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Herd Logic


Human beings are animals whose preference for group membership is simultaneously the source of their greatest salvation and their ultimate destruction

Xenocrates

WildebeestThis group of happy campers has a rude awakening afoot. Literally.

Some people would like to think that I’m a relatively smart guy. I never really took such regards seriously as I always thought that there were many, many smarter people out there. However, the more I got involved with social debating on various issues, the more I became aware of an ubiquitous intellectual deficit that would seem to suggest that the phrase “common sense” may actually be an oxymoron.

At first, I thought the deficit was a reflection of the cognitive limitations of people in my immediate environment. But when I moved my discussions to the more public domain of the internet, I encountered the same rubbish online as I did offline. As it turns out, even on the internet, the proportion of smart vs. average remained exactly the same.

I now realise that when I perceive simple-mindedness in the folks I regularly interact with in the real world, it is not limited to my immediate geographic location. It seems that 80% of the entire human race is made from the same cognitive mold. They all have the same stupid ideas and do the same stupid things – it’s herd logic.

I call it “herd logic”, because it is akin to a whole herd of wildebeests or a school of fish that suddenly, but in perfect synchrony, go this way or that, in response to a perceived threat. The thing with herd logic, is that most of the participants are trusting the decision of the herd – even if it will inexorably lead to their doom:

Similarly, it appears that about 80% of the people in the world go through their entire lives following everyone else, doing exactly the same thing, making exactly the same mistakes, ultimately sharing exactly the same doom. Herd logic may be intended to protect the group, but birds of a feather may ultimately die together.

This limitation is not only evident in humans; we see it all over the animal kingdom as well; a kingdom of mediocrity. Thus my perception of this cognitive limitation is not a function of my culture. It’s not my environment either. It seems that our DNA makes several permutations of the same crap before it eventually leaps forward.

80% of the world is made of people who aren’t smart enough to think independently, because it is our nature to think that being a maverick is dangerous. Technically it is. It’s just that the herd is oftentimes collectively stupid. All this means is that I can choose to be patient – which I must admit is not very gratifying. Here’s why:

Even when I use the Socratic method, stupid just can’t be beat. Fighting stupid is like multiplying 1 billion and zero. You’ll still get zero. So what do I do when I come across stupid? Simple: Employ the use of conversation management. Who says what they say has to be validated?

As such, I hereby relinquish the propensity to dignify every idiot with an intelligent response. If Richard Dawkins is right about memes competing for survival, then by design, my intentions are to viciously defend the right to common sense – one idiot at a time. Sooner or later, a more intelligent idiot will take their place.

I learned a long time ago that you should never argue with a fool. They will bring you down to their level and beat you. Thus, it has become my new MO to perpetually indulge in ignoring all obnoxious forms of stupidity until it becomes naturally selected for elimination from the meme pool. That pun – however satisfying – was not intended.

There are many classifications of Herd out there. The following then is a breakdown the top 5 types of collective that have proven themselves worthy of elimination. Yes, I’m doing it again; putting people in boxes. If you have a problem with this, I’ll send you a memo of concession as soon as I care:

5. The Groupie Variety

School of Humpback Snappers - Synchronized swimming

A school of Humpback Snappers - Perfectly synchronized in swimming

On more than one occasion, I had found myself as a teen in a group of other boys who would find time after school to go to the video game arcade to shell out our parents’ hard earned money playing coin op Street Fighter 2. Why did I do it? Because it felt good to be a part of a group. I sucked at fighting games, but the company was intoxicating.

This I now realise, is a necessary cognitive function of humanity. We like to belong – even if belonging is detrimental to our existence. We seem to think of ourselves as having a greater sense of purpose once we’ve identified with a group – which ultimately nullifies our individuality. My question is however, how long does it take for us to realise when group membership is not in our best interest?

As a young boy, it took only two trips to the arcade for me to realise who my friends really were. They would love me once I partook of their folly and hate me if I decided to finish my homework at the library instead. How many of you realised that you were suffering from the groupie syndrome before you severed ties?

As I grew older, it became easier and easier to separate myself from certain groups that I thought were dangerous to me. Whether it was an abusive Christian cult or a collective of self serving “friends”, group separation become more meaningful to me because I learned to think for myself. I very highly value my individuality.

I realise however, that most people can’t. They just… can’t. They do not possess the cognitive capacity to identify self separate and apart from a group. In fact, I asked a colleague of mine recently if all of his friends jumped off a cliff to their deaths, if he would follow them. Without missing a beat, he said: “Yes! – I don’t want to be alone!

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen; a perfectly logical explanation for peer pressure. Just like a school of herring that keeps together to avoid being eaten by diving ducks, only to be swallowed whole by a marauding hump back whale, human beings are animals whose preference for group membership is simultaneously the source of their greatest salvation and their ultimate destruction.

4. The Wagon Rider Variety

Hyenas mob and kill a wildebeestHyenas mob and kill a wildebeest. Mobs are so much fun.

Have you ever seen a bunch of people saying that they love or hate this or that football team just because they’ve heard other people saying the same thing? Doesn’t that just annoy you? No? Well that’s probably because you’re one of them. When people do this in sports, that’s one thing. When they do it on topical issues, that’s another.

Wagon riders are people who have no opinion on a particular matter. So when there’s an uproar of excitement around them, they go with the preference of whatever appears to have the largest supporting audience. So even if the audience shifts its preference, so do they. That actually shows that much of the audience is also on a wagon.

Wagon riders are probably the best example of herd logic. They feed off the collective energy of all the other people generating it. They then feed into this energy and replicate the same behaviour, magnetizing all others around them who have a similar inkling to join the band. There are essentially two types: 1) Anarchist Mobs and 2) Emo-junkies.

Anarchist Mobs

The first type are the people who would goad two people into a fight, cheering “fight!, fight!, fight!…” until somebody throws the first punch. They are the ones who would randomly join in the attacking of another person once they demographically identify with the attackers, throwing a kick or a punch here and there just for the sheer thrill of it.

They are the morons who you see on television trashing police cars, breaking into stores, looting and setting fires everywhere when Rodney King’s law enforcement attackers (who are also of the Anarchist Wagon rider variety) were set free. They’re not doing these things out of revenge. They’re just joining in the thrill of the city’s madness.

Anarchist mobs are also the people who usually appear on the internet as “trolls”. They have a habit of searching the internet for heated conversations. Once there appears to be a “gang up” on one person’s comment, they join in, hurling expletives and what not, just to get their two cents in.You’ll find them on YouTube and Digg in droves.

Anarchists are thrill junkies. They don’t need any purpose or direction. This is the reason why I would never go to a football match in England, be anywhere near Southern LA when a black man is on trial, or be caught in the middle of a corn field in southern Texas when a white man says the word “nigger” and “yee-haw” in the same sentence.

Emo-Junkies

Emo-junkies on the other hand are the folks who get so emotionally caught up in a public debate that they resort to bizarre acts of public protest that borders on sheer lunacy. Included in this bunch are environmentalists, pro-life anti-abortionists, and celebrity enthusiasts, like this moron who cried on YouTube during Britney Spears’ meltdown.

Like their vile, anarchist counterparts, emo-junkies are not motivated by the issue at hand. They just like being caught up in the emotional drama of it all. They get a genuine kick out of it. This is partly why most of these people are usually women and gay men (or men with 80 girlfriends who are still virgins).

Emo-junkies like tying themselves to trees, blocking construction workers, burning effigies of unborn children, protesting the invitation of a pro-choice President at a catholic university, marching in a protest about corporate giants ignoring the environment, just because this makes them feel like they’re passionate about something.

The trouble is, most of the time, none of these people know anything about what they’re protesting. Pro-life people for example are strangely oblivious to the needs of women who were raped. They don’t seem to care about her health either – especially if bringing a child to term would severely endanger her life.

Most environmental activists know virtually nothing about science, about water purification, about natural ecological decay, or even what it means to say that a technology is “eco-friendly”. So long as you tack the word “green” onto something, most of them would be satisfied that you’re being a good citizen of the earth.

*yawn*

To say that emo-junkies are senseless, clueless and stupefyingly moronic crowd followers would be an understatement of epic proportions. They, like their anarchist “set the roof on fire” thrill junkies are examples of how the energy of a group can motivate people to do unbelievably stupid, stupid things. Woodstock, anyone?

3. The Gullible Variety

A lion hunts a a herd of wildebeestGroups tend to propagate nonsense. There’s no such thing as safety in numbers.

Apparently, the government is out to get us all – at least that’s what conspiracy theorists think. I am profoundly amazed at how many people in the world still think that George Bush orchestrated 9/11 so that he could go to war with Iraq for their oil. I think those people are far dumber than Bush just for thinking he’s anywhere near that smart.

Never mind the fact that the bumbling idiot of a president was voted in twice, (vis-a-vis, dumbsploitation), what amuses me is how much these conspiracy theorists are motivated to go as far as having conventions and what not to discuss the monstrously ludicrous nature of their beliefs.

I’m not saying that 9/11 was a cut and dry case of terrorism; but the things these people collectively believe in makes Jehovah’s Witnesses seem sane! Yes, I said it. JW’s are crackpots. So is anyone who subscribes to a religion whose rules and precepts could tear your family apart. Yet people do it anyway.

But wait a minute, how did I just jump from conspiracy theorists to Jehovah’s Witnesses? Because they’re all the same kind of people. They’re all profoundly gullible. Conspiracy theorists, religious cult members, superstitious believers, Charismatic Christians, people who think the moon landing was staged, UFO enthusiasts, extremist Muslims – they’re all the same class of idiot – and they are many.

What really makes these people dangerous is when they proceed to forming themselves into groups, hash agendas and impose themselves onto the world. When you examine the true nature of human belief, it is not hard to understand why these types of people become dangerous to social order in short order.

Conspiracy theorists are no different from people who believe in superstition and religion. They only believe in something just because several thousand other people believe it too. They believe so blindly with so little evidence outside of numbers and a hunch, that they are often willing to bet the farm and the kitchen sink on it. Amazing.

If you should tell them it is all a load of crock, they’ll break down into these ad hominem episodes, like an angry atheist who’s just been told that Jesus is real, or an angry theist who is told that Jesus is fake. You can’t reason with a numbers believer, because they are compelled by the power of their group’s size – not its logic.

If two billion people believe a lie, it doesn’t make it any less of a lie. A lie is a lie is a lie. But no matter how much you tell some of these idiots that there were people on those planes that hit the World Trade Center, and that the war in Iraq is not in any way related to 9/11, they’ll still believe it anyway. You just can’t combat stupid.

Y’know what would be interesting? Some of today’s religious folk who hail their faith as being infallible should be transported back in time to ancient Egypt when their religion didn’t exist. I wonder how they would react when they suddenly realise they’re the only person in the world who is a Christian or a Muslim? That would be hilarious.

Similarly, I would love some conspiracy theorists to meet with the surviving families of 9/11 victims so that they could beat their insensitive idiocy to a pulp. Never the less, just like how we no longer believe that the earth is flat, I suppose this legion of extraordinary idiocy will eventually dissipate with time. Ooh, I can’t wait.

2. The Obvious Variety

Sand tiger shark on the huntThis group thinks that not all sharks are mindless bloodthirsty monsters.

There are some people in the world who have a remarkable talent for stating the obvious. “OMG, that’s a stereotype!” Yes, I know. That’s why I used it. Stereotypes wouldn’t exist if they didn’t exist. It’s like declaring the remarkable obviousness of the colour of the sky. There’s a reason why nobody does that, by the way.

(Hint: The sky doesn’t actually have a colour, but never mind…)

However, the intention of this herd’s propensity for declaring the obvious is not to obviously declare the obvious. That’s would be pretty… well… obvious, obviously. Their problem is that they lack the capacity to differentiate from when the obvious is used to do harm as opposed to when it is used to point out a fact.

Where as one could say that “Women generally love chocolate” (that’s a stereotype that is based on fact), one could also say that “Women are poor decision makers“, which is partly factual, but mostly debatable. However, the obvious herd doesn’t understand things like “context” and so both uses will be categorically seen as a bad thing.

People have for so long considered stereotypes only for the negative connotation that the word communicates, that the original mostly positive intentions have been overshadowed by the collective stupidity of pop culture. It’s the same way how words like “faggot” and “gay” have become a part of a silly pop culture derision for homosexuality.

How did this happen? Oh right, 80% of the word is intellectually challenged. There, I used another stereotype. But before you get irate, remember this: There is a certain hypocrisy in all this since only stereotypes that fit a certain demographic are declared. All other stereotypes are conveniently ignored. Allow me to illustrate:

If I were to wax misogynistic, only women (and nice guys who have 80 girlfriends but are still virgins) would get pissed off. If I were to do the same thing about men, the women would remain quiet. Pick any demographic out there: White people, black people, Muslims – and you will see exactly the same behaviour.

Humans are so nauseatingly predictable.

People who conveniently use this nonsensical “that’s a stereotype!” declaration only expose themselves as not only proof of the validity of the stereotype, but also as a herd of dissenters who validate themselves by the fact that they collectively agree – not because they collectively make sense.

After all, who needs logic when we all agree on nonsense? After all, black people have no souls, the world is flat, the sun goes around the earth, the earth sits on the back of a giant, you can cure aids by having sex with a virgin, and removing your tonsils will cure you of tonsillitis. *sigh* We’ve come such a long, long way.

1. The Treacherous Variety

Crocodile hunts wildebeestHerd leaders don’t always know what they’re doing. That’s not a log in the water.

I now realise that for every characteristic that exists in someone I like that brings me utter joy in conversation, there exists a permutation of that personality in the world that has the capacity to bring me equally as much frustration. They are just as intelligent as the others, but nowhere near as smart.

Now let me be clear: Idiocy is not a measure of intelligence (or lack thereof, for that matter). Idiocy is a complete refusal to adhere to the rules of logic – often for selfish, emotional gratification. So no matter how educated someone is, they may be a complete, utterly profound idiot of Biblical proportions.

There are so many permutations of idiot out there, that it is invariably impossible to avoid the process of weeding out the rubbish. So almost every time I indulge others with my thoughts, I have to prepare to go through 50 idiots before I can find one gem. I have since accepted and reconciled such as the inescapable cost of infamy.

But the trouble with these people is that on first encounter, they are hard to differentiate from the idiot pile to which they truly belong. So most of the time, one spends an inordinate amount of time talking with them before they realise who they’re talking to. That’s when then embarrassment sets in. Walk away. Slowly.

That’s why there’s nothing more dangerous than an educated fool. Any Harvard Business School graduate or Texas drunk can get up on a podium and promise to bring back decency and dignity to the White House. But at what cost? After a comedic masterpiece spanning eight years, four thousand dead troops, an escalating religious war and an epic economic deficit, the voters all sigh a collective “doh”.

So the next time you have a disagreement with a Republican who prefers to let the dying economy manage itself (just like Coolidge did, leading to the great depression), remember that you’re dealing with a very different, very dangerous kind of fool.Don’t mistake their education for validation.

When they join a group, that’s when the education becomes replaced with ideological principles. It’s like spending 7 years studying kung-fu, only to go brawl in a bar with Hell’s Angels. The group membership demands an unwavering subscription to their principles, even if it flies in the face of prior education.

That is why it should not be surprising when you see how many highly educated Republicans still hang on to the old ways (even in the face of near inextricable ruin) and how many doctors, lawyers and engineers get caught up in religious extremist groups. Their level of education becomes meaningless inside that group. Loyalty trumps all.

You would think that with all that education behind one’s belt, that they would not become victim to herd logic. Unfortunately, our human need to belong is probably greater than our need to make sense. I’m pretty sure there was one herring in the school who saw the whale coming – but stuck with the group because he didn’t want to stand out.

Social suicide you say? But at what cost? All the herring in that school of fish are busy digesting in a whale’s belly!

Therefore;

A school of fish

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to detract from the validity of group membership. Many things are better addressed by groups – democracy is one example. It’s where a group decides its leadership. However, democracy is also bound to the average of intelligence of all members of the selecting body. That is its weakness.

This is why herd logic is only useful up to a point. When it attains a certain critical mass, it’s size ultimately becomes detrimental to its viability. Too many cooks do spoil the broth, you see. An over sized group is also the key bottleneck in an overwhelming system of bureaucracy.

Everyone is still an individual with the capacity to think for themselves. Too often we forget that and feel that our loyalty to others trumps our loyalty to self. This is when we do the stupid thing of trusting the group. Little do you realise that the entire group is made up of individuals who are just as clueless as you are, constituting an infinitely recursive system of blind leading blind.

I can respect both Republicans and Democrats who jump ship because they feel those groups didn’t adequately represent them personally. I can appreciate those who believe in governance from the center. It shows that they are thinking as individuals, not as a herd. Group loyalty is overrated. It will reward us just as much as it will punish us.

I know that extracting one’s self from a group is hard. It requires a level of maturity and emotional depth to deal with the fallout. I should know. I was raised in what I thought was a very conservative Christian congregation. It took me a while to realise that it was yet another cult.

It took much, but my separation was one of the best things that I’ve ever done – especially considering what happened several years afterward. Today, I feel like the one or two herring that got away from the whale when it swooped in to collect the entire school.

So the next time you find yourself annoyed with the little things that your affiliated group does, maybe its time that you seriously consider revising the terms of your membership. Group affiliation is the road to obscurity. It suppresses individuality and promotes ubiquitous stupidity. The group can never think for you.

Think for yourself. If more people tried to have their own individual thoughts more frequently instead of regurgitating what everyone else is saying, I sincerely believe that we would have advanced our civilization in leaps and bounds at such an exponential rate that even God would have reason to be threatened by our existence.

Maybe that’s why God made 80% of us with only an average level of intelligence. Ahh… It all makes sense now.

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  1. September 22, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Idiot Group Number one (Treacherous Valley) perfectly explains why highly esteemed and respected Newt Gingrich (who was once Speaker of the House during the Bush administration) has the nerve to say that Obama has a Kenyan, anti-colonial world view of America. This is a person who could have become president had the president and vice president both died.

  2. LoneWolf
    July 14, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Some of those conspiracy theories can actually stand up to some amount of scrutiny. For instance, the New World Order theory. At this point in time I accept that something must be planned, they are actually working on a global system, I don’t know if its going to be as sinister as the theorist makes it sound, maybe it will actually be a good thing, but obviously something is being implemented in the background. World leaders are speaking of it freely now, Gordon Brown used the exact words and Obama alludes to it all the time and of course no one will forget George Bush senior’s New World Order rant.

    Have you taken a look at the EU parliament building? At first glance you say “damn, this is wickedly cool architecture”, at least that’s what I thought when I first saw it. Now take a look on the official EU promotion poster. I think it was actually pulled by the EU because people started complaining. Just google EU Poster, look on that and tell me what that looks like to you. Why on earth would they use something like that to promote the EU. Now look back on the EU Parliament building and tell me if you don’t see similarities between the poster and the actual building.

    Another thing, are you sure you aren’t jumping unto an Obama band wagon? Do you really think for one second that Obama in of him self can fix the economy?

    Just as how you allude to 80% of the population being drones, don’t you think that some of the remaining 20% elite will try to control the drones, through religion, money and indoctrination? I think your herd logic assertions actually fit perfectly with some of these conspiracy theories.

    Yea its true, the 80% drones have basically been drowned and indoctrinated into what to believe, especially in terms of religion but the funny thing is that a lot of the 20% elite believe some weird stuff too, I mean seriously? What’s up with that?

    I don’t readily swallow conspiracy theories but seriously, sometimes you really got to wonder about the weird crap that’s going on, seriously.

Comment pages
  1. October 18, 2009 at 9:14 am
  2. September 13, 2009 at 1:31 am

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