

        https://www.stopfake.org/en/social-network-analysis-reveals-full-scale-of-kremlin-s-twitter-bot-campaign/

        Ukrainians got very familiar with this since 2014. But still, much of Ukrainian news are still either directly controlled or influenced by Russian propaganda. There are tons of Ukrainian activist FB account that got suspended due to massive complaints filed against them to FB administration – another tactic they use. It’s a whole new industry and a new reality now. People need to get used to it like they are getting used to identity theft and regular calls from “Microsoft tech support”. Especially politicians and celebrities need to think twice before sharing “news”. I recall Trump once mentioned some “news” during one of his rallies and some reporter knew it was fake and traced its source down to a Russian news website. It looked like a conspiracy theory a year ago, but now it seems to become common knowledge.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Bela Johnson
    October 19, 2017

    Well, any pack animal leaps to mind – think nature documentaries and herds of wildebeest – not lemmings, that’s a myth: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifenews.view_article&articles_id=56. Survival seems the dominant imperative for all life on earth. Bison were DRIVEN off cliffs by native Americans on horses – very clever hunting ploy to feed the community. But the animals didn’t willingly jump.

    Love your rationale in your ‘signaling and affirmation’ paragraph. Yes. Having been raised fundamentalist, I can relate to being in so much fear that I could see how people were driven off the cliff of reason to BELIEVE. And that is the foundation of any religion – BELIEF. If a congregant challenges this structure, ostracism is threatened. And if one’s entire sense of belonging is thusly threatened, it’s easier to believe than to think, research, feel, even! My mother on her deathbed (longtime Mormon) asked my sister (her caregiver and devout Mormon) if she ‘really believed all that stuff.’ I was there. You should have seen/heard my sister’s response. She was so angry at my mother for challenging The Church (i.e. The Patriarchy, but that’s for your other post).

    Liked by 3 people

    • Bela Johnson
      October 19, 2017

      Oh, crap, no – it’s for this one. I can’t get into it just now. But to deny we live in Patriarchal societies is to reveal tremendous ignorance. Again, it’s belief or brainwash over factual evidence. And on we go.

      Liked by 3 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 19, 2017

      The most interesting factor in the signalling/confirmation process is that the substance of what’s being said is irrelevant. Their currency (what they trade in) is simply implied support even if the positions within the group are contradictory.
      What that means in essence is that issues matter much less than the illusion of membership/belonging.
      In the case you describe your mother is putting your sister’s place in the group (including her status) at stake. That’s both in the sense of the ego and of the social structure. Imagine the horror of living as a hostage to those feelings?!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Bela Johnson
        October 19, 2017

        Of course. Truth? Substance? Who needs it! And yes, I have pondered (ad nauseum) how it must have felt to be mom. And ponder still what it feels like to be my sister. SO glad I am me 😉

        Liked by 3 people

      • keithnoback
        October 20, 2017

        …and that is fascism in a nutshell.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        October 20, 2017

        Which is a spectacular Orwellian trick, as they purport to be the defenders of freedom 😀

        Like

      • keithnoback
        October 20, 2017

        Ah, but an old one. The National Peoples’ Party has always minded The Peoples’ Republic, with all its rights and freedoms, for The People.

        Liked by 2 people

    • kertsen
      December 19, 2017

      Sometimes impending disaster clears the mind , we often do not know what people believe and they have a right to an internal life. Doubts are easier expressed to the confessed doubter.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tish Farrell
    October 19, 2017

    Only ants come to mind – group conformity-wise!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. john zande
    October 19, 2017

    We’re into a new chapter: Self-Deluding Circus’s.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 19, 2017

      What I found fascinating was the degree of delusion, and the knowing effort in the exercise of self-deception. The line separating that sort of thing from insanity blurs.

      Like

      • john zande
        October 19, 2017

        You really dont talk to many evangelical Americans, do you? 😉

        Liked by 4 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        October 19, 2017

        LOL Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!! I even avoid your friends Wally and CS like the plague.

        Liked by 1 person

      • john zande
        October 19, 2017

        Shit, I don’t talk to them. Ark liked to.

        Liked by 1 person

      • kertsen
        December 19, 2017

        When delusion is a pleasing lifestyle it is hard to break yourself from it. Having broken away you may seek another delusion for awhile and then wonder if life itself is but an illusion, but pain is real and we shrink from it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        December 19, 2017

        Indeed. I was actually discussing that last night. How delusion can be a full blown lifestyle option. And how some people seem to make it work for themselves.

        Like

      • kertsen
        December 19, 2017

        The problem is we all tend to think we have a wholesome lifestyle and that others are completely or in some measure deluded . It all comes down to a moral yardstick that enables us to live with our conscience. Religion removes the conscience and replaces it with a holy document, but interestingly we still scan the document minutely and jump on any other follower who does not agree with our viewpoint. Christianity is also very concerned with the removal of guilt which is positively dangerous , and it uses scapegoat redemption to make us feel good.
        Guilt is the sign post to a better existence.

        Liked by 1 person

    • agrudzinsky
      October 19, 2017

      I like the term “circle jerk” better. It’s more visual and direct. 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

  5. dpmonahan
    October 19, 2017

    Much of our reasoning is ultimately about tribal loyalty, and what seems utterly rational in one group seems utterly irrational in another.
    On the other hand thought has a communal aspect: we think in words, we pass on traditions, we rely on the discoveries of others.
    How about this: if humans can only know the truth in a human way, they can only know the truth in a communal way.

    Liked by 4 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 19, 2017

      The problem with that is when group loyalty becomes more important than evidence, we disconnect ourselves from reality, and it’s all downhill from there. This is an interesting example because it wasn’t just a matter of facts going out the window, it was a matter of a completely artificial reality being created to reinforce group cohesion.
      Did you notice that the author of the post herself asserted the existence of patriarchy (in Portugal), but when I mentioned it most of her readers came up with arguments on how patriarchy was in essence a myth, or something that couldn’t possibly be measured. Those are techniques of deception, not an attempt to find any form of truth.

      Like

      • dpmonahan
        October 19, 2017

        I think it tends to happen the other way: the in-group decides something is true, and so it is true, dammit, even if it contradicts the true thing of five minutes ago. The community creates truth, not truth the community.
        I had the feeling there were a lot of unspoken premises that were perfectly clear to them and which they did not feel the need to explain, which happens quite a bit on blogs.
        Many of them are probably red-pillers, or red-pill curious, which attempts to analyze all the ways society is actually woman-centered.

        Liked by 2 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        October 19, 2017

        That method is highly problematic from the point of view of having a serious debate. In fact it makes a serious debate impossible because parameters don’t matter, which then means substance doesn’t matter. All that counts is the signalling/confirmation/affirmation cycle.

        Like

  6. Steve Ruis
    October 19, 2017

    You lost me at Sophisticated Theology. This is a little like Turd Polishing, yes? Or putting lipstick on a pig? How is it that theology, aka complex made up bullshit, can become sophisticated? Raise William F. Buckley from the dead to pronounce it so?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Clare Flourish
    October 19, 2017

    I had a look at that post. I found Hoyt on experience in Portugal interesting, her experience in the US differed from other experience I have heard, and I was not going to read 777 comments.

    An extreme view is generally going to be easier to argue and assert than a nuanced view. Reading a lot of blogs, one could pick up the right things to say, and riff on them, getting steadily more extreme.

    Liked by 4 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 19, 2017

      Interestingly it was similar to my experience with the TERFs. A very similar group dynamic, from special lingo to in-group loyalty.

      Like

  8. acflory
    October 20, 2017

    Unconditional loyalty. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 20, 2017

      Even worse than that. Someone who loves you might be incredibly loyal out of a good, benign sentiment. These people, on the other hand, are bound by a rather lowly sense of self-preservation.

      Like

      • acflory
        October 20, 2017

        Yeah. 😦 I know we all do it to some extent in order to ‘fit in’, but if the only way to stay ‘in’ is to silence your own dissent, then it makes a mockery of free speech, doesn’t it? Makes a mockery of individualism too.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Swarn Gill
    October 23, 2017

    On the most recent Sam Harris podcast episode (sorry to keep bring him up) he interviewed a guy named Cass Sunstein who studies group polarization and group dynamics. Although this paper is older, he seemed to indicate that the findings here have generally been confirmed in future studies. This may be a good starting point to move outwards. Basically it shows that in groups there is a tendency to move towards a more extreme position than to remain more neutral. He talks about other experiments in the interview but this is one of them. http://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1541&context=law_and_economics

    Liked by 2 people

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This entry was posted on October 19, 2017 by in activism and tagged , , , .
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