An interconnected web of alliances and accommodations link education, professions, media, government bureaucracies and agencies, corporations, foundations, think tanks, lobbyists, central banks, and global elites. These groups, individually and collectively, strive for self-interest, power, and expansion. The motives for power and expansion borrow from primal human needs for survival. Humans in hierarchical societies align with the formula “My work, my profession, my position, my title, my myself – group fate is my fate.” Self-esteem and sense of safety rise and fall with the ebb and flow of group fortune. After all, survival is at stake.
Group identity similarly relies upon the disposition “to get along, go along”. This disposition finds its roots in Paleolithic history. Prior to the emergence of farming and herding, humans and their ancestors survived in small groups. To deviate or challenge the group risked ostracism –and ostracism decreased the likelihood of survival. The astounding uniformity of group think among allied bureaucrats, professionals, foundations, and media is founded upon this ancient imperative.
Although human population is many times the population of prior centuries, the diversity, originality, and depth of opinion has not progressed in tandem. To the contrary, contemporary opinion is marked by uniformity. My psychoanalyst, Harmon Ephron, told a story of a woman he observed on a commuter ride who was chagrinned that she could not find the review section of the New York Times, so she would know what to think about a play she had recently attended.
Uniformity of opinion exists not only because people have become accustomed not to think for themselves, but also because of the narrowing of news and political orientation in the public sphere. Around the turn of the 20th century, more than 15 daily and more than 100 weekly newspapers were published in New York City alone. Journalistic perspectives were diverse. Today in New York City, with five times the population, the number has declined to five daily and fewer than 20 weekly newspapers. The shrinking of opinion is even more egregious for radio and television. In the 1980s, 90 per cent of US media was controlled by 50 companies; today, 90 per cent is controlled by six companies.
The expansion of media control, the growth of corporations and reduction of competition, the increase in bureaucratic regulations that stymies’ innovation, special treatment for the powerful, the ever-increasing requirements for education, the erosion of parental authority, the growth of state oversight, the burgeoning cry for professional interventions for all and everything, increasing criminalization, “standardization” of medical and psychiatric procedures, the grasping after ever more money by global elites, and, in essence, encroachment upon every aspect of the commons, human dialog, and behavior is an inevitable outgrowth of the unexamined and unchecked primal dispositions that arise from our animal ancestry that direct our lives.
Today, so many Americans act like trained seals, jumping through hoops at the beck-and-call of talking heads who assume a “moral high ground.” These are the talking heads who failed to note or ignored the million and half people killed in Iraq, the half million people killed in Syria, the hundreds of thousands killed in Libya and the Sudan through America’s direct intervention, proxy armies, and mercenaries paid by pallets of US dollars delivered by military transport. All this carnage delivered in the name of “freedom” –from “weapons of mass destruction” or, more flimsily, “self-determination”. But just as in Iraq, the “freedom” that American policy imposed upon targeted civilians was destruction of existing governments and institutions. Ancient cities laid waste, families decimated, and millions of people sent wandering to be housed in temporary camps to find shelter in unfamiliar and sometimes unwelcoming lands.
American media and its talking heads talk of politicians and policies and, from time to time, showcase the pain and horror of inhabitants of war zones, but never discuss America’s contribution and support of insurgency, through hardware, air and drone strikes, training personnel and recognizance. But how did America, once the touted as a “city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us” come to act as a vulture nation?
Affiliated with the war machine, “security” apparatus, mercenary agencies, spy personnel, defense contractors, secret agencies, and dark operatives whose bread is buttered by mayhem and chaos are educated elites and think tanks that conjure zero sum models of power and fortune. These are the experts who bemoan the ills that befall valiant youth who followed the clarion call “To be all they can be,” but fail to see the desolation visited upon whole societies and cultures. The mouth pieces of the liberal press and media find voice to speak and not speak by resonance with their kind. They are not so much intentionally deceitful as they are comfortable with others like themselves –just as others are comfortable with them for the same reason. Ideology, whatever its assumptions, distortions, and blind spots, is a group phenomenon. It’s like tribal dress or a special handshake.
Lugubriously, ideological distortion and errors of perception are not characteristic of media and its apologists alone, but are characteristic of group think whenever groups coalesce for some purpose. The assumptions, backgrounds, and motives that bring a group together insure a homogeneity of perspective and criteria for membership. Those who “best” embody or represent its common core become its spokespersons and leaders. With few exceptions, membership groups dumb down, create an “us” and a “them”, and fuel elitism. The more systematized a group’s beliefs, the more closed it becomes, and the less open to change or correction: Think Communism, think patriarchal religion, think liberal or reactionary political opinion. Deeply held assumptions and beliefs are largely immune from correction. Events are rationalized to fit with the preconceived view.
The same holds true for the assumptions and beliefs that characterize the soft disciplines of anthropology, sociology, and psychology. The social sciences are not called “social” for nothing. Through selection of sample, method, and question, virtually any thesis may be proved or disproved, so the social sciences have become havens for ideology with the shine of science.
Foremost in popularity among the social sciences is psychology which is the second most popular undergraduate major after business administration. Most colleges require courses in psychology as a component of their core curriculum. Psychology is the recipient of generous Federal and State support for research in areas that range across a spectrum of areas, including sex differences, gender orientation, post-traumatic stress disorder, and autism. In fact, psychological research touches upon every significant social issue of society. Thereby, psychological research extends beyond psychology and influences every field in the humanities. As “science”, psychological research is called upon to formulate and guide public policy in virtually every area of human endeavor. Think tanks and NGOs widely cite psychological research. Within the government, the proponents of psychological research are called upon to give testimony, address congressmen and bureaucrats, recommend regulations, and help implementation of legislation. In the entertainment sphere, psychologists consult in plot development and portrayal of character. Psychological studies pertinent to public interests are regularly reported by the New York Times and Google. In short, psychological research and the field of psychology have a profound impact on public perception, especially among the college educated.
With relatively few exceptions, the political orientation of popular psychological research is wholly in accord with the liberal agenda. The liberal orientation of psychological research influences students from grade school through college, government officials, congressmen, the entertainment industry, the press and media, and ultimately the educated public. The government, the entertainment business, the press and media align with the psychological perspective, and mutually reinforce one another. This creates a “mega-group” among members of the educated elite. The formula for group think goes, “psychological research says…”, the government and courts require…, the movies dramatize…, the implementing regulations demand…, the New York Times reports…”. No wonder so many citizens are hypnotized. After all, biological inheritance disposes to thinking and feeling modeled by alpha leaders. We are still tribal, but the new tribe is the educated who“to get along, go along.”