The Grokking Eagle podcast -02 Tribialism

The Grokking Eagle podcast -02 Tribialism

The following question is trending in Quora with hundred plus answers;

When you watch a stadium filled with white people chanting “Send her back!” about a US Congresswoman and our President silently endorses it, what comes up for you?

Despite being many answers, I have not looked at all of them, only a handful, it seems that there are a few themes that most entries just regurgitate. An obvious and common theme is the reference to Nazi Germany. I found the Nazi link hyperbolic, in fact, most people, qualify themselves as exaggerated and point out that, of course, US America 2019 is not Nazi Germany 1935. In this reference fascism is just used as synonym of “evil” and not real tought is given to the meaning of fascism, and thus, the reference is just meant as an insult.

Fascism is a complex ideology, maybe not really a thing, just a catch name for militaristic dictatorships. Most definitions agree that fascism is authoritarian and promotes nationalism at all costs, but its basic characteristics are a matter of debate. 

Robert Paxton, a professor emeritus of social science at Columbia University in New York, defined fascism as “a form of political practice distinctive to the 20th century that arouses popular enthusiasm by sophisticated propaganda techniques for an anti-liberal, anti-socialist, violently exclusionary, expansionist nationalist agenda.” Put it like that, there are some points common to fascism and the US political system, namely the arousal of popular enthusiasm by sophisticated propaganda techniques, and the expansionist nationalist agenda.

Going back to Nazi Germany, The Holocaust didn’t just happen in 1941. The concentration camps had been operating since 1933. The first people sent to the camps were socialists, communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and other people considered “socially deviant.” The camps weren’t awful places in 1933. Guards who abused prisoners were disciplined and sometimes prosecuted.

There were dozens, probably hundreds of concentration camps in operation by 1937. Many prisoners died there from abuse or simply from being worked to death, but they still weren’t places people were specifically sent to die; it was just that no one cared whether they died or not. By 1939, mass killings of Jews had started. 

Pro Publica recently published a long story about someone who works for the Border Patrol and spent time working at one of the camps.  The Border Patrol agent, a veteran with 13 years on the job, had been assigned to the agency’s detention center in McAllen, Texas, for close to a month when a team of court-appointed lawyers and doctors showed up one day at the end of June.

Taking in the squalor, the stench of unwashed bodies, and the poor health and vacant eyes of the hundreds of children held there, the group members appeared stunned. Then, their outrage rolled through the facility like a thunderstorm. One lawyer emerged from a conference room clutching her cellphone to her ear, her voice trembling with urgency and frustration. “There’s a crisis down here,” the agent recalled her shouting. At that moment, the agent, a father of a 2-year-old, realized that something in him had shifted during his weeks in the McAllen center. “I don’t know why she’s shouting,” he remembered thinking. “No one on the other end of the line cares. If they did, this wouldn’t be happening.”

The CBP agent in the story is in his late 30s, a husband and father who served overseas in the military before joining CBP.

 “What happened to me in Texas is that I realized I had walled off my emotions so I could do my job without getting hurt,” he said. “I’d see kids crying because they want to see their dads, and I couldn’t console them because I had 500 to 600 other kids to watch over and make sure they’re not getting in trouble. All I could do was make sure they’re physically OK. I couldn’t let them see their fathers because that was against the rules.

“I might not like the rules,” he added. “I might think that what we’re doing wasn’t the correct way to hold children. But what was I going to do? Walk away? What difference would that make to anyone’s life but mine?”

When asked whether he simply stopped caring, he said: “Exactly, to a point that’s kind of dangerous. But once you do, you feel better.”

Another point made on the Quora question was that people are irrational, machines with buttons to be pressed by the savvy. The public is not swayed by any standards of truth, or even of political debate. All they want is to be entertained.

Humans are instinctively tribal and violent. However instinctive, the tribalism of targeted groups can be manipulated. For example, in my hometown, people have been divided into two groups according to soccer team allegiance.

So how is it that something so important to our flourishing as a species — being part of a group, or tribe — is simultaneously one of the primary forces tearing the social fabric apart?

At the core of tribalism is not truth, or objective reality, but beliefs. And the one thing you cannot do is reason anyone out of their beliefs. Beliefs are not arrived at with reason, and so cannot be dismantled by logic and data.

The human mind has not developed or evolved to get to the truth but to stay safe. We use reason in order to get along with other people, to be part of a tribe, which in turn is crucial, not just to our sociable natures, but to survival itself.

With survival at stake it is easy to see why the context of the tribe, and the safety it represents, matters more than logic. Because tribes represent safety in the most fundamental sense (survival), agreeing with the tribe is a safe default position for group members, even when it doesn’t make sense to do so.

A psychology theory, Realistic conflict theory (RCT) explains how intergroup hostility can arise as a result of conflicting goals and competition over limited resources, and it also offers an explanation for the feelings of prejudice and discrimination toward the outgroup that accompany the intergroup hostility.

Feelings of resentment can especially arise when groups see the competition over resources as having a “winner take all” fate; the length and severity of the ensuing conflict is based upon the perceived value and shortage of the resources felt to be under threat.

According to RCT, positive relations can only be restored if superordinate goals, i.e., goals that require the cooperation of two or more groups to be achieved.

Consider global warming, which could be a superordinate goal, but the issue has been hijacked by the entertainment industry and the public doesn’t actually care to know anything about global warming: they want to be entertained by the tribal debate over global warming. Global warming has become a maker of group identity. This is by design, because the establishment prefer people to live in isolated bubbles.

In 1954, Researcher Muzafer Sherif of the University of Oklahoma carried out a fanous 3 week study at a 200-acre summer camp in Robbers Cave State ParkOklahoma. Early in 1953, the Rockefeller Foundation gave Sherif $38,000 – $350,000 (£245,000) in today’s money – to carry out what he hoped would be a career-defining piece of research. This time there would be no rats: the subjects were 11-year-olds, and neither they nor their parents had any idea what they were signing up for. He believed he could make two groups sworn enemies via a series of well-timed ‘frustration exercises.’ Sherif’s cover story was that he was running a summer camp in Middle Grove. His plan was to bring a group of boys together, allow them to make friends, then separate them into two factions to compete for a prize. At this point, he believed, they would forget their friendships and start demonizing one another. Sherif planned to set a forest fire in the vicinity of the camp. Facing a shared threat, they would be forced to work as one team again.

In Middle Grove things didn’t go according to plan. Despite his pretense of leaving the 11-year-olds to their own devices, Sherif and his research staff, posing as camp counsellors and caretakers, interfered to engineer the result they wanted. He believed he could make the two groups, called the Pythons and the Panthers, sworn enemies via a series of well-timed “frustration exercises”. To Sherif’s dismay, however, the children just couldn’t be persuaded to hate each other. The boys had worked out that they were being manipulated. “Maybe you just wanted to see what our reactions would be,” one of them said.

The robustness of the boy’s “civilized” values came as a blow to Sherif, making him angry enough to want to punch one of his young academic helpers. It turned out that the strong bonds forged at the beginning of the camp weren’t easily broken. Thankfully, he never did start the forest fire – he aborted the experiment when he realized it wasn’t going to support his hypothesis.

But the Rockefeller Foundation had given Sherif $38,000. In his mind, perhaps, if he came back empty-handed, he would face not just their anger but the ruin of his reputation. So, within a year, he had recruited boys for a second camp, this time in Robbers Cave state park in Oklahoma. He was determined not to repeat the mistakes of Middle Grove. There was no mixing at the beginning – neither of the two groups, the Rattlers and the Eagles, were aware of the other’s existence until the second day.

At Robbers Cave, things went more to plan. After a tug-of-war in which they were defeated, the Eagles burned the Rattler’s flag. Then all hell broke loose, with raids on cabins, vandalism and food fights. Each moment of confrontation, however, was subtly manipulated by the research team. Having got them fighting, the next stage was the all-important reconciliation – and the vindication of Sherif’s theory.

The researchers next introduced activities with superordinate goals, the attainment of which was beyond the resources and efforts of one group alone — i.e. requiring the two groups to work together toward a solution. According to Sharif, the joint sharing of goals and achievement lessened intergroup tensions and the story had a happy ending. Intragroup friendships blossomed.

The Sherifs made several conclusions based on the three-stage Robbers Cave Experiment. From the study, he determined that because the groups were created to be approximately equal, individual differences are not necessary or responsible for intergroup conflict to occur. As seen in the study when the boys were competing in camp games for valued prizes, Sherif noted that hostile and aggressive attitudes toward an outgroup arise when groups compete for resources that only one group can attain. Sherif also establishes that contact with an outgroup is insufficient, by itself, to reduce negative attitudes. Finally, he concludes that friction between groups can be reduced along with positive intergroup relations maintained, only in the presence of superordinate goals that promote united, cooperative action.

Lutfy Diab repeated the experiment with 18 boys from Beirut. The ‘Blue Ghost’ and ‘Red Genies’ groups each contained 5 Christians and 4 Muslims. Fighting soon broke out, not Christian vs Muslim but Blue vs Red. 

 RCT offers an explanation for negative attitudes toward racial integration and efforts to promote diversity. 

RCT can also provide an explanation for why competition over limited resources in communities can present potentially harmful consequences in establishing successful organizational diversity. RCT provides an explanation of this pattern because in communities of mixed races, members of minority groups are competing for economic security, power, and prestige with the majority group.

RCT can help explain discrimination against different ethnic and racial groups. An example of this is shown in cross-cultural studies that determined that violence between different groups escalates in relationship to shortages in resources. When a group have a notion that resources are limited and only available for possession by one group, this leads to attempts to remove the source of competition. Groups can attempt to remove their competition by increasing their groups capabilities (e.g. skill training), decreasing the abilities of the outgroups competition (e.g. expressing negative attitudes or applying punitive tariffs), or by decreasing proximity to the outgroup (e.g. denying immigrant access).

So, tribalism is a neutral tool that can be used for evil or good, and that can get out of control of the social Frankensteins.

The object of the send her back chant is Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who moved from Somalia as a child. Also targets of similar attacks are Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, all native born US citizens.

The crowd’s “send her back” shouts resounded for 13 seconds as Trump made no attempt to interrupt them. The next day he claimed he did not approve of the chant and tried to stop it, but on Friday, he made clear he was not disavowing the chant and again laced into Omar, the target of the chant: “You can’t talk that way about our country. Not when I’m president,” Trump said. “These women have said horrible things about our country and the people of our country.”

Our capacity for critical thinking is easily derailed by what we notice, and how we feel, at any given moment. We humans are so susceptible to reasoning errors, it takes little more than the power of suggestion to sway us like a reed in the wind. The suggestion doesn’t even have to be relevant — just must be made.

Some of the answers of the Quora question try to justify the mob chanting by equating Islam to terrorist ideology, and labeling Rep. Omar as anti-American and obnoxious for saying, for example: “By principle, I’m anti-war because I survived a war. I’m also anti-intervention. I don’t think it ever makes sense for any country to intervene in a war zone with the fallacy of saving lives when we know they are going to cause more deaths. I also don’t believe in forced regime change. Change needs to come from within.” Or accusing Omar of anti-Semitism for criticizing Israel and endorsing the boycott of the Israel State (BDS). Ilhan Omar said in January 2019: “I don’t know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans,” when asked about an old tweet of hers that said Israel had “hypnotized the world.” You might disagree with Omar about Israel and what to do, or not, about the conflict between the Israel State and the Palestinians, but equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism is just a straw man fallacy.


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About arnulfo

veterano del ciberespacio
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