What is GROUPTHINK? ”What we are talking about is a rationalized conformity—an open, articulate philosophy which holds that group values are not only expedient but right and good as well.” – William H. Whyte, 1952
I have been a message board forum lurker since the 1990′s. When I was younger I used to post more, but now it is rare that I do. I usually trolled against the establishment on message boards. Anyway, from my experience I have seen that almost every popular message board forum has an elitist group that set the standards, beliefs, and GROUPTHINK that the sheep follow.
It doesn’t matter what the niche, industry, or genre is, not only is GROUPTHINK prevalent but opposing voices- even when a well formulated argument is presented- are called trolls and even banned. Even the most allegedly open-minded forum veterans will gather their forces and push the “naysayer” off the board.
One of the most memorable demonstrations of this occurred several years ago on the old Baseball Primer site (which is now Baseball Think Factory). Baseball Primer/BTF is a website where baseball stat heads (who call themselves sabermetricians, and believe they could be better field managers and general managers than the current crop MLB has) post thousands of times a day and write sarcastic and cutting remarks about Old School Thinking and attack the MEDIA, fans, and baseball men who do not follow sabermetrics.
Well there was an older man on the site named BACKLASHER. He was highly intelligent, probably a lawyer. He consistently went on the record and said Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane was overrated because he never won a championship. He attacked Hudson/Zito/Mulder. The stat heads would protest that the post-season games are a crapshoot because of the small sample size, and that no conclusions could be reached in a short series. BACKLASHER went against the accused steroid users, whereas at the time the stat heads defended and apologized for each and every one of them due to no “conclusive evidence” (this was before the Mitchell Report). BACKLASHER saw how the stat heads take the human element out of the game, and viewed the sport “as theirs” and no one else, just because they knew about advanced stats.
BACKLASHER was attacked even by the “balanced” moderators, and eventually got fed up and left. I can vouch that he only defended himself when personal attacks were made and all he did was express his baseball opinion, which went against GROUPTHINK.
GROUPTHINK is close-minded intellectual snobbery. At the baseball forums, walks and power numbers are valued for hitters. If a player doesn’t have one or the other, he sucks. A pitcher’s wins have no meaning, and neither does ERA, since they are both team-dependent. Therefore the baseball snob focuses on the pitcher strikeouts per nine innings rate, and his arsenal of pitches. Every year there are new candy stats that try to improve upon Bill James’ Win Shares. Right now, stat heads are into WAR variants, a catch all stat that is supposed to include everything. These advanced stats are usually keyed in on playing time, so a great hitter like 2010 Marcus Thames sucks under these metrics.
In the political message boards, neo-cons usually dominate. No pro-Obama talk is permitted. They have a list of presidents which are “good” and a list of “presidents” that are “bad”. They value presidents on economic theory. The liberal forums’ GROUPTHINK states that anything from the mouths of Rush and Beck are automatically wrong.
The comic book forums are the same- there is a list of hot writers and artists and any talk against them is not permitted. There are also comic book mini-series and ongoing titles that are said to be so good that they are beyond any form of criticism. Comic book posters value post-modern writing and sexy artwork, but more than anything else they value CONTINUITY. Writers who violate continuity, like Brian Michael Bendis, John Byrne, or JMS are ridiculed.
The pro wrestling forums version of GROUPTHINK is just as elitist. Big pro wrestlers- the giants, brawlers, or muscle men are torn to shreds on these boards because they lack “skill”, “psychology”, and a “moveset”. Smaller wrestlers who are agile, or “technical” wrestlers are valued. Anyone who tries to suggest that Andre the Giant was a good wrestler is laughed at and pushed away. Anyone who dares suggest that the goal of being a wrestler is to make money by entertaining and not being a “technical wrestler” is excommunicated.
Message board forums which cover illegal topics, such as prostitute reviews, drug use, or filesharing accuse anyone who suggests what they do is illegal are labeled as narcs and shouted down.
I won’t even get into the religion message boards.
Did you ever follow a link from Drudge Report all the way down to the comment section? It’s filled with racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, sexism, and great 1950′s virtues.
You can draw your own conclusions about the implications of GROUPTHINK.