The Flimsy Logic of Group Perception

Recently I perused Andrew Breitbart’s “Big Hollywood,” a site by the famed liberal-provoker and documenter. The articles are sort of fascinating in a car crash sense; and if you read the comments you’ll certainly get your fill of angry America. One of the recurring villains, besides “the Commander and Thief,” is the “MSM” or mainstream media. Railing against media isn’t new; the battle cries against a complicit liberal media have been ringing in everyone’s ears for some time.

But the logic behind the idea is curious: that not hundreds, or thousands, but tens of thousands of journalists have tacitly agreed to hide the failings of the Obama administration; that even though journalism is a fledgling field and any good story is seized upon for personal and eventually financial gain, this MSM has all decided that the ideals of Barack Obama and his administration are too pure; we must keep secret all the bad things that happen. No money or career should be made off investigative reporting, they’ve all agreed; the MSM—all of them—are just going to take a nap for the next two or six years, because…that’s what’s best for them…somehow.

The logic is, um, flimsy.

But you know what logic rings similarly? That Republicans don’t care about the poor—yes, all of them. That the Tea Party is nothing but angry white racists—yes, all of them. That Wall Street is greedy—yes, all of them.

Research has shown that we, as humans, can only “know” about 150 people at one time. We can only have about four to six “close friends,” depending if we’re committed or single. To step back from the numbers and theorize in an anthropological sort of way: we are constructed to know our village and our family. For thousands of years, that’s how our brains were built. We lived in our little town, we had our family, we died. That was life on earth until about two centuries ago.

So maybe comprehending an entire media or an entire social movement is simply… impossible. They are each comprised of thousands upon thousands of people. We have to see them as an individual. The Mainstream Media versus Republicans. Family Values versus the Gays. Christianity versus Islam. America versus China. Wall Street versus Main Street. Liberals versus Conservatives.

Yes, all of them. We make them a citizen of our village, whether the mayor or the idiot.

Not that there isn’t interaction, whatever it may be, between facets of these groups. But the discussion casts them in the same way we’d talk about two neighbors fighting over a property line. One is wronging, outmaneuvering, dismissing, [verb typically enacted by human] the other, somehow.

Is the situation that simple, or are we?

One Response to The Flimsy Logic of Group Perception

  1. Andy says:

    Nice set up and an interesting evolutionary context take…

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