Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Groupthink

Groupthink. I haven't seen this word for some years now, but it used to be on the lips of everyone. "Groupthink" was once a neologism, come to think of it. But so long has it not been used, could it once again become a neologism?

I do realize that for a word once again to become a neologism is a contradiction in terms, is an oxymoron. But why should it not again become a neologism, particularly in the United States of Amnesia?

An example of Groupthink often trotted out in business management courses is the Bay of Pigs debacle - John F Kennedy’s decision to invade Cuba, using Cuban exiles to do this. Everyone in Kennedy’s inner circle agreed with the decision, and it was only afterwards when they were out of government that they admitted it was stupid, and had known this deep down at the time, but had suppressed their considerable doubts.

But they agreed at the time because no-one wanted to be the odd-man out, and thus forfeit the friendship of their esteemed colleagues, or be cast out of the group.

It’s only when we are expelled from the group that we tell the truth, blow the whistle. Think of John Dean in the Nixon administration, or Scott McClellan in the Bush administration. This is just for starters.

Think of other disasters like the decisions to invade Vietnam, or Iraq. Or the possible forthcoming decision to bomb Iran. They are all examples of the dangers of Groupthink.

But, you may ask, if one has to compromise one's thinking to be in a group, why be in it? A higher or necessary purpose perhaps?

Well, we are often part of a group because we have to be, like at work. But once in the group, we form personal attachments to the others in it, and we don’t want to earn their enmity by disagreeing.

But we are sometimes in a group because we choose to be in it. Feeling existentially alone and isolated, we yearn for the comfort of the group, to be in its loving embrace.

To be thrown out is to be rejected, to be deprived of love. And who wants that?