Recent events in our nation have baffled those of the conservative stripe; none more so than the decisions made by our fellow Americans this past November. The reelection of Barack Obama, seemingly trailing in the polls up to the last days, was the most frustrating; but there were others that were even more disturbing. For the first time, voters in several states endorsed laws permitting homosexual marriage while others approved the recreational use of marijuana.
The reelection of President Obama in the face of high unemployment, low housing values and general economic misery can perhaps be explained away as another triumph for the cult of popularity, but what of the rest? How to explain these abrupt turnabouts in the attitudes of Americans? Has the electorate really and truly taken a turn to the left; and if so, why? One answer may lie in cyberspace.
At the advent of the Internet age, we thought that this new medium would be an ideal venue from which to promote conservatism, to shout our message from the virtual rooftops, unimpeded by the constraints of liberal editors and the rest of the mainstream media establishment. And for a while, we were right. From sites like Newsbusters.org that pioneered the documentation of media bias, to forums like FreeRepublic.com where thousands of posters formed pajama patrols always on the lookout for leftwing mischief, the Internet has indeed been a powerful tool for advancing conservatism.
And the Internet continues to be a considerable source of news and information for millions on the right. It’s just that far too many Americans have now become addicted to, and thereby under the influence of, the same forces of the left that control them through TV and the public school system; the same political correctness that defines what is right and wrong — not through any application of the Natural Law or, Heaven forbid, religious strictures — but merely by way of popular opinion, as defined by you-know-who.
And by this I don’t mean just the obvious purveyors of liberal tripe like the Huffington Post or Media Matters, or even supposedly neutral sites like Google or AOL where the homepages are basically mainstream media digests. No, to me, the most dangerous threat to the future of America as we know it, is so-called social media, where the kind of the peer pressure on young people to conform to liberal norms so disastrously present in our classrooms is now brought to bear outside of them as well. And sadly, in today’s America, folks who want desperately to be buddies with their kids instead of parents, more often than not follow their children rather than lead them.
And what’s not to like? Just think of it: a society where tweeting a two-sentence screed on the evils of religion makes you a great patriot; where, with a flick of the thumb, one can engage in the ultimate in effortless charity by texting a donation to the latest cool cause; a culture that encourages you to stand up by not standing out. The point is, social media is a boiling cauldron of socialist, feel-good egoism that is a virulent breeding ground for cultural and political groupthink.
Groupthink, a term that was developed by psychologist Irving Janis, who applied it to his study of what he considered American military blunders, is nonetheless an accurate description of the current political situation among a great many of our citizens. It has been generally defined as:
A psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions. The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking.
And this loss of independent and critical thinking combined with an inordinate desire for “harmony or conformity” is, to my mind, the best explanation of “what went wrong” last November and will continue to go wrong until half of the country stops getting its political information 140 characters at a time. But I’m not holding my breath. After all, who wants to be “unfriended”?