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Groupthink is a threat to the American republic

How do you have a healthy, pluralistic democracy when there’s such cultural pressure to toe one party line, and why would the government make things worse?

U.S. President Joe Biden. Source: Twitter/@POTUS.
U.S. President Joe Biden. Source: Twitter/@POTUS.
David Suissa

Imagine for a moment that you don’t belong to any political party—that your preference is to think for yourself and study each issue as objectively and independently as you can. In today’s world you’d be a rare bird.

But you’d also need the courage to see things that may make you uncomfortable.

I came across three things recently that indeed made me uncomfortable, because they challenged what I love about the United States. In a nutshell, they all pointed in one direction: A growing movement is afoot to control what I think.

This is not exactly new; it’s in keeping with the “cancel culture” phenomenon of recent years that compels people to censor themselves for fear of saying the “wrong” thing, lest they be assaulted by the groupthink mob.

But these new articles take it to another level—they suggest that our elected officials are cooperating with Big Tech to make sure it doesn’t disseminate information that conflicts with the party line.

The first article came from Vivek Ramaswamy and Jed Rubenfeld in The Wall Street Journal, who reported on how the Biden administration directed Twitter to ban Alex Berenson, a sharp critic of how the United States handled the pandemic.

“Facts that Mr. Berenson unearthed through the discovery process,” they reported, “confirm that the [Biden] administration has been secretly asking social-media companies to shut down the accounts of specific prominent critics of administration policy.”

The second piece came from Josh Hammer in Newsweek, who referenced a lawsuit jointly filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry alleging that “various high-ranking Biden administration officials have been colluding, in censorious fashion,” with Big Tech.

According to Schmitt, Hammer writes, the Biden Department of Justice has, since Missouri and Louisiana’s lawsuit was filed, “identified 45 federal officials who have interacted with social media companies” regarding what they consider “misinformation.”

The third piece was not an article but Mark Zuckerberg’s widely-covered admission to Joe Rogan that the FBI influenced Facebook’s limited coverage of the Hunter Biden scandal, which likely would have damaged his father’s presidential campaign.

The fact that all three pieces of evidence come from one side is not the point; what matters is that the evidence exists and it is troubling.

Similarly, I was troubled by an alarming piece in The Atlantic by Jonathan Rauch, who wrote of the dangers to the country and our democracy of another Trump administration. The piece was not just alarming but compelling.

As I’ve been a longtime independent, I now find myself alarmed from both sides.

But because the threat from the Trumpian side has received and will continue to receive an enormous amount of media attention, I feel an urge to fill the vacuum and talk about the other threat, that is getting a fraction of the attention.

That threat is not as dramatic as assaulting the Capitol or denying the results of an election. It’s in a different category. It’s more personal, more intimate.

If I feel that Big Tech and my government are censoring information that conflicts with their party line, I feel cheated and manipulated, as if some Big Brother force wants to control what I see and think. They get to decide from their ivory towers what is information and what is “misinformation,” and I’m forced to go along.

Isn’t a boisterous public square with clashing views and arguments an essential part of the American way? How is it good for democracy to control that public square, and who decides who should do the controlling? Is it OK if both parties take turns doing the controlling to fit their own party lines?

This reflex to censor dissenting views, to feel that one owns the absolute Truth, is a sign of a totalitarian mindset, and it is prevalent among both the right and the left.

But as much as I despise extremism from all sides, I find the threat to my freedom coming more sharply from the left. For one thing, the progressive left permeates our culture. It’s clear, for example, that the left is a lot more influential on college and university campuses. The fact that many students today are taught what to think rather than how to think has become ubiquitous. And those students are the future leaders of our country.

No one will argue, either, against the statement that while ethnic, racial and gender diversity is highly prized in academia, ideological diversity is certainly not.

In short, anyone who can’t see that we’re under a pressure of progressive groupthink, emanating from the cultural pillars of the media, academia, Hollywood and Big Tech, and now even our government, is living in another country.

Or maybe they just like it.

After all, if the groupthink fits your own views, where’s the problem?

Well, one problem is that it’s hardly democratic to stifle dissenting views, and it further hardens the ideological balkanization of our country. How do you have a healthy, pluralistic democracy when there’s such cultural pressure to toe one party line, and why would the government make things worse?

But beyond that, let’s admit it: Groupthink is also boring.

Whichever side you’re on, a mindset that wants to ram only one truth down your throat is supremely banal. You end up living your whole life convinced that only your side is right, and you rarely, if ever, drum up the courage to seriously consider anything else.

That dull, controlling mindset is also a threat to a free and open republic.

David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp and the “Jewish Journal.” He can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

This article was originally published by the Jewish Journal.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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