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The dangers associated with 21st century Groupthink

Larry French, Community Voices • May 19, 2019 at 7:30 AM

Editor’s note: This newspaper stands behind its decision to stand up for the First Amendment rights of a free press. Mr. French’s opinion does not reflect that of the Johnson City Press.

It seems as though we’ve reached a critical point in this country where minority viewpoints have suddenly become the imperious norm, and woe unto those of the majority persuasion who dare to disagree.

You will be shouted down, called unrefined, unprintable and tasteless names, threatened, and, yes, ostracized for simply having an opinion. It’s suddenly become un-American to have an opposing viewpoint.

And, this uninterrupted power-crazed, corrupt, misguided and wrongheaded pattern of minority viewpoints is swiftly being advanced by nefarious news organizations that were once revered and respected by the majority of the citizens of this country.

This behavior is called Groupthink. And, it’s dangerous.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica.com, “(t)he theory of Groupthink was a term first used by social psychologist Irving L. Janis, in his classic 1972 study ... which focused on the psychological mechanism behind foreign policy decisions such as the Pearl Harbor bombing, the Vietnam War, and the Bay of Pigs invasion.”

Janis defined Groupthink as, “The practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity of individual responsibility.

Furthermore, Janis questioned, “Why (do) groups consisting of highly intelligent individuals often made bad decisions?”

Obviously, those engaged in the Groupthink of today don’t fall into the category of “intelligent individuals;” their decisions, however, are “bad decisions.”

But then again while Janis may have defined Groupthink in 1972 as it related to foreign policy decisions, the idea of Groupthink isn’t new.

The assassination of Julius Caesar on 15 March, 44 BC by conspiratorial Roman senators is a prime example of Groupthink.

Even during the era when Jesus of Nazareth was on trial, Groupthink reared its ugly head when Pilate asked, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”

And they said, “Barabbas.”

“Then what shall I do with Jesus?” (And) they all said, “Crucify Him!”

No, Groupthink isn’t new. It’s minority thinking set on destroying the majority.

Or, in simpler terms, mob mentality is where the end justifies — in their thinking — the means.

To prove the point of Groupthink, one need to look no further than Aug. 16, 2018, when more than 300-plus newspapers across America — foolishly sanctioned by The Boston Globe, with this newspaper in lockstep — recklessly engaged in an all-out assault on President Donald Trump.

Not all newspapers though, including The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette succumbed to this precarious decision.

In fact, the editorial board of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette under the headline, “We’ll take a pass,” had this to say regarding an otherwise self-destructing and unprofitable endeavor.

“Groupthink ... leads to mob action, bandwagon bias and, even worse for writers, the loss of the ability to be creative ... which might have been a selling point for editorial boards on this latest save-the-press effort. If there’s anything in our experience that promotes groupthink and stifles creativity more than an editorial board, we haven’t met it.”

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette concluded their editorial with this thought-provoking comment: “We’ll criticize POTUS when it becomes necessary once again. (And it will.) But scheduled, coordinated — concocted — criticism sounds too much like conformity. And won’t change the first mind.

“Besides, as an editorial writer once noted, the only time readers want to hear the Voice of God ... is when it’s God.”

And, even if they haphazardly tried, not one of those 300-plus newspapers that engaged in Groupthink was “the Voice of God.”

Yes, Groupthink has tarnished the reputation of many major news organizations from which they may never recover. And, it’s not just CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC or The New York Times, either.

Even Fox News now has its group of never-Trumpers. From Judge Andrew Napolitano’s recent insidious remarks about the Mueller report, to Shepard Smith and Neil Cavuto’s glaring and obvious disdain for President Trump, Groupthink is now alive and well on what was once considered a more conservative viewpoint of the news.

But, lest we forget, Groupthink is not just relegated to news organizations. All one has to do is listen to the Jerry Nadlers, the Adam Schiffs, the Chuck Schumers, the Nancy Pelosis and the Elizabeth Warrens of the Democratic Party.

Then again, there’s the ever-present and dangerous Green New Deal Democratic-socialist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, leading the Groupthink brigade over the cliff.

While AOC may be what everyone calls her, the acronym most definitely fits: She is an Area Of Concern.

So, while the public’s Groupthink indoctrination continues to set a treacherous precedent down a slippery slope, we should all remember that the economy is good; and the unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, the GDP is at 3.2 percent, there is an actual crisis at our southern border, not everything is racist and there is no collusion.

If by some remote chance you find yourself not subscribing to the opinions herein, that’s your right as an American citizen.

However, don’t threaten or try to shout me down. You can’t possibly win.

Larry French lives in Butler. He is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the Society of Professional Journalists and teaches composition and literature at East Tennessee State University. You may reach him at [email protected]

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