Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.
Last Monday I wrote about Drag Queen Story Hour and the protest against it by 500 Mom Strong under the leadership of Anna Bohach. A careful reading of the 500 Mom Strong Facebook page forced me to realize that protest group is a prime example of current national and local politics…and for human tribal groups in general.
Visit the 500 Mom Strong Facebook page with me. It is a study in political framing. Under “Photos” on the first page we see a photo of kneeling women, one with a prominent cross and another with Rosary beads, praying. There are police in the background. The message is “we are clean, chaste, the chosen, we are holy against this horror. We are the oppressed.” The third photo in the frame sets the political scene: A placard with the title “Socialist Patriarchy” and the definition “the collection of liberal men in politics, government, and media that control the talking points and ideology of the American Left.” Socialist, control, ideology, American Left, these are all nurtured frames of evil for this group. Finally, in the lower lefthand corner we have the new object of derision, fear, and loathing, the drag queen, not just any drag queen, but a scarily dressed and made up person with the label “Phallic Cunt.” The American Left, liberals, socialists, those heathen, all people in drag, they’re all allied with this being, a being with the audacity to name itself after sexual parts. We must all rise and do battle with this horror! The framing is complete. We, the Chosen, are at war with the forces of evil! Join the fight! They are all, every last one of them, just like these photos. It is all so awful I can neither watch what’s really happening in the library, nor discuss it. The doors to our minds are slammed shut.
I am confident the vast majority of the protesters at the South Hill Library on Saturday, June 15, (and those who will take part in another protest tomorrow, Saturday, June 22, at the Downtown Library), sincerely believe they are defending themselves and their children from forces of evil.
Note the definition of groupthink posted above: “Group members…reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints…by isolating themselves from outside influences.” Anna Bohach made a point of NOT attending the Spokane library discussion about Drag Queen Story Hour held on June 13th, saying she “…felt unsafe attending and that she doubted the panel would fairly represent opposition to the drag queen readings.” She did not wish to hear an opposing viewpoint.
The result? A group of self-righteous protesters at the South Hill Library railing against something entirely different from what was happening inside the Library, protesting against overblown images on the flapping fringes of the concept of “Drag Queen” while inside the Library were people in flamboyant garb reading stories to willing families and their children. Those outside were protesting dehumanized evil as those inside were preaching tolerance and mutual respect.
I awoke this morning remembering the sense of dread portrayed in the opening scenes of the musical Cabaret (1966). In the Kit Kat Klub in Berlin in the 1930s as the Nazis were closing in, not only on Jews, but on anyone not conforming to their worldview, including homosexuals, cross-dressers, Roma, and Poles, to name only a few. The Nazis dehumanized the “other” with extensive use of fringy image propaganda not unlike the images 500 Mom Strong dredged off the internet to demonize all in drag.
Demonization of the other is a dangerous tendency among us tribal humans. It has led to unspeakable atrocities. Let us not forget.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. As an online subscriber to the Spokesman I receive an email from them each morning entitled “Your Morning Review.” In it they have a section “Yesterday’s Most Read.” They are able to track on line subscribers clicking on various stories. In Yesterday’s Most Read” they list the top ten of the prior day. The article Drag Queen Story Hour: “Love your family no matter what” was listed second for three days in a row after its publication on Saturday, right up there with the sports articles that usually take first place. Clearly, the topic attracted attention among the (mostly older?) readership of the Spokesman. I think it is impossible to predict its effect of the topic and the article on the overall mindset of the broader electorate.