Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Makes Gates of Vienna Different

The following guest post is by Wild Iris.

If I recall correctly, our relationship with him predates Gates of Vienna. I think we were all commenters at The Belmont Club way back when. Given his nic, I presumed that anything “Iris” must be a girl.

My bad. He just likes the flower which grows in the woods near his house; he’s sent us photographs of some of them. The wild iris in his area are quite different from the variety in our woods. His are more pastel and quite delicate looking. Both kinds grow on short stems, though.

In this morning’s mail came a note from Wild Iris:

Yesterday’s posting on Muslim piracy I found so engaging that it finally got me motivated to post a comment; something I don’t think I’ve done in quite some time at GoV. But writing again got me thinking back to last year and your dustup with LGF and a comment that I wished I had had the time back then to post. But now with the events in Fort Hood, it seems once again like an appropriate topic for me to revisit and get down in words.

I know that you occasionally will host a guest poster. While this topic is more of a throw back to the earlier, more esoteric, and less political days of GoV, maybe, if you find my short essay worthy of Gates of Vienna, there might be a way to fit it into a posting someday. So here goes…

“Here goes”, indeed. Feel free to jump in, y’all…

Back when Gates of Vienna had its dustup with LGF, it got me wondering about what made GoV, as a forum, so qualitatively different from all of the other similar forums on the web. Watching the clash of the various personalities involved, one aspect of the debate became quite apparent: the writers and the readers of GoV were and are seeing the world in a fundamentally different way than the denizens from those other forums of similar subject matter.

But what was this different world view that GoV people seem to have? I spent several weeks struggling to find a simple and direct way to articulate this “factor.” By the time I was ready to put it into words, GoV had moved on and there was no further opportunity to include it as a comment under one of Gates of Vienna’s posts. But now, recent events at Fort Hood have prodded me once again to visit this question, to finally write things down, and get my thoughts out to the GoV community.

If there is one thing that separates Gate of Vienna from all other forums, it is that both writers and readers here seem to instinctively or intuitively understand that when dealing with collections of individuals, the whole will always be greater than the sum of its parts. That is, groups can and will demonstrate modes of behavior that no one single individual member could or would be able of doing. GoV people have grasped the fact that group behavior and individual behavior can be, and often are, two completely different things. Further, either one by itself is no reliable indicator for the other. Yet as bizarre as it seems most people in our world today can’t make this cognitive leap.

An example which demonstrates this decoupling of group behavior from individual behavior is an old computer program from the days of “big-iron” computing. Game of Life was based on the idea of an array of cells with each cell given a few simple rules of transformation. These rules were dependent on the state of each cell’s nearest neighbors. The original cellular array was primed with an initial configuration and then let loose to evolve autonomously. The fascination for many people (and I was one of them) with this simple program lay in the amazingly complicated patterns of behavior arising from such a simple system with its deceptively few rules governing the interactions among individual cells.

The moral of The Game?
- - - - - - - - -
There was no a priori way to predict the behavior of any given cell or any group of cells as the Game evolved. Knowledge of the rules governing the individual cell’s interactions didn’t permit you to calculate with any accuracy the evolution or outcome. Nor was there any easy way to work backward from the Game’s evolving patterns to see what the cell interaction rules might have been.

Thus, even at the primitive level of The Game one could observe the evolution of complex group behaviors that could never be expressed by a single individual. If that were true of single cells then it followed that when clumped together in huge numbers, organisms as complex as individual human beings would evolve into a vastly more complicated and dynamic system.

This common sense observation is given a more formal presentation in the concept of collective consciousness. That is, groups, communities and societies can have a group identity that resembles and behaves in many ways exactly like that of a single individual. This would still hold true even though there might not be a single individual to be found within that community whose personality mirrored that of the group identity.

Unfortunately, most people can’t make this cognitive step of separating group behavior from individual behavior. So for them, any negative statement about Islam is necessarily a bigoted statement about individual Muslims. While conversely, since all of the individual Muslim believers they may know are “peaceful” or “passive”, the only conclusion their minds allow is that Islam must be a peaceful religion too.

This blindness to the distinction between group and individual behavior is the result of the Lancet Fluke meme. Here, multiculturalism burrows into the collective psyche of modern Western society. The core DNA of the multiculturalism meme conflates culture and race to such an extreme degree that it is impossible for those infected to tolerate discussions of cultural issues. They are convinced that doing so would necessarily result in becoming bigoted racists themselves. Thus we see manifested in their behavior the hysterical level of emotion caused by this internal contradiction.

What makes GoV people different is that they have somehow through the course of their lives been inoculated against this multiculturalism meme. They are able to see the world in ways that others, trapped by the limits of the collective multicultural meme, literally cannot do.

That is why debates which could never happen at other forums out of fear of violating the rules of political correctness can move forward at Gates of Vienna. People here understand that any honest statement about Islam is not and cannot be a statement about any particular individual Muslim believer and hence can never be an example of bigotry.


wildiris said...

Dymphna, thank you very much for your effort on my behalf. And just for the record, the wild iris is one of the flowers native to the coastal redwood forests of Northern California. My moniker is a reference, not to my gender, but to my 17 years as a logger working in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Henrik R Clausen said...

Further, I think that the GoV community - which is very varied - has in common a strenght of identity for their respective countries that we don't need to denigrate each other (except of course on anything Russia :).

There's a civil atmosphere to the debate even when the really heavy arguments are rolled out, and a genuine respect for documentation and sources.

It's a good place to hang out.

las said...

Our culture predominantly consists of post-modern liberals and various mongrels of the leftist variety. By definition they are collectivists who view the individual as a subset part of the whole. Through this prism is it any wonder they are wholly incapable of seeing the individual as separate from the collective? A slight to the collective is an intolerable and bigoted slight against the individual.

In an aside, liberals are gloriously un-self aware, seeing their narrow world view as a norm, incapable of self-identifying as liberal. They are shocked when others don't think as they do. Unable to live with the internal dissonance created when they discover the actual existence of "others", they retreat to their only line of defence: namely name calling. These "others" must be bigots, racists, islamophobes... crazy even!

Errbe said...

The remarks of Wild Iris on separation of group behavior from individual behavior reminds me of a book I read some time ago:

THE CROWD, A Study of the Popular Mind by Gustave Le Bon.

Here a few excerpts that are sometimes a bit condensed:

- - -

The great upheavals which precede changes of civilisation, such as the fall of the Roman Empire and the foundation of the Arabian Empire, seem at first sight determined more especially by political transformations, foreign invasion, or the overthrow of dynasties. But a more attentive study shows that behind their apparent causes the real cause is generally seen to be a profound modification in the ideas of the peoples. . .

The memorable events of history are the visible effects of the invisible changes of human thought. The reason these great events are so rare is that there is nothing so stable in a race as the inherited groundwork of its thoughts.

Universal symptoms, visible in all nations, show us the rapid growth of the power of crowds. . .

The individual forming part of a psychological crowd is no longer conscious of his acts. He is no longer himself but has become an automaton who has ceased to be guided by his own will.

Whether the feelings exhibited by a crowd be good or bad, they present the double character of being very simple and very exaggerated. . . The exaggeration of the sentiments is communicating itself very quickly by a process of suggestion and contagion, the evident approbation of which it is the object considerably increases its force.

The violence of the feelings of crowds is also increased by the absence of all sense of responsibility.

A crowd is always ready to revolt against a feeble authority and to bow to a strong authority.

The powerlessness of crowds to reason aright prevents them from being capable of discerning truth from error or forming a precise judgement on any matter.

The masses have never thirsted after truth. They turn aside from evidence that is not to their taste, preferring to deify error, if error seduce them. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master: whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is alwys their victim.

- - -

This is what great orators are trying to achieve. This is why party conventions are filled with people screaming and yelling, waving and jumping. They are a crowd . . .

This book was one of Hitlers favorites. It first appeared in 1895. . .