The Dim-Post

October 6, 2016

Quote of the day, oh – no reason edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 12:08 pm

And, finally, groups have never thirsted after truth. They demand illusions, and cannot do without them. They constantly give what is unreal precedence over what is real; they are almost as strongly influenced by what is untrue as by what is true. They have an evident tendency not to distinguish between the two.

Sigmund Freud – Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. 1921


  1. True if normal people acting in good faith.

    Then there’s the unpleasant people acting dishonestly. The Guardian has had to shut down this comment threat on an editorial because of being hit by the pro Putin/Assad camp.

    First noticed this kind of attack in the US alt media and it’s spreading all over. It’d temping to think this is a small number of people but it sort of looks on the rise.

    The internet is to politics what pokies are to gambling.

    Comment by NeilM — October 6, 2016 @ 1:52 pm

  2. Edward Bernays Freud’s nephew integrated Freud’s ideas into his then novel conception: mass marketing.

    Initially, Bernays noted the crowd hysteria at Versailles for Woodrow Wilson, and began to wonder if the masses could be ‘made’ to act in certain ways on cue. He was then approached by a cigarette manufacturer anxious to capture the other half of the population – females, who were unwilling to smoke due to the social stigma it attracted. So Bernays gots some posh chicks to light up their ‘Torches of Freedom’ on camera, and presto! some twenty years later, women started to die of tobacco-related illnesses. But think of the money they made! Later on, it began to be used in earnest to manipulate political opinions.

    It could be argued that Freud unwittingly unleashed Cosby Textor on people.

    Obviously I refer to other people, as everyone who comes here is miles too intelligent to be taken in by such transparently outdated strategies.

    In particular I suggest The Green Party are uncorrupted by this as their last election campaign was so semiotically obscure that you needed a degree in media studies to work out what the hell they were sayng.

    Comment by Lee Clark — October 6, 2016 @ 3:44 pm

  3. “Obviously I refer to other people, as everyone who comes here is miles too intelligent to be taken in by such transparently outdated strategies.”

    Jacques Ellul argued the opposite forcefully – the class that participates in the manufacture of propaganda being every bit as much its tools and victims, nobody having any especial protection against even the more transparent forms of persuasion. We’re just too smart to see [through] it …

    Comment by Joe-90 — October 6, 2016 @ 4:16 pm

  4. Daniel Kahneman makes the same argument – educated elites are just as prone to emotive and cognitive bias, but they much better at justifying their poor choices and flawed decisions.

    Comment by danylmc — October 6, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

  5. Example of the day:

    Comment by Eltalstro — October 6, 2016 @ 4:54 pm

  6. I guess irony can be described as that which people fail to perceive…

    Comment by Lee Clark — October 6, 2016 @ 5:28 pm

  7. That quote, Danyl, suggests Freud could be extremely perceptive (despite that I’ve long considered him over-rated) and you’re right to recycle it. Opinion outweighs fact most of the time in most folks’ minds. Groups constellate belief systems via like-mindedness, which amplifies opinion into pseudo-reality.

    In comment #2 Lee Clark makes some good points. Bernays must’ve learnt from Uncle Sigmund. I suspect the most profound insights were gleaned from between Freud’s lines – rather than what he actually said. Bernays is likely the most little-known of those who exerted a primal formative influence on the course of twentieth century civilisation. I spent a decade making television commercials (starting January ’75 – bad karma) and learnt a bit about how propaganda can be crafted effectively; thought myself immune to it until I realised I was choosing products on the basis of the most publicised brand.

    So I can cite myself in respect of comment #4 Danyl: didn’t matter that college exam results put me in the top 0.5% of the population, nor being a physics graduate. Advertising worked on me despite my critical faculties. Dunno about the subliminal, but certainly via the subconscious.

    In respect of Lee’s comment about the last Greens election campaign, I noticed it was bland but voted Green for the ninth election consecutively regardless. “Semiotically obscure” is probably a better description actually: whereas Labour is bland due to inability to be anything else, likely the GP campaign committee did it by design. Sending a mixed message is a tad more subtle than being all things to all people (the traditional recipe for electoral success in democracy) – yet secures the same outcome. Think the Greens are so busy being idealistic they haven’t got time to be that cynical? Think again.

    Comment by Dennis Frank — October 6, 2016 @ 5:37 pm

  8. Richard Dawkins popularised the notion of memes. The concept that some ideas, regardless of their actual attachment to the world at large, are much more tenacious in terms of attaching themselves to our brains. That we are naturally good at the uptake of a bunch of ideas that were useful to our primitive survival, and by natural processes anything that sufficiently resembles those useful ideas will also be captured by our brain very easily compared to, say, algebra, or understanding why weight and wait are not spelled the same way as rate and fate.

    The idea that some unfamiliar or exclusive group is a danger to one’s position in society, for instance, like the Jews, or the gays, or the Muslims, or the Greens. Or that some unfamiliar activity is endangering one’s children, like books, or poetry, or the Waltz, or whatever the latest “danger” is for children. Or that life is ultimately fair and good people (mostly) do better than bad people, and thus that people not doing well are somehow at fault, and that rich folk are mostly worthy, despite the evidence. That you should respect the opinion of popular figures, because obviously people mostly become respected for having useful opinions, and not, say, chasing an oval ball about a small field slightly faster than others can, or just persistently posing for the mass media. Or that eating some weird little thing that a medical authority told you to is going to make everything better, and not just be Dr. Phil selling you someone’s shit, because how could you be a medical authority if you got everything wrong.

    Which is really a way of saying that being less wrong (in an ideas matching the facts, kind of way) is often much more difficult than feeling like you’re right, because it will often feel wrong to be right. It can positively uncomfortable, even. Discovering the theory of the evolution of species by natural selection scared the shit out of Charles Darwin, and Isaac Newton was aghast to find that the Holy Bible did not, in fact, describe the workings of the universe or anything else at all well: that everyone’s basic guidebook to everything was complete bullshit.

    Comment by tussock — October 6, 2016 @ 6:14 pm

  9. Yeah the leading physicists spent quite a few years feeling wrong & uncomfortable about agreeing that the electron was both particle and wave almost a century ago. Consensus amongst Nobel Prize-winners that they were right has proved durable ever since – a prime example proving your point. Dualism produces either/or choices, zero-sum outcomes, bipolarising schisms in society etc, and few can transcend & triangulate themselves into third alternatives. Both/and logic is the way of the future…

    Comment by Dennis Frank — October 6, 2016 @ 6:29 pm

  10. Well, this is all a bit embarassing. Pseuds corner anyone?

    Comment by Sanctuary — October 6, 2016 @ 9:57 pm

  11. Dualisms continue to pop up in physics in ways even more exotic than that of the wave particle.

    And things that appear completely different if rotated/transformed become the same. The boundary vs the interior in the gravity/quantum standoff.

    I’m tempted to think that the reoccuring dualism is a product of our mind, perhaps a product of having a brain divided into two.

    So it’s subjective and yet the brain evolved to cope with The World and so should in some sense reflect what the world is and therefore objective.

    Comment by NeilM — October 7, 2016 @ 1:05 am

  12. But going back to group think. What I do find disturbing is the effect of the Internet and the alt media in reinforcing these alt groups on the Left and Right.

    All those Trump supporters sitting in front of their computers getting feedback from like minds at what ever speed their brain can endure.

    And similaly with the Greenwald cult. It’s always one click away from fascism.

    So increased speed of communication is empowering certain unpleasant groups.

    Freud made astute observations about group think. Today we have a tremendous ability to foster this.

    I’m not optimistic but at least the polls are indicating a Clinton win despite the alt alternative universe.

    Comment by NeilM — October 7, 2016 @ 1:22 am

  13. “Well, this is all a bit embarassing. Pseuds corner anyone?”

    Not everybody has your intellectual credentials, Sanc.

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — October 7, 2016 @ 2:39 am

  14. Meanie. We know blog commentators who discover they’re out of their depth often resort to snide comments when incapable of engaging the subject. No need to labour the point. Anyone can develop their intellect if they abandon such habitual laziness, pull finger & give it a go. Even leftists. In theory, at least. Seems quite rare in practice.

    Comment by Dennis Frank — October 7, 2016 @ 8:00 am


    I think a lot of this can be traced to The Theory of Mind. One if the genetically mediated brain functions that are the basis for social behaviour.

    Comment by NeilM — October 7, 2016 @ 9:15 am

  16. @neilm

    Best line in that story – “Our challenge was really in making TV that apes would want to watch. Apes are obsessed with social information, and so we created social conflicts that would engage them and encourage them to track the key false belief information.”

    Sounds like real housewives…

    Evolution is overrated.

    Comment by insider — October 7, 2016 @ 11:26 am

  17. That tendency of groups to prefer something untrue to something true is notably contradicted by the culture of scientists, who as a group discriminate against fancy in favour of fact. Reminds me of the story about the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr, who responded thus when a visitor commented on the horseshoe nailed up outside his house, asking him how he could believe it lucky when that implied he believed in magic: “I understand that they work whether you believe in them or not.”

    It illustrates Neil’s point in comment #11 (tho perhaps not quite how he intended it). Then there’s the old technological propensity for discriminating between truth-tellers & liars: use of the lie-detector. So authoritative and widely-known to be a reliable technique that its results became admissable as evidence in courts of law, and generally proved decisive in producing verdicts. Raymond Smullyan, a professor of philosophy, describes in a 1981 book “an incident I read about in a textbook on abnormal psychology. The doctors in a mental institution were thinking of releasing a certain schizoprenic patient. They decided to give him a lie-detector test. One of the questions they asked him was “Are you Napoleon?” He replied “No.” The machine showed that he was lying!”

    My interpretation is that (presuming the device had hitherto been reliable) he believed he was but knew that if he admitted it they wouldn’t release him. So, by choosing to tell an untruth, he inadvertently exposed the delusion that afflicted psychiatrists, scientists, judiciary, and everyone else in those days (belief that reliable technology gets the right result). You can imagine the psychiatrists in that asylum trying to get their heads around the fact that the lie-detector had proven that the patient really was Napoleon.

    Comment by Dennis Frank — October 7, 2016 @ 4:24 pm

  18. “the lie-detector. So authoritative and widely-known to be a reliable technique”


    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — October 7, 2016 @ 6:39 pm

  19. If you read it again more carefully, you’ll see that I was referring to the status quo in the decades prior to the publication of his book in ’81. Scepticism has emerged since then, and as the Wikipedia page suggests, has prevailed increasingly. I remember when nobody questioned the veracity of the technique in mainstream culture – having grown up in it.

    Comment by Dennis Frank — October 7, 2016 @ 7:11 pm

  20. if they abandon such habitual laziness, pull finger & give it a go…(or, er) …if you read it again more carefully….
    ‘S tough bein’ a pygmy in the presence of a interlectual man-splainin’ giant. Maybe I shouldn’t dust off my old exam results and reveal all the C’s

    Comment by paritutu — October 8, 2016 @ 1:45 pm

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