“If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” — Gen. George S. Patton
Yesterday YouTube suggested that I would like The Mark Steyn Show Climate Change Forum, so I watched it. Whether it’s creepy that YouTube put this video at the top of my feed the day after I had been writing on Ricochet about climate change in general and the website of a panel member in particular, I’ll leave for others to decide. The panel discussion included a lot about how difficult it is for people to speak up or challenge the uniform thinking of their peers.
I experienced this type of censorship, or rather self-censorship, while working for a government consulting firm at the beginning of the Obama administration. While the company started hosting lunches to encourage dialogue on climate change, it simultaneously crafted a company stance designed to improve its marketability for contracts. Once it was clear what the company was selling, I learned very quickly that speaking up in disagreement would be pointless or worse, detrimental to my career prospects. I ended up quitting rather than be subject to constant propaganda with no welcome outlet for debate or dialogue. It’s not that I “deny the science” or whatever the latest accusation is, but I have long thought that CO2 emissions receive too much focus and land-use changes are not sufficiently considered. I could write a lot more on this topic, but that’s for another post.
This is about how our thinking is social, and yet we cannot simply rely on what everyone else is thinking. Other examples of groupthink must include the mainstream news coverage of the 2016 presidential election, and even the 2012 election coverage on conservative news and commentary sites. In the spring of 2016, I warned a friend that it wasn’t a good idea for the Huffington Post to have relegated all Trump coverage to the entertainment section, since it would leave them vulnerable to underestimating his actual political influence. I doubt she read many sources beyond HuffPo, and she was very shocked (traumatized?) when Trump won.
Patton obviously understood that leaving your ideas unchallenged made you weaker, creating real danger. Today there are many topics that people don’t feel free to discuss, especially if they would face hostility at work or at school. There are also assumptions people make about what everyone else thinks because confirming or disconfirming those assumptions would require wading into unpleasant conversations. Is this a timeless human problem or a problem that has gotten worse in recent years?Published in