September 10, 2018

"Durkheim saw groups and communities as being in some ways like organisms—social entities that have a chronic need..."

"... to enhance their internal cohesion and their shared sense of moral order. Durkheim described human beings as 'homo duplex,' or 'two-level man.' We are very good at being individuals pursuing our everyday goals (which Durkheim called the level of the 'profane,' or ordinary). But we also have the capacity to transition, temporarily, to a higher collective plane, which Durkheim called the level of the 'sacred.' He said that we have access to a set of emotions that we experience only when we are part of a collective—feelings like 'collective effervescence,' which Durkheim described as social 'electricity' generated when a group gathers and achieves a state of union. (You’ve probably felt this while doing things like playing a team sport or singing in a choir, or during religious worship.) People can move back and forth between these two levels throughout a single day, and it is the function of religious rituals to pull people up to the higher collective level, bind them to the group, and then return them to daily life with their group identity and loyalty strengthened. Rituals in which people sing or dance together or chant in unison are particularly powerful. A Durkheimian approach is particularly helpful when applied to sudden outbreaks of moralistic violence that are mystifying to outsiders...."

From "The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure" by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt — which I started reading a couple days ago and am in the middle of reading.

I wanted to blog this passage because of the prompt, "You’ve probably felt this while doing things like playing a team sport or singing in a choir, or during religious worship." Tell me how you relate to that. I'll tell you how I do.

I've been in some situations where I have seen it happening to other people, and my own reaction was markedly to separate from the group and become especially aware of my individuality. I never feel pulled into the collective. It has the opposite effect on me. I don't know why I'm immune, but I may have been inoculated by Frank Zappa.

It was Friday, February 2, 1969, at the Fillmore East, and in the middle of the show Zappa — I believe he was wearing red velvet/satin pants — divided up the audience into parts — maybe 4 sections — each assigned to sing out when pointed at. I didn't sing when pointed at, but I was interested in the sound he got flowing through the big audience as he escalated to more and more elaborate pointing patterns. He kept going until the crowd — struggling to respond to his showy conducting — could not keep up and it became cacophony. At that point, as I remember it, Zappa gave the crowd a gesture — perhaps a contemptuous 2-handed get-outta-here — and said something to the effect of, You people were idiots to have followed me in the first place. But I had not followed him, and so my resistance to the ecstasy of crowd merger — which I'd worried was stand-offish and putting me at risk of a joyless future — was vindicated.

That was a rather innocuous occasion. (And — I had to look this up — the words "innocuous" and "inoculate" do not have a shared etymology. The "oc" in "inoculate" goes back to the Lain word for eye — "oculus" — which also came to mean bud. The idea of grafting a bud into a plant got transferred into the medical context we think of today, which I was using metaphorically, above. The extra "n" in "innocuous" should get you to see — with your oculus — that it's not "oc" but "noc." That word comes from "nocere," the Latin meaning to hurt, which is also the source of "noxious.")

So... that Frank Zappa routine was a rather innocuous display, but it worked — as he intended? — to inoculate at least some of us... at least me... from susceptibility to collective effervescence.

When else have I seen that kind of crowd merger and felt stronger in my sense of individuation? First, I remember another concert — Pantera, in 1996. I attended this concert here in Madison only because in those days I had the privilege of driving 15-year-old boys to concerts. I enjoyed it, but in a distanced way, and there were times when the lead singer was exhorting a crowd and the crowd was responding en masse in a way that made me contemplate what it would be like to be in the midst of a 1930s Nazi rally. And, most notably, I remember the Wisconsin protests of 2011, as they gained momentum day by day, with endless hours of drumming and chanting. The protesters would stay for long hours in the state capitol building — many of them overnight — and I would observe for a while then go home but come back another day. So the changes in the atmosphere were very striking to me. Whatever serious ideas and beliefs individual protesters may have had, their collective mind was courting madness.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of great stuff, but I wanted to highlight this video recommended byDust Bunny Queen ("One of the best recent examples of this spontaneous collective effervescence is the Green Day concert in Hyde Park, England in 2017. Green Day was late and to keep the crowd entertained the song by Queen Bohemian Rhapsody was played on loud speakers. The crowd spontaneously started to sing all the words, perform to the song, singing, dancing, jumping. Bohemian Rhapsody by by 65,000+ singers"):



That was great. I got chills watching/listening here at my little desk.

287 comments:

1 – 200 of 287   Newer›   Newest»
rhhardin said...

There's the flag / anthem thing to relate it to. I claim the ritual is idiotic.

SDaly said...

You describe exactly how I've felt at concerts. I've always felt the same way at business retreats / meetings where we are supposed to do group "bonding" activities.

rehajm said...

Sweet Caroline- Oh, oh, oh!

Good times never seemed so good- So good! So good! So good!


That's about my extent.

rehajm said...

And now, let's repeat the Non-Conformist Oath!
"I promise to be different!"
"I promise to be different!"
"I promise to be unique!"
"I promise to be unique!"
"I promise not to repeat things other people say!"

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Durkheim saw groups and communities as being in some ways like organisms—social entities that have a chronic need to enhance their internal cohesion and their shared sense of moral order.

Dave Barry noted another way that groups are like organisms:

Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot actually masturbate.

Phil 314 said...

Your disdain for the crowd effect, is that at its core fear?

-fear of the thoughtless momentum (that at its worse leads to violence or a stampede)?

Or

-fear of the leader who can harness that power to his/her will?

rhhardin said...

If you run your company with meetings, your company is run by people who like meetings.

Oso Negro said...

@Phil 3:14 - that’s easy, she has no interest in having her individuality subsumed in the group

tcrosse said...

Don't follow leaders. Watch the parking meters

tim maguire said...

I despise the group activities in business retreats. It's so manipulative and generally for petty reasons. And nothing ever changes in response to these retreats anyway.

But singing along at a concert? Why not? The only reason to go at all is to be closer to the band and to feel like part of a group of fans. If the singer lets you participate in the show, so much the better.

I've always liked the idea of Frank Zappa better than I liked Frank Zappa. Now I like the idea of Frank Zappa a little less.

rhhardin said...

Erving Goffman, a much better sociologist than Durkheim:

The simplest sociological view of the individual and his self is that he is to himself what his place in an organization defines him to be. When pressed, a sociologist modifies this model by granting certain complications : the self may be not yet formed or may exhibit conflicting dedications. Perhaps we should further complicate the construct by elevating these qualifications to a central place, initially defining the individual, for sociological purposes, as a stance-taking entity, a something that takes up a position somewhere between identificaiton with an organization and opposition to it, and is ready at the slightest pressure to regain its balance by shifting its involvement to either direction. It is thus _against something_ that the self can emerge. This has been appreciated by students of totalitarianism ...

I have argued the same case in regard to total institutions. May this not be the situation, however, in free society, too?

Without something to belong to, we have no stable self, and yet total commitment and attachment to any social unit implies a kind of selflessness. Our sense of being a person can come from being drawn into a wider social unit ; our sense of selfhood can arise through the little ways in which we resist the pull. Our status is backed by the solid buildings of the world, while our sense of personality identity often resides in the cracks.

Goffman _Asylums_ ``The Underlife of a Public Institution'' p.320

Not Sure said...

Individualism profane, collectivism sacred. Got it.

Was there ever a more effervescent collective activity than the Nuremberg rallies?

Bob Boyd said...

When it comes to Kool-aid, I drink alone.

Henry said...

rehajm said...Sweet Caroline.
LOL. I know that so well.

gilbar said...

Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot actually masturbate.

The classic cartoon sign said:
Daily Productivity Meetings will continue until we determine our lack of productivity

PJ said...

Along somewhat similar lines (but on a smaller scale), those who haven’t seen it might enjoy a 1963 appearance by Mr. Zappa on the Steve Allen show, in which Mr. Zappa induces Mr. Allen and the studio band to produce cacophony by playing, among other instruments, bicycles.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1MewcnFl_6Y

James Graham said...

I highly recommend the only book I've ever read twice: Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti.

https://www.amazon.com/Crowds-power-Elias-Canetti/product-reviews/0826402119

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, to be clear about this, you recommend this book?

CJinPA said...

It's a poem:

Books, crazy, emotional politics,
Frank Zappa, Greg Lukianoff, Jonathan Haidt,
Language, Pantera, psychology, sociology,
Young Althouse

rhhardin said...

[Prayers] are absolutely secret. Of course, there are public prayers. There are people who in communities pray together. And the first thing I will tell you is this: when I was young, my first rebellion against my religious environment had to do with public prayer, I mean, prayers in common. So my way of praying, if I pray, is absolutely private. Even if I am in public, even if I am in a synagogue and praying with others, I knew that my own prayer would be silent and secret, interrupting something in the community.

Derrida CUNY lecture

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyOWAcpIaB8
14 minutes in

mezzrow said...

Jump around!
Jump around!
Jump around!
Jump up, jump up and get down!
Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump! (Everybody jump)
Jump! Jump!…

Ann Althouse said...

"You describe exactly how I've felt at concerts. I've always felt the same way at business retreats / meetings where we are supposed to do group "bonding" activities."

Oh, yeah. In my place of work, the law school, we had "retreats" (from which I would want to retreat).

Koot Katmandu said...

I think she is about to say all the people at the Maga Rallies are brainwashed.

Bryan Townsend said...

I gather that you have not had the experience of singing in a choir?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I also despise those team bonding meetings. Religious events that I happen to be at, I just stand for the prayer at Rotary, sit in church at the funeral or wedding, be silent and think my own thoughts. I go along to just not create a scene, because why bother and because it is polite.

However, I have often strongly felt that 'collective effervescence,' when acting as part of an orchestra, singing in a choral group, playing in a small band.

Being a part of a whole that is creating something beautiful and which also was being appreciated by the audience who also felt some of that collective joy, is exactly that feeling.

Playing one instrument in a group of 50 where no matter how small, your contribution is important. The blending together of the reeds, percussion, brass, strings to create (or recreate since we were playing the classics written by someone else) and following the leadership of the conductor.....we became one entity.

Same idea in a choir. Every voice plays a part. Even those voices (types)who are never the soloists.

One of the great joys of being a performer is the feedback that you get from your audience who in a really great moment also becomes part of the experience.

A moment of cohesion.

iowan2 said...

The neatest group thing I experienced was vicariously through my kids.
They got a new Band Director. He immediately entered the Marching Band in competitions (the kids had no idea they even existed) and created a Jazz Band, to compete for a state title.
For the Jazz band, the first year they qualified for the quarter finals and made the big stage in Des Moines at the Civic Center, where touring Broadway shows perform. This group of about 20 kids where kids that did not move in the same circles at all. Before Jazz Band, most of the musicians were loners, and not part of anything that could be called special, or exceptional. The group dynamic was electric, and the wife and I took our Saturdays to follow the band around the state to be part of something we could feel but had no idea of what was going on. This group dynamic sucked us in. The second year, my Daughter who played the flute, learned the Trombone, so she could join the group. That year they did win the State Championship.
A very neat, memorable experience, that I hadn't thought about for a while. Its been 20 years since this took place.

(this is also a great example of what a difference a coach makes, any why they are worth what they are paid)

whitney said...

Blogger James Graham said...
I highly recommend the only book I've ever read twice: Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti.

That looks interesting I just bought it on abebooks, which is a great resource for out-of-print books and you end up supporting independent booksellers all over the world

Steve said...

Lots of good comments on how people want to be their own individualist.....but have you ever thought that those thoughts could be the cause of the destruction of the collective?
There are times when the individual needs to exercise their individualism. And when it is a very small minority; that may be the best option for the person. But, what if the collective needed to "row the boat to safety" and the individual was rowing in the opposite direction? Thereby, hindering the safety of the group. Who's will and ego would win out?

Steve

Tommy Duncan said...

At my high school sports events people like Althouse were known as "too cool to holler".

While not cool, I also did not holler.

gilbar said...

a single stick is thin, and weak, and pliable.
But if you take a handful of sticks, and BIND THEM TOGETHER; you make a shaft that is SO STRONG, that you can use it for an Axe Handle. People are the same way
And we bind people together through songs

Dust Bunny Queen said...

One of the best recent examples of this spontaneous collective effervescence is the Green Day concert in Hyde Park, England in 2017. Green Day was late and to keep the crowd entertained the song by Queen Bohemian Rhapsody was played on loud speakers.

The crowd spontaneously started to sing all the words, perform to the song, singing, dancing, jumping.

Bohemian Rhapsody by by 65,000+ singers.

I especially like the sprays of beer being tossed up in the crowd to show their exuberance :-) Wheee!!!

Just think how exhilarating that experience was for the people in the crowd.

My favorite comment from the video If you can rock 65,000 people in a concert 27 years after your death and without being there, you are not just a singer, you are a legend.

Spontaneous Effervescence is something that be used for great good....or not. The need is to recognize when it is happening and decide if you want to go with the flow.

Oso Negro said...

@ Gilbar - it's a lot easier to start a fire with a bundle of sticks.

rhhardin said...

Facist = bunch of sticks.

Fernandinande said...

"Who's this Emily Durkheim chick?" -- A. Student

Michael K said...

Medicine is getting into the team approach and ending individualism. I think it is a feminine thing.

Something similar happened with airline captains 50 years ago. The old time airline pilot, like those described by Earnest K Gann in his novels, were phased out. That pilot was the one who said, "If my ass gets there, the passengers get there" and was often highly skilled and experienced. AS airliners and their autopilot systems got better, the airlines decided to get rid of the individualized pilots.

Airline safety has been high but the occasional event like Air France Flight 447 which was lost in 2009, which was related to pilot inexperience and disorientation.

On 6 December 2011, Popular Mechanics magazine published an English translation of the analysis of the transcript of the cockpit voice recorder controversially leaked in the book Erreurs de Pilotage.[217] It highlighted the role of the co-pilot in stalling the aircraft while the flight computer was under alternate law at high altitude. This "simple but persistent" human error was given as the most direct cause of this accident.[208] In the commentary accompanying the article, they also noted that the failure to follow principles of crew resource management was a contributory factor.

The pilots were unfamiliar with flying the airplane when the autopilot was wrong.

Other incidents include KAL flight 007, which was shoit down as a result of incorrect data entered into the flight control system.


A simplified CIA map showing divergence of planned and actual flight paths
At about 10 minutes after take-off, KAL 007, flying on a heading of 245 degrees, began to deviate to the right (north) of its assigned route to Bethel, and continued to fly on this constant heading for the next five and a half hours.[25]

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) simulation and analysis of the flight data recorder determined that this deviation was probably caused by the aircraft's autopilot system operating in HEADING mode, after the point that it should have been switched to the INS mode.


As a rather individualistic surgeon, I am skeptical of these "team building exercises" applied to some activities, including surgery and critical medical care.

Tesla and Theranos are examples in industry. Lemmings come to mind.

Michael K said...

But if you take a handful of sticks, and BIND THEM TOGETHER; you make a shaft that is SO STRONG, that you can use it for an Axe Handle. People are the same way
And we bind people together through songs


Horst Wessel Lied is one example.

Fernandinande said...

I noticed the newest 2018 axes are using bundles of small sticks for the handle. Same for hammers and telephone poles.

Robert Cook said...

I think everybody finds work "team building" exercises and rhetoric to be bullshit...because it is. But they go along with it for the well-being of the most important team member: themselves.

Laslo Spatula said...

Singing with the choir: contextualize with singing to the choir.

I am Laslo.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Horst Wessel Lied is one example.

Battle Hymn of the Republic ia another.

traditionalguy said...

The writer has discovered the oldest traditions known to man. 4,000+ years ago Egyptians used music and dance to walk like an Egyptian to celebrate their community with the River running through it. Chanting together still creates the strongest magic spells. Ask HRC's spirit cooking coven howit works.

The ancient Egyptians had strong magic. A graduate of their schools became Moses , and see what he did next, defeating the Egypt's best Magicians with a stronger Spirit. And Mary and Joseph took their baby directly from Bethlehem to Egypt for several years, and see what he did next, defeating Satan.

iowan2 said...

The collective vs the individual is a great way to look at the Jazz band group I posted earlier. There was a Trumpet player, very much the loner, a real individual, and refused group think at any level. A wanna be anarchist. Almost always at odds with what ever was going on. Difficult for the director to handle. The piano and Trombone player,(not my Daughter, she was one of three and never had a solo) would be kindly be called quirky, but he was a weird duck that had lots of trouble carrying on any kind of social conversations. Talking to me caused him to break out in flop sweat. The director was good, because he got these loners to buy into his vision of a greater good. I cant think of anything else I've been close to that the individuals were so defined and yet created something as a group so impressive.

tcrosse said...

How did people know when to stop Sieg Heiling, or applauding Stalin? Nobody wanted to be first.

Ann Althouse said...

"Your disdain for the crowd effect, is that at its core fear?"

It doesn't feel like fear. It feels distanced and cool. It might be inhibition, like if I used a disinhibiting substance, I might behave differently, but that would be by changing a natural trait. I could be more self-critical about it and say I should let myself go and get taken up in some ecstatic crowd activities, but I'm more inclined now to think there are different personality types, deep in our nervous system, evolved in other circumstances, that we should own and love for what they are and try to "use" well. Obviously, fear is one of those things, but when you say "fear," what I am hearing is a personality trait framed as a negative that should be overcome. I think my strong sense of individuality in the face of crowd emotion is just fine and I'm sticking with it and am trying to put it to good effect.

robother said...

"We've got to get ourselves back to the Garden"

Ann Althouse said...

"I gather that you have not had the experience of singing in a choir?"

I have sung in "the chorus" as a grade schooler, but I'm not a good enough singer to fit into a church choir, and in fact, always disliked the parts of church services where I'm supposed to sing a hymn. I just don't think I can do it well enough to belong in the mix and find it hard to breathe. Maybe I should have taken some voice lessons to help me with that, just so I could participate in such things. But, no, I've never felt merged with the group through singing. It makes me more aware of myself, and not in a good way, but self-conscious because I think I'm bad and because I find it hard to breathe.

robother said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wwww said...

"which I'd worried was stand-offish and putting me at risk of a joyless future — was vindicated."

Depends.

It's morally important to not blindly follow a crowd that turns into a riot. To not follow when the orders are illegal. To know when the moral imperative is to resist crowd psychology. As our mothers told us, "would you jump off a bridge just because you're friends are doing it?"

BUT...there are times a group is necessary to accomplish a good purpose. Anyone who has joined a youth orchestra or band, participated in a group sport, or sang in a choir understands the need to work together to make music or win a game.

There is nothing inherently immoral about marching bands at a parade or a football game. It is joyful.

There is nothing immoral or wrong about orchestras or bands, choir singing. Producing the music is joyful.

There is nothing inherently immoral with team sports. Playing the game is joyful. I like individual sports such as swimming and running, but playing softball, baseball, soccer, touch football, as a group is fun.

Those stories -- the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, come to mind after reading this post.

iowan2 said...

Blogger Fernandistein said...
I noticed the newest 2018 axes are using bundles of small sticks for the handle. Same for hammers and telephone poles.


You sound terribly snarky considering a bundle of hollow sticks are possible the strongest man made form in existence, carbon nano tubes.

rcocean said...

Oh good grief.

Crowds are neither good nor bad, just thinking makes them so. Rallies for Stalin = bad. Singing the Anthem, being in church = good.

Some people can get into the spirit of the crowd, without becoming mind numbed robots. And some can't.

I can. Most of us rarely have a chance to be part of crowd. So when it comes along on Sunday, or whenever, I enjoy it.

The Crack Emcee said...

Zappa made me a fan because he liked black music so relentlessly AND he's so smart he still speaks to my concerns when bands like Zeppelin, etc. were mainly seen as stealing while not caring blacks existed. With Zappa, you will never harbor the illusion that, if you can enjoy "Echidna Arf (For You)" you're like many other people, anywhere.

Zappa is a line in the sand.




Nonapod said...

I'm just not wired to be a collectivist of any kind.

The only time I've ever had any feelings close to the ones being described are was when I play music in a band situation. And even then, I wouldn't describe that as a large scale communal/collectivist feeling. It's a connection between a very small group of people (3, 4, or 5) so it's more intimate. And it's more of a task oriented thing, each person has a specific role. And there's always some level of individuality constantly being expressed in improvisational interpolations, fills, or solos or whatever. So not quite what this guy is describing.

wwww said...


I cannot sing on tune by myself. But in a group I can match my voice to others. I don't join church choirs because I don't think I'm good enough. But as a teenager I joined a choir group and it was a lot of fun.

I am not talented in the area of music. But it's fun. Can play the violin. As a kid, the group orchestra makes me feel more comfortable to play talents I'm not very particularly talented with as an individual.

There are dangers, grave dangers, in crowd riot psychology.

But all groups are not bad, or evil, or problematic. Groups, such as musical groups can be fun, helpful, advantageous. they can lift those who are not as talented up to the group level, or simply act as an inclusionary group to pull in someone who finds joy in song or music.

Group dancing is the same: Square dancing, line dancing, Israeli folk dancing. You don't need to be great or show off great talent to be part of the group and have fun.

rhhardin said...

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Ann Althouse said...

"-fear of the thoughtless momentum (that at its worse leads to violence or a stampede)? Or -fear of the leader who can harness that power to his/her will?"

As I said, I don't experience it as fear, but your breakdown of the fear of crowd-mind is into 2 parts interesting.

Let me translate that into my experience of what I was coolly observing and thinking about. I'll concentrate on the Pantera concert. I admired the singer and was happy to see him put on a powerful, artistic performance. It is theater. If I go to see "McBeth" I'm not afraid of what the actor playing MacBeth does in his off hours. I was disturbed at what I saw in the crowd, and it was not a propensity for violence on the actual occasion. It was their susceptibility to leadership that, if evil, could be tapped. I wish I could remember some of the content of what the lead singer (Phil Anselmo) was that incited them. I don't think it was literally a "white power" message, but it was something that felt like that. Here I was in Madison, with teenage boys who all seemed like good people to me, and I was surrounded by an immense crowd of mostly young men who seemed ready to jump into a political movement if one was offered to them.

So I think it's not a one or the other proposition. I think both of your parts — the crowd and an evil leader — need to be present. But I felt that I was seeing that the crowd is always there and could be rallied. I think at the time, I thought that metal music is fine for young guys to have a vicarious and rewarding experience with the feeling of violence. It's not unlike sports. And it's good to work it out. Catharsis and all that.

Tommy Duncan said...

Antifa has its mobs. Trump supporters are a cult. Africa has tribes. MS-13 is a gang. Organized crime is a syndicate.

How do you know you have entered a "higher collective plane, which Durkheim called the level of the 'sacred.'"?

How do you sort out the good collective from the bad collective?

Nonapod said...

I'm kinda bummed I never got to see Zappa live. I saw Dweezil's Zappa Plays Zappa thing a few years back and it was pretty cool I guess.

robother said...

Ann's preaching to the choir of rugged, er...soloists that are drawn to this site.

Freeman Hunt said...

It repels me and makes me suspicious. Unless, and it's a big unless, it's something I have already contemplated deeply and agree with, for example, saying the Nicene Creed in unison. But even then, it only goes so far. The feeling does not carry over into the same thing of a different type.

wwww said...



Associations are part of the American character.

de Tocqueville talked about the variety of associations, clubs, charity & philanthropy groups in America.

Private groups pool time, resources, & money to accomplish specific charitable goals. It's American to work in a group to accomplish such goals.

wwww said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol said...

My parent was an individualist. She disdained joiners. But gee I wish I could have been a Brownie.

Practically everyone fancies himself an individualist now. Asking if they want to join a club or come to your church is insulting and threatening. They may start avoiding you.

Unknown said...

The Frank Zappa thing to me seems a bit duplicitous. Maybe the most famous example of what Ann is describing Zappa doing is Freddie Mercury at Live Aid in 1985. In once sense, he had the crowd eating out of his hand (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A22oy8dFjqc at 6:52 or so). But I doubt he could have then said to the crowd, "Let's go out and kill a bunch of people!" and anyone would have followed him. What was happening was fun and harmless, but also really incredible in some ways. I suspect the same about the Zappa concert. It sounds like people were having fun with it and then he took advantage of that to basically berate everyone.

And you took it as a kind of validation... Who was the one actually following Frank Zappa?

The Crack Emcee said...

Echidna's Arf (Of You)

My bad.

wwww said...

"How do you sort out the good collective from the bad collective?"

Don't blindly follow any mortal. Hold a moral core. As an ensign be prepared to disobey the illegal order.

Brian said...

My first exposure to Frank Zappa was in 1982 with the song "Valley Girl" by him and his daughter Moon.

I think it's funny that the song was intended to sort of inoculate people to the trend of Valspeak in the San Fernando valley, but in fact nationalized the phenomenon. The country engaged in a collective effervesence. As evidenced by a preteen boy in Chicago listening to K-Tel's "The Hit List" over and over and over again and developing an incredible crush on Moon.

Ann, nobody is universally immune to this phenomenon. There is no magic inoculation. It can happen in other situations with which you might fall prey.

Some would say that the country fell prey to it when the lightbringer was elected in 2008.
Others would say that MAGA is the flip side of that.

The Crack Emcee said...

"Nobody joins a cult. You join a self-help group, a religious movement, a political organization. They change so gradually, by the time you realize you’re entrapped – and almost everybody does – you can’t figure a safe way back out."

– Deborah Layton, survivor of Peoples Temple

Zappa was against all of it - right down to his Groucho mustache

gilbar said...


I don't know who said: But I doubt he could have then said to the crowd, "Let's go out and kill a bunch of people!" and anyone would have followed him.
Not right that second, sure; but here's a scene from the movie Cabaret, where a song helps people realize that they want axes made from sticks

Michael K said...


Blogger Dust Bunny Queen said...
Horst Wessel Lied is one example.

Battle Hymn of the Republic ia another.


I don't think it came with that bundle of sticks thing. More like a flag.

Luke Lea said...

Ann's a leader not a follower?

rcocean said...

Anytime conservatives get in a group, the media tries to make it like a Nuremberg rally or something really scary.

Its a trope. That's why I push back on this crowds are bad BS. I think, its politically motivated.

The liberal establishment doesn't need crowds. They own the Media.

William said...

The only time I've ever felt my identity completely subsumed to that of the group was during close order drill in basic training. In a weird way, it was kind of exhilarating. I can understand the appeal.....I've tried on many occasions to be just like everyone else, but it's more imitative than spontaneous. Part of my act was being a good team player. I wasn't bad at it, but I always had the impression that others were more a part of the team than me. I was always looking out of the corner of my eye to see if I was doing it right.

Freeman Hunt said...

You can like involvement in groups but not "collective effervescence." They aren't the same thing.

Ann Althouse said...

"But singing along at a concert? Why not? The only reason to go at all is to be closer to the band and to feel like part of a group of fans. If the singer lets you participate in the show, so much the better."

I don't feel closer to the performer when the audience sings along. I feel best when the audience is quiet and the singer is there on the stage giving a great performance, maybe talking between shows.

But it's possible that I don't enjoy the in-person experience that much. I have probably felt closer to singers when I've had a album that I've listened to many times and feel very intimately connected to, especially as I've gone about doing solitary things. I've very closely connected to a handful of Bob Dylan albums that I listened to repeatedly alone, when I was a teenager. There's another album by another artist that I had in my car and played as a drove back and forth to work and on my errands in the mid-00s that I became bonded to, which I didn't think was even possible at my age. There's an album that I listened to when I was living in NYC in 07-08, that fit with my feeling of loneliness and exile.

Maybe in-person concerts are not really worth it for me. Occasionally something works on me, but it's because it's reaching me in a very personal way. I can think of a few examples, but mostly it doesn't.

I don't respond to the presence of a famous person. I strongly dislike adulation around a person. Whatever impairs the individual humanity of the artist hurts the experience for me.

JPS said...

Michael K, 8:53:

Now those are two of my least favorite aviation disaster stories.

It makes me angry when I read any aviation professional offering mitigating circumstances for the flight crew of AF447. However sorry I feel for them, however much I can empathize on confusing data inputs in a storm at night, the fact remains that they took a perfectly airworthy aircraft at cruising altitude, put it into a full stall, and flew it that way for seven vertical miles, right down to the water, killing every soul on board.

As for KAL 007, as a kid I had vaguely assumed that the plane was destroyed when the missile warheads exploded. I was sorry to learn otherwise. Now *that* flight crew really did try to pull off a miracle save. I wish they'd managed. It probably wasn't possible, but I admire their trying to the very last.

The mistake in their flight path reminds me of a less tragic story, though it could have gotten ever so much worse: Are you familiar with the eventful flight of then-Capt. Charles Maultsby toward the North Pole in October 1962?

Brian said...

Tesla and Theranos are examples in industry. Lemmings come to mind.

Bernie Madoff as well. Everybody knew everybody else who was making money with Bernie. If they were all in it, everybody can't be wrong, right?

The mistake is thinking that you are too smart to fall for it. Question your assumptions. Always. Manage risk. In everything.

Nonapod said...

nobody is universally immune to this phenomenon.

I'm not convinced that that's true.

Some would say that the country fell prey to it when the lightbringer was elected in 2008.
Others would say that MAGA is the flip side of that.


I've never fallen to mindless adulation of any political leader, and I find it hard to believe that I ever would. And I'm not unique in that. Some people are constantly questioning, at times doubting even their own feelings. They're called skeptics.

There's certainly plenty of people that did fall under Obama's (and perhaps Trumps) spell, but it was pretty far from the entire country.

The Crack Emcee said...

Brian said...

"Nobody is universally immune to this phenomenon. There is no magic inoculation. It can happen in other situations with which you might fall prey."

Like those who say "we don't know anything" (when we obviously do) I can't fathom how anyone can say this, when the evidence says yes, there ARE people who don't buy into this - we saw it in Nazi Germany - the most extreme example of NewAge run amok I can think of.

I'm a foster child. I just watched people in black churches - because I didn't have family to talk about it with - falling out and acting crazy, then different and pretend-dignified afterwards, and I knew it wasn't for me. Plus later, of course, the dirty pastors. My point is, I was a child, and the group didn't affect me at all. Never has. I sold cars in Utah. They did their rah-rah shit. Same bullshit. Tea Party meetings were scary with it. Fuck 'em. Utah's a whole state of crazies.

I. Don't. Care.

Laslo Spatula said...

wwww said..."I cannot sing on tune by myself. But in a group I can match my voice to others."

Similar for me. By myself, my range is pretty limited, but in a group with vocals to follow I could reliably mimic higher notes than I can achieve alone.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHbzSif78qQ

mockturtle said...

I never feel pulled into the collective.

Nor have I. And, rhhardin, nor do I feel a collective sense of love for my country when I salute the flag or sing the anthem. Only an individual one. And at a concert I may feel a bond with the composer but not to the audience.

William said...

If I were at Jonestown, I would probably be thinking that this whole drinking. Kool Aid thing is bs, but I would have probably gone along because I don't lke to make waves.......Why so coy about not mentioning the name of that other artist? Inside every Dylan freak, there's a Barry Manilow fan striving to break free. Don't be ashamed of it.

Brian said...

Nonapod

You may be immune to it in a political sense, but not in other aspects of life. It's part of humanity to want to belong. That's what makes it so powerful. Note that that group may not be a crowd, it may be as little as one. Ever fall in love? Ever overlook faults in the love of your life because you wanted to be connected with them?

Everybody thinks they are too smart to be in a cult, right up until they end up in one. Those Nazi rallys in pre-WWII germany weren't filled with actors.

It's never the entire country, its never the entire room. Even in that Zappa concert there were people other than Ann that were immune to it. Maybe they had seen it before, maybe they don't like crowds.

But I believe nobody is immune to it, you only think you are.

The Crack Emcee said...

What there are not is enough people to have any effect on the phenomena. That, too, was seen in Nazi Germany.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Pastors always say that it doesn't matter to God what you sound like. Maybe, but small children have looked at me with horror after hearing me sing. So I just stand there in church and listen to the hymn.

SDaly said...

I think we need to separate out situations. There are time when, of course, we join other people to accomplish a goal (Tocqueville's associations, or playing in an orchestra) or to celebrate an event (e.g., a wedding). That doesn't necessitate the type of surrendering to the group or "collective effervescence" Durkheim describes.

buwaya said...

This phenomenon of collective ritual is human.
Every culture has these things.

Durkheim's explanation is more romantic-literary than scientific though.

The Catholic Church of course put a great deal of effort into this.
We boys prayed I don't know how many times a day, once per class period at least, or told a decade of the rosary. And when moving in groups we sang, a favorite being "Immaculate Mary". And then prayers and songs on all other occasions, Friday as well as Sunday masses, etc.

Universities that I knew were only slightly less intense. No American Catholic university that I know of has even a fraction of this ritual and acculturation.

I think this sort of thing, human programming through ritual and group dynamics, is necessary for healthy community life. "We are all individuals" is not true, or not as true as many like to imagine. It is in some ways a fad, a legitimation of the sin of pride, the old Catholic criticism of the Enlightenment and Romanticism.

The content and philosophy/ideology behind the rituals makes a big difference.

mockturtle said...

Having sung in quite a few choirs, I contend that my bond was with the director and the music, itself, not with the choir. And if singing The Messiah, with my Lord.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

If I were at Jonestown, I would probably be thinking that this whole drinking. Kool Aid thing is bs, but I would have probably gone along because I don't lke to make waves..

That's how stage hypnotism works. The person called up to the stage doesn't want to be a kill joy.

Ann Althouse said...

"@Althouse, to be clear about this, you recommend this book?"

Sure. I'll have more of an opinion when I finish it. It's fairly easy reading, and if you've been following the campus speech incidents of the last few years, it's an excellent recap. The main ideas are easy to understand and probably important, but it's very heavy on CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), which is the central organizing principle. I'll see how that goes.

Unknown said...

Althouse said... "But, no, I've never felt merged with the group through singing. It makes me more aware of myself, and not in a good way, but self-conscious because I think I'm bad and because I find it hard to breathe."

I think DBQ expressed it well in her 8:31 comment: "A moment of cohesion."

There is something sublime about being a part of, well, of music. Whether singing or playing, I can approach perfection in a way like nothing else I have ever experienced. In Heinlein's novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, one of Smith's core tenets is,

“Thou art god, I am god. All that groks is god.”

Singing in a good group gets me as close to that sentiment as I have ever come. Ann, I hope you will some day be able to experience this feeling.

mockturtle said...

Rhhardin observes: If you run your company with meetings, your company is run by people who like meetings.

My husband always suggested that having meetings standing rather than sitting would make them shorter as well as fewer. But, then, that would subvert the real purpose of the one calling the meeting.

Laslo Spatula said...

I have always viewed Zappa as vaguely fascist.

He did make the musical trains run on time; they just went to destinations I never particularly wanted to go.

I am Laslo.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Freeman said: You can like involvement in groups but not "collective effervescence." They aren't the same thing

This is true and the reverse can be true as well.

I hate group type things. Clubs. Organizations...yeah I belonged to Rotary but that was business. Big crowds repel me. Political rallies are something to avoid. Sports and being a 'fan' are foreign to me.

But, the "collective effervescence" that seems to come from performing as a part of a whole in music (singing, playing an instrument) and even in being a bit performer in a play is something different. The group can somehow become greater than the individual parts. It doesn't always happen, but when it does, it is magical.

I think it is the creative aspect of those types of group events.

tim maguire said...

Ann Althouse said...I don't feel closer to the performer when the audience sings along.

It makes you part of the show. It wouldn't work for the symphony or the Boston Pops, but at a rock concert, that's what people go for in the first place. Like the girl who comes out of the audience to dance with Springsteen in his video. Except it's everyone.

It doesn't sound like in-person concerts are for you. At this stage of my life, they aren't for me either. But when I was young I would have happily sung along and then felt like Zappa was a dick if he insulted me for it.

narciso said...

Nazi germany was an extreme case, in large part because the post war upheaval, broke the hold of traditional religion, but there was the league of the godless in soviet union, that operated on similar principles,

Nonapod said...

Business meetings are what I imagine Hell is like: Sitting around a table with idiots who pointlessly reiterate the same thoughts in slightly different ways over and over again.

The Crack Emcee said...

Woman hauled off podium at Mormon church after claiming former bishop raped her

DYNASTY STAR: 'Saving my daughter from sex cult hell'

Girls in polygamous Kingston Group continue to marry as young as 15, records show, sometimes leaving Utah to marry cousins

Another life connected to Scientology ends in despair, as so many do

If I didn't live through my own cult Hell, and got to experience how most just blew it off as my mental illness, it would be hard for me to understand how all of this is happening as everyone argues about anything else. But I did, so it's easy to see the cowardice within "The Home of the Brave" when it comes to protecting it's own. That's an illusion. And one that's being exploited in horrible ways.

No music required.

Bruce Hayden said...

"It doesn't feel like fear. It feels distanced and cool. It might be inhibition, like if I used a disinhibiting substance, I might behave differently, but that would be by changing a natural trait. I could be more self-critical about it and say I should let myself go and get taken up in some ecstatic crowd activities, but I'm more inclined now to think there are different personality types, deep in our nervous system, evolved in other circumstances, that we should own and love for what they are and try to "use" well. Obviously, fear is one of those things, but when you say "fear," what I am hearing is a personality trait framed as a negative that should be overcome. I think my strong sense of individuality in the face of crowd emotion is just fine and I'm sticking with it and am trying to put it to good effect."

I think that I am like Ann here. Maybe we can bond over it!!! (Just joking). Even when I was in a fraternity in college, I was still, in my head, separate. The only time I can think of when I willingly joined a group emotionally was in church, singing or sharing a communal prayer, etc. And, I think that the women in my life tend to be the same. I always wondered about why my GF in college didn't join a sorority, despite most of her best friends belonging to one, and being rushed hard. But when I just mentioned this to my partner, she responded with a comment about the sheep, and how no one could understand why she didn't want to join the herd when every girl in HS dressed in school colors on Game Fridays. I should add that this conversation with her started with my asking her whether she had heard about Les Moonves having been #MeToo'd by Ronan Farrow, and then fired (two posts down from this one by Ann). Her comment was "not me too", essentially refusing to be grouped with a bunch of dumb women who didn't understand the quid pro quo of sex in show business. Thinking back to HS, I can think of only one, maybe two women, I dated seriously (or slept with over a period of time) between then and now who might be swept up into this sort of group identity. Which is maybe a long way of saying that, yes, I do think that there are different personality types, and this is one of the factors that differs, with the natural joiners never quite understanding those of us who really can't.

narciso said...

this notion of group think, is what illustrates the coverage of the partial upset in the Swedish election, and the fluke in the Australian ones, the left or blanc mange right must prevail under all circumstances, that's not an iceberg,

narciso said...

so the solution is to go back to the old time religion, the traditional ways, that we have substituted in our arrogance, right?

Sebastian said...

I recommend Keeping Together in Time by William McNeill.

Gives a kind of evolutionary account of the functions of singing and dancing.

Question for Durkheim, McNeill etc. is where the Althouses of the world get their sacred belief in their cool individuality.

mockturtle said...

Probably the closest I've been to group cohesive effervescence is [back in the day] getting stoned with a group of friends, sitting in a circle and passing the joint around. That very fact led me to believe that marijuana could be dangerous.

Wince said...

This theory also helps explain a tacit collective within the Deep State -- exemplifying the hive mind and defense mechanisms of an organism -- which are buttressed by individual material self-interest.

The Crack Emcee said...

narciso said...

"so the solution is to go back to the old time religion, the traditional ways, that we have substituted in our arrogance, right?"

No. You don't replace one silly ritual with another - stop practicing silly rituals. Try practical ones for a change, if you must, but forget the silly ones. We've had enough of all that.

I have, anyway.

D 2 said...

1. As stated upthread, this "mob/tribe/populi vs the one" dynamic is a very old discussion point, hashed out and debated over and over for centuries. Us and Them wasn't just a song by Floyd. That fact that Durkheim puts "profane" to the individual and "sacred" to the collective is, as they say in poker, a tell to his own sensibilities.
2. I don't understand why references aren't now made more often to the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The hysteria of those events were clearly a good example of mob mentality and are within living memory of the population. I remember as a child seeing parades of victims through the streets of thousands and wondering what the hell?
3. No one likely wants to be known as the guy who casts the first stone, but it is amazing that history shows what happens when the first guy leads to a second and then a third. Pretty soon people who would never dream of throwing stones are looking round for rocks.
4. Following a sports team or even going to a game / music event suggests that people want to be part of something involving others. Sports and the Opera wouldn't exist on the scale that they do, otherwise.
5. I admit listening to two, maybe four Sting songs: in one such, Mr Sting makes what I think is a statement, even if, ironically, he doesn't recognize where it works for "both sides" of the aisle, so to speak:

"Men go crazy in congregations. They only get better one by one."

Ann Althouse said...

"With Zappa, you will never harbor the illusion that, if you can enjoy "Echidna Arf (For You)" you're like many other people, anywhere."

I have that album. Used to listen to it a lot in the 1970s.

mockturtle said...

The cold, hard fact is that no GROUP can ever get anything done without a leader. Few things are as ineffectual as a committee. Someone must take the reins. And there is the dilemma. This can be very good or very bad.

Reading about Genghis Khan right now.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CJinPA said...

Michael K said...

Another aspect of the Flight 447 crash was the pilot and co-pilot, in panic, giving the plane contradictory commands that offset each other. One pushing the nose up, the other down. Since the Airbus uses a joystick instead of the traditional, large control yoke, each pilot could not see what the other was telling the plane.

This was not good teamwork, sadly.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Such a great post. A boomer reflecting on some of the "group events" that seem to define the boomers: keeping a cool dispassionate perspective; this is supposed to be about discovering and cultivating individuality, not suppressing it in group think, as enjoyable (and irresponsible) as that might be. The first thing that got Bret Weinstein in trouble at Evergreen State College--before People Not Sufficiently of Color Stay Home Day--was his refusal to get in some imaginary canoe with everyone else. I'm with the person not wanting to get in the canoe--not believing this is consistent with the kind of independent judgement that faculty at an elite school are supposed to exercise. Shame on the faculty who got in the canoe.

mockturtle said...

Well said, Lloyed W. Robertson!

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann's a leader not a follower?"

No, I am not a leader. I had some experiences as a child that showed me that people would follow me and I regarded them as embarrassing themselves. I chose not to put myself in that situation. I'd rather be a follower than a leader and I hate being a follower.

wwww said...


"That doesn't necessitate the type of surrendering to the group or "collective effervescence" Durkheim describes."


"Collective effervescence" is a pretty flowery and over-the-top phrase. I'm concerned with crowd psychology that can turn riotous.

I'm not suspicious of the team scoring that perfect goal, or the music hitting a beautiful point, which could be called "collective effervescence."

Ann Althouse said...

This happened when I was in kindergarten — something I said while running around was taken up by all (or a lot of) the other children and became like a chant and I thought they looked really stupid. I had a few other things like that — something I was doing at recess that everyone else wanted to participate in — some creative game that would be played recess after recess, and I could have gotten excited by this ability, but in fact, I thought it was embarrassing.

Ann Althouse said...

"Singing in a good group gets me as close to that sentiment as I have ever come. Ann, I hope you will some day be able to experience this feeling."

If I'm singing in it, it won't be a "good group."

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, if you grasp CBT you might enjoy Whistling Vivaldi, by Claude Steele.

lostingotham said...

Were you (presumably along with at least a few of your fellow audience members) collectively innoculated, Professor Althouse?

One of the interesting things about being seduced into merging with a group is that one is often only vaguely, if at all, aware of the change. I would suggest that whatever you are led to by Zappa in front of an audience, be it chanting in unison or rejecting the chant, you are part of the exact group phenomenon to which you claim never to have succumbed.

narciso said...

the narrative of the day, serves the same function:

https://twitter.com/carterwpage/status/1038941607054266369

traditionalguy said...

Common man's experience is the subject.But resistance to the Crowd Enchantment is a trained warrior's trait. When battle chaos erupts, do you become cooler and think about what to do next with zero emotions. If so, then you have been trained to do that. Which is why competitive sports ( the fields of Eton) are basic to strong men

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann Althouse said...

"With Zappa, you will never harbor the illusion that, if you can enjoy "Echidna Arf (For You)" you're like many other people, anywhere."

"I have that album. Used to listen to it a lot in the 1970s."

I pull out a random Zappa album when life's lost it's glow, or someone really pisses me off, for perspective. If whatever's bothering me can survive his onslaught of poo-poo, can-cah, pee-pee jokes, over brilliantly complex arrangements, then it's important and will still be there once he's done.

Not much passes the test.

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't understand why references aren't now made more often to the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The hysteria of those events were clearly a good example of mob mentality and are within living memory of the population. I remember as a child seeing parades of victims through the streets of thousands and wondering what the hell?"

The Cultural Revolution is discussed at page 100 of the "Coddling" book — actually it's right after the part I quoted. Here:

"A Durkheimian approach is particularly helpful when applied to sudden outbreaks of moralistic violence that are mystifying to outsiders. In 1978, the sociologist Albert Bergesen wrote an essay titled “A Durkheimian Theory of ‘Witch-Hunts’ With the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966–1969 as an Example.” Bergesen used Durkheim to illuminate the madness that erupted in Beijing in May 1966, when Mao Zedong began warning about the rising threat of infiltration by pro-capitalist enemies. Zealous college students responded by forming the Red Guards to find and punish enemies of the revolution. Universities across the country were shut down for several years. During those years, the Red Guards rooted out any trace they could find—or imagine—of capitalism, foreign influence, or bourgeois values. In practice, this meant that anyone who was successful or accomplished was suspect, and many professors, intellectuals, and campus administrators were imprisoned or murdered.

"Among the many cruel features of the Cultural Revolution were the “struggle sessions,” in which those accused of ideological impurity were surrounded by their accusers, taunted, humiliated, and sometimes beaten as they confessed to their crimes, offered abject apologies, and vowed to do better. Students sometimes turned on their own teachers. Over the next few years, tens of millions were persecuted, and hundreds of thousands were murdered.

"How could such an orgy of self-destruction have happened? Bergesen notes that there are three features common to most political witch hunts: they arise very quickly, they involve charges of crimes against the collective, and the offenses that lead to charges are often trivial or fabricated....

"Does Bergesen’s Durkheimian analysis of the Cultural Revolution help to explain the dramatic events that have been happening on campus since 2015, some of which we described in the previous chapter? As historical events, the two movements are radically different, most notably in that the Red Guards were supported by a totalitarian dictator who encouraged them to use violence, while American college students have been self-organized and almost entirely nonviolent...."

Mr. Forward said...

Sandbagging the levee, cause sandbags are heavy.

William said...

There were several carefully plotted assassination attempts against Hitler. Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh and Castro died of natural causes at the end of a long lives. People always point to Hitler as some kind of cult leader. Perhaps he was, but these others were far better at it. It's not a cult if it's the one true faith.

narciso said...

we have always been at war, with east asia:

https://twitter.com/ByronYork/status/1039117837812543490

it's a distinction without a difference, the heart of it was Frankfurt school, dynamics, propagated by the likes of Herbert Marcuse, a microcosm of this, was the alex rackley affair at yale, with the black panthers,

buwaya said...

The old Chesterton saying about religion is apt in this case too.

If you abandon your old religious/cultural rituals you will likely adopt any random ritual.

Now, its possible that you are one of the unusual individuals who can exist as an island, emotionally and intellectually, but this is just as likely to be a delusion as anything else.

EAB said...

A subject near and dear to my heart, because I also prefer to stand at a distance. The ONLY times I’ve experienced that transcendence is during a song at worship services and, even then, it is very rare. I become aware that everyone is creating beauty that rises above the norm AND that we’ve ALL become aware of the beauty we’re creating.

I have a deeply rooted distrust (and some fear) of joining the collective...corporate team building is a horror, as is any form of protest march. I’ve always considered it a result of two things: living in The Netherlands as a kid and being fully aware of the (fading) impact of WWII and Nazi Germany and, later, the massive coverage of the Manson Family.

Which is why this quote from The Unbearable Lightness of Being has always resonated:

“When she told her French friends about it, they were amazed. "You mean you don't want to fight the occupation of your country?" She would have liked to tell them that behind Communism, Fascism, behind all occupations and invasions lurks a more basic, pervasive evil and that the image of that evil was a parade of people marching by with raised fists and shouting identical syllables in unison. But she knew she would never be able to make them understand. Embarrassed, she changed the subject.”

narciso said...

assassination attempts against stalin, I don't recall, it was fanya kaplan's attempt that touched off the red terror, similarly for ho chi minh, mao, fidel was an outlier,

Shouting Thomas said...

You separate yourself as an individual by reference to Zappa, which, of course, was what every egghead in a university did in 1968.

You're a confirmed Dylan teeny booper, just like every college egghead from 1968.

You get offended on account of all women and you pretend to be a spokes person for all women, ditto all egghead women from 1968.

You're really going to try to sell this, "I don't belong to any crowd" routine?

Incidently, I have a different equally BS explanation for why I don't effervesce with the crowd, too. My crowd is the crowd of the most individual individuals.

Laslo Spatula said...

THIS is “collective effervescence”: Portsmouth Sinfonia performs "Also sprach Zarathustra"

From Wiki:

"The Portsmouth Sinfonia was an orchestra founded by a group of students at the Portsmouth School of Art in England, in 1970. The Sinfonia was generally open to anyone and ended up drawing players that were either people without musical training or, if they were musicians, ones that chose to play an instrument that was entirely new to them…

…The only rules were that everyone had to come for rehearsals and that people should try their best to get it right and not intentionally try to play badly…

The early repertoire of the Sinfonia was drawn from standard classical repertoire (such as "The Blue Danube" waltz and "Also sprach Zarathustra"), so that most orchestra members had a rough idea of what the piece should sound like, even if they could not play their chosen instrument accurately…”

I am Laslo.

narciso said...

fair point, but I didn't think of the lin bao affair as an assassination attempt, more like a coup:

listverse.com/2014/04/15/10-failed-conspiracies-that-would-have-changed-everything/

buwaya said...

The ancient and also the modern approach to creating warriors was drill, in teamwork. This was much less a matter of individual skills than that of groups.

Thats why the very first thing they taught us teens, 40+ years ago, was close order drill, the leftover of 16th century military practice.

But this goes back to the ancient Greeks at least, and never really went away. Even the barbarians drilled, and at least attempted group tactics.

Modern tactics also depend critically on teamwork, also taught as drills. They just dont seem as obvious.

Big Mike said...

@Michael K., I am a fan of "Air Disasters" on the Smithsonian Channel, and I think that the introduction of cockpit resource management, where the captain functions as the leader of a cooperating team and not as an almighty God, is exactly the right way to go. There are too many airline crashes that turned out to have happened because the flight crew deferred to the very senior captain even though members of the cockpit crew realized that something was wrong, and sometimes even knew exactly what was wrong and how to recover. CRM fixed that.

I wonder whether something like that is not overdue to be introduced into operating rooms. I have heard too often about people going into surgery for minor problems and leaving in a vegetative state or dead. Worse are cases where the wrong surgery was performed, the wrong limb amputated, healthy joints replaced, etc.

As to Air France 447, it is my understanding that Airbus and Boeing have too very different philosophies about cockpit automation. Boeing planes are meant to be flown by its pilots, with computer support. Airbus seems to have decided that the planes are to be flown by the computer and the pilots are only there when something goes wrong. In the case of flight 447, the computers lacked the sensor input to operate and threw piloting the plane over to the humans. And the human did exactly the wrong thing. I don't have a pilot's license, but even I know that in the event of a stall you recover by lowering the nose and increasing thrust. That was coupled with a mistake in the Airbus control design. Boeing designs its controls so that manipulating the control from one seat also happens to the same control as viewed from the other seat, but in the Airbus the control inputs are averaged. The junior officer was trying to climb (exactly wrong) and the captain was trying to lower the nose (correct) but the Airbus averaged the inputs and the plane dropped out of the sky in a nose level configuration.

Ann Althouse said...

"Were you (presumably along with at least a few of your fellow audience members) collectively innoculated, Professor Althouse? One of the interesting things about being seduced into merging with a group is that one is often only vaguely, if at all, aware of the change. I would suggest that whatever you are led to by Zappa in front of an audience, be it chanting in unison or rejecting the chant, you are part of the exact group phenomenon to which you claim never to have succumbed."

First: only one "n" in "inoculated." Remember it's "oculus" -- the eye -- and not "noculus."

Second: You raise many interesting questions. Is it even possible to be outside of the group? By going to the concert at all, you have the feeling of being with the group, even if it amplifies your feeling of separateness. By the same token, when you feel at one with Bob Dylan because you're listening to "Bringing It All Back Home" in your bedroom, you are also nevertheless alone.

rehajm said...

...while American college students have been self-organized and almost entirely nonviolent...

The concern is how long before the movement's elements win authority and grant themselves permission to enter the righteous violence phase. As it always is...

Derek Kite said...

It isn't groups, or harmony, or cohesion, or even group trances that are the problem, it is the decisions that are made when in that trance.

That is what Haidt is talking about. The group forms the decision in a domain where individuals hammering out the details, with someone looking over their shoulder picking up the mistakes should be the process.

That is also where 'team' dynamics fall apart; usually when someone is described as not a team player it means they aren't going along with some nonsense.

And yes, having groups open to be led in dangerous directions is a problem, mostly because individualists see no need to having groups leading people in healthy directions.

If your cockamamie ideas lead to Rotherham, you are going to get a group, very angry and out of control in response. It isn't groups that are the problem, it is purveyors of utopias.

Your focus on the source of evil is wrong. It is the individuals who take a human characteristic that has done amazing things and exploited it for evil ends.

Ralph L said...

No one has mentioned the poor 15 y.o. with his mother at a rock concert.

I wonder if people "on the Spectrum" have any reaction to the collective.

rhhardin said...

WJR Detroit is doing a Detriot Lions pre-game show instead of Rush at noon. The feeling is that there must be sports fans, and presumably they have the audio contract. They're doing group leader.

narciso said...

which part, the actors behind rotherdam, and hudderfield, or the denialists at the south Yorkshire police department,

Bruce Hayden said...

It's like I have gone through life with an observer, me, in my head, and when I get into one of these group melding sort of experience, I sometimes try to talk myself into joining, but my inner self just stubbornly says "no", "not me", the inveterate observer. Most of those (including all those old GFs of mine) who seem to share this seem to have been, esp when young, introverted. Some, I think, like my mother, made a conscious effort to overcome this. Most though probably did not. Certainly not my partner. I asked here whether she ever got into a group meld sort of thing, even when dancing, and she responded: only when the other dancers were doing what she wanted them to. I think that those GFs and I recognized this in each other, and self selected. I remember, in particular, meeting my GF in Austin. There almost seemed to be a lag in our conversation, with our respective observers considering what next to say. It was weird, but it worked, because we were both doing the same thing. They all were fairly bright, and inevitably straight A students through college. Much better students than I ever was. So, it could be that this disconnect is tied to intelligence. Or, it could just be wishful thinking on my part. Luckily, my observer is easily swayed by flattery on my part, so I am comfortable with that conclusion.

Ann Althouse said...

"what every egghead in a university did"

Try again, taking into account that I was a high school student at the time. I had no exposure to "eggheads." I was going to an ordinary public high school in Wayne, New Jersey.

hombre said...

Two things popped up for me while reading the blog entry and comments:

“I am my own God,” and

Generalizing about “them” is ever so satisfying.

Lol.

rhhardin said...

Nor have I. And, rhhardin, nor do I feel a collective sense of love for my country when I salute the flag or sing the anthem. Only an individual one.

If you hear the anthem at home alone, do you stand up with hand on heart?

The Crack Emcee said...

William said...

"People always point to Hitler as some kind of cult leader. Perhaps he was, but these others were far better at it."

Peter Hitchens is now calling it The Cult of We Won WWII. Put it together with what we know of the Suez Canal Crisis of the 50s and - YUCK!!!

Hitler will never look good, but he looks better.

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann Althouse said...
"what every egghead in a university did"

Try again, taking into account that I was a high school student at the time. I had no exposure to "eggheads." I was going to an ordinary public high school in Wayne, New Jersey.

BWAAAAAAAAAAA-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Yancey Ward said...

The madness of crowds and safety in numbers are always in conflict along the boundaries.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

If I'm singing in it, it won't be a "good group."

LOL.

Depends on how large the group is. In the example I posted of the 65,000 people at the Green Day concert singing Bohemian Rhapsody, there were many very very bad singers (in other videos taken from the ground level). However, in a big enough group even the worst singers get to be part of the experience.

I'm not saying that group transendence it is always a 'good' thing, though. That depends on the ultimate path of the group.

narciso said...

well the brits actually dodged a bullet there had they dispatched Nasser, they would have ended up with hassan Ramadan, the son of the founder of the brotherhood, the father of tariq,

Bruce Hayden said...

"You may be immune to it in a political sense, but not in other aspects of life. It's part of humanity to want to belong. That's what makes it so powerful. Note that that group may not be a crowd, it may be as little as one. Ever fall in love? Ever overlook faults..."

For me, it isn't really belonging, but sometimes I am driven to look like I belong, even knowing that I don't.

mockturtle said...

If you hear the anthem at home alone, do you stand up with hand on heart?

Actually, I do! :-)

Amadeus 48 said...

When I was growing up, we went to a church with no choir—the congregation sang three hymns each Sunday. I grew to love the singing in unison of classic hymns— A Mighty Fortress, For All the Saints, Eternal Father, Strong to Save, WeGather Together, etc. I get chills when I hear a congregation let go on those old favorites.
That is as close as I get to collectivism.

Fernandinande said...

A surge near one of the holy sites left thousands dead.

narciso said...

what I was saying about narrative:

http://thefederalist.com/2018/09/10/no-kavanaugh-doesnt-think-birth-control-abortion-fact-thinks-government-interest-providing/

mockturtle said...

I've always liked this:

Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow.
Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead.
Do not walk beside me, either.
In other words, just pretty much leave me the hell alone.

gg6 said...

Interesting - but I do have to laugh at the idea of being "inoculated" by Frank Zappa...is that like being zapped?!
My experience with choirs(in grammar and high- school) and 'worship' in RC churches was mostly boredom and impatience. Team sports, yes, and 'music audiences' on occasion. BUT...I have to seriously wonder whether the significant source of such feeling really emanates from some 'human collective' as opposed to the original response to the more underlying/originating stimulus - in "team sports" it is the stimuli of the physical activity (hormonal, emotional, perceptual) and in 'music' the stimuli of the physical aural experience (an individual is mostly 'moved' by their like or dislike of Frank Zappa either in a crowd or alone w/ headphones. Ditto w/ Beethovens' 5th). I guess what I'm trying to get at is that 'crowd experience' are indeed a 'stimulus' all their own - but hardly a universal human phenomena - many people actively seek crowds to experience that and many actively avoid crowds as anathema. The people in a Zappa concert are seeking a phenomenon much their own choosing/type- not an example of dominant collective human behavior.

FWBuff said...

Every Sunday during congregational singing in worship, I experience the "effervescent" feeling, but I believe it is a spiritual matter. Same goes for communal prayers and during the ritual of communion.

Also, I once lost a spelling bee in high school when I spelled "inoculate" with a double n. I've never forgotten the correct spelling since then!

narciso said...

so the cult of ruth bader Ginsburg, is something anthropologists from the future will ponder,

Michael K said...

I wonder whether something like that is not overdue to be introduced into operating rooms. I have heard too often about people going into surgery for minor problems and leaving in a vegetative state or dead. Worse are cases where the wrong surgery was performed, the wrong limb amputated, healthy joints replaced, etc.

Interesting point and one I addressed a bit in my books. The most common error in medicine, especially surgery, is the left-right confusion. When I look at you, my right faces your left. I spent years reviewing med-mal cases where that was common. Wrong left and wrong kidney cases were right-left issues.

The trouble with automation is largely one of dependence on a system which may not have programmed all the variables. There was a famous case in Boston when I was in New Hampshire studying medical quality and how to improve it.

Dana Farber, a famous Harvard cancer center, killed the health affairs reporter form the Globe with a dose error in chemotherapy.

The abundance of caution is born of a hard lesson: 10 years ago, one patient died and another suffered irreversible heart damage at the Dana-Farber because the staff wasn't cautious enough. A young doctor accidentally prescribed four times the intended dose of breast cancer medication to Boston Globe health columnist Betsy Lehman and teacher Maureen Bateman, but none of the roughly 25 medical staff involved in their care noticed until weeks later.

The young female medical resident has sued alleging she was blamed for a system error.

Conway, who had moved on to a research job at MIT, saw medical errors that injure patients as a warning sign that hospitals don't have good enough systems to protect against human fallibility. With strong support from the hospital's board to spend the money and time it would take, Conway and the other Dana-Farber leaders began investing heavily in safety.

Human fallibility includes programmer errors.

Anyway, an interesting topic. I thought I would have a second career after back surgery working on CQI in medicine but learned that no one else cared.

mockturtle said...

Re: The Chinese Cultural Revolution: The worst kind of tyranny is 're-education'.

Yancey Ward said...

"How do you sort out the good collective from the bad collective?"

The answer from every collective is this- the collective tells you what is good.

mockturtle said...

When, in the early 80's, our company went through the 'sensitivity and bonding' sessions, both my husband and I opted out. And I'm sure many believed we were the ones who 'needed' it most. ;-)

narciso said...

every day I say they can't reach peak crazy, I should say, 'hold my beer'

gg6 said...

rhhardin said...There's the flag / anthem thing to relate it to. I claim the ritual is idiotic."
Hmm. Well 'claim' whatever you like., it's just your attitude not a fact - and it certainly does NOT suggest you are non-idiotic.

The Crack Emcee said...

The Waterboys - "I Will Not Follow"

mockturtle said...

Laslo reports: The early repertoire of the Sinfonia was drawn from standard classical repertoire (such as "The Blue Danube" waltz and "Also sprach Zarathustra"), so that most orchestra members had a rough idea of what the piece should sound like, even if they could not play their chosen instrument accurately…”

Like The Music Man's Harold Hill and his 'think method', where the kids thought and played Minuet in G.

D 2 said...

Thanks for the additional note. Mystifying is a good word to describe the "what the..." as seen by a (removed) onlooker.

Bay Area Guy said...

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now


"Get Together,"The Youngbloods (1967)

The Crack Emcee said...

Magazine - My Mind Ain't So Open

Bruce Hayden said...

"No, I am not a leader. I had some experiences as a child that showed me that people would follow me and I regarded them as embarrassing themselves. I chose not to put myself in that situation. I'd rather be a follower than a leader and I hate being a follower."

Neither am I, but I have tried on occasion. I was elected president of my fraternity, partially I think, in response to my predecessor having been so uptight. I wasn't. But I couldn't get the guys to do what I wanted them to. Then, I discovered the trick - I would convince my VP (and roommate), and he would yell "rally!", and before you knew it, within minutes, they would all be painting the house, or whatever the group activity was. I had a record setting term in office, between the charity events we put on, pledges we acquired, etc, and I can put the responsibility where it belonged - on that fraternity brother of mine, who seemed to instinctively knew how to appeal to the group meld, like I have rarely seen since in the last 46 years. We all expected him to go into politics (3 years class president, one year student body president, etc) but instead ultimately became president of a college. I think though that part of my problem is that that observer in my head is always analyzing my attempts at leadership, and finding them wanting. I ask myself whether I would follow myself, and the answer is inevitably "no".

RigelDog said...

I've done a ton of chorale singing in my life and while it transports me, it's the singing and the occasional beauty of the harmonies coming together. The Green Day concert video was fascinating because I've never heard an enormous group of people who aren't already singers create that crisp and on-pitch of a performance.

Rick said...

"Among the many cruel features of the Cultural Revolution were the “struggle sessions,” in which those accused of ideological impurity were surrounded by their accusers, taunted, humiliated, and sometimes beaten as they confessed to their crimes, offered abject apologies, and vowed to do better.

YouTube

No beatings (yet), they're replaced by threats to ruin your career / business / employability. It's reminiscent of KKK tactics where the white racists flaunt their power by taunting the targets who know any action will result in retribution by local authorities.

mockturtle said...

When I worked for a company I was devoted to that company and its interests. But I was never really a team player and preferred working on my own. Not that I didn't have great friendships with co-workers but it wasn't team-bonding, just individual-to-individual bonding.

The Crack Emcee said...

My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult - "Kooler Than Jesus"

William said...

After the Kaplan assassination attempt, Lenin ordered that all the Czarist prisoners in the Peter & Paul fortress be executed. About Ms. Kaplan he voiced some reluctance to have her executed.. She was a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. She had previously been jailed for trying to kill a Czarist official. She was Lenin's kind of woman. When you're the leader of the one true faith, you exercise tolerance and forgiveness to your followers. It's those loathsome scumbag non-believers that need to be exterminated......Lenin self consciously and explicitly stated that he did not want to be the Robespierre of the Russian Revolution. (Perhaps he secretly wanted to be Bonaparte.)......Well, he wasn't Robespierre. He sometimes banished fellow Bolsheviks, but he never had them killed or imprisoned. On the minus side, he was a Stalin enabler. That was his most lasting contribution to humanity. He enabled Stalin, Mao and all the others.

narciso said...

I found out a little about Kaplan and some of the denizens of the slaughterhouse of the 20th century in hotel Europe by vollman.

Earnest Prole said...

That was great. I got chills watching/listening here at my little desk.

Everyone is insusceptible to crowd merger except of course at the moment they're not.

Chad Brooks said...

Here's a fine example of crowd unison:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mav2kkvakGY

BidenFamilyTaxPayerFundedCrackPipe said...

that many people show up to see green day?

WTF? that's depressing.

William said...

When younger I used to listen to Dylan religiously. It didn't ease but rather heightened my feelings of loneliness and alienation. On the plus side, it made me feel that those feelings were in some way noble and significant. I was alienated from society because I was so much better than it. Well, whatever works. Nowadays, I'm more into Mozart and Rodgers & Hart. Mozart is good napping music.

gg6 said...

Yes, yes, I've noticed everyone always s claims they "hate" 'business team-building meetings' etc. But I've always noticed just about everyone seems to join-in and participate with an enthusiastic smile. I wonder what Durkheim would make of that? And I wonder if this group would actually be much different w/o their anonymity and their lack of a real skin in the game?

toxdoc said...

DBQ said: "I especially like the sprays of beer being tossed up in the crowd to show their exuberance :-) Wheee!!!"

Darn, you spoiled it for me. I was hoping it was dolphins and whales venting

Bob Boyd said...

Bohemian Rhapsody is about the death of an individual at the hands of the collective.

The Crack Emcee said...

Colorado teacher pleads guilty to child abuse after forcing student to stand for Pledge of Allegiance - Karen Smith has retired from teaching, Boulder Valley school officials say

If Hitler didn't start WWII, and nobody really cared about the Jews, and we only played along to cynically A) bankrupt Britain B) beat out Britain and France for the #1 spot in the world, and C) let a bunch of our guys get killed to get into the thing, then what - exactly - are we saluting?

That it all worked out for us - and no one else - no matter how many were killed?

Oh, Man, just horrible people....

RigelDog said...

RE Chinese Cultural Revolution: I highly recommend this book, Life and Death in Shanghai. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004FGMSGO/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

True story of a brave, intelligent Chinese woman who was fluent in English and who lived through the horror, and was ultimately able to come to America. The insanity of it all; the dead-eyed children of the revolution who were so sure of their moral authority and yet who had no actual logic to their program. To be caught up in this world where nothing made sense and there was no safety; no way of knowing what would appease the revolutionaries or the bureaucrats. Highly readable. I can't get the comparisons out of my head between the revolutionary students who took it upon themselves to destroy a culture and a past they didn't even know; to decide who would live and who would die; to decide who espoused the CORRECT political correctness on any given day---and our current screaming self-righteous SJWs and Antifa.

The Crack Emcee said...

RigelDog said...

"To be caught up in this world where nothing made sense and there was no safety"

I've felt this way about America since the early 90s.

The Crack Emcee said...

RigelDog said...

"our current screaming self-righteous SJWs and Antifa."

Just like the Left blames everything on Trump.

Both sides are mirror images of each other.

You're all fucked up.

RigelDog said...

{{ The first thing that got Bret Weinstein in trouble at Evergreen State College--before People Not Sufficiently of Color Stay Home Day--was his refusal to get in some imaginary canoe with everyone else. I'm with the person not wanting to get in the canoe--not believing this is consistent with the kind of independent judgement that faculty at an elite school are supposed to exercise. Shame on the faculty who got in the canoe. }}

Exactly! Have you seen the video of the Canoe Meeting? OMG. I HATE HATE HATE that kind of BS with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. It scares the crap out of me too. I don't know what's worse: people thinking it's stupid but going along with a smile, or the people who actually think there's merit to it and are moved by it.

gg6 said...

So, ANN ALTHOUSE, neither a leader nor follower as you be, what typology are you, then??, readers want to know! I would guess 'Introvert' in the Myers-Briggs scheme? INTP? INTJ?...In more straightforward terms, simply an 'Individual'? Goodness, how old-fashioned and non-PC of you! Bravo!

Inga...Allie Oop said...

If the crowd is in harmony things can be beautiful for those who feel they are part of the crowd. Also if what the crowd sings is beautiful and loud enough, discordanance is not especially disruptive.

Inga...Allie Oop said...

Also, if you don’t like what the crowd is singing, leave and sing your own song.

Howard said...

gg6: It's the free pizza and the fuck-off work time that get's people excited enough to play along.

The Crack Emcee said...

"We are self-selected for being suckers."*

- Fake News Fantasyland: Kurt Andersen's 7 Min History of America

*"We" means those who came here, not those who were brought here.

Howard said...

No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Michael K said...

"You're all fucked up."

Says the man with no self awareness.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Also if what the crowd sings is beautiful and loud enough, discordance is not especially disruptive."

A choir gets its warm sound by everyone being slightly out-of-pitch with each other.

Related, from Wiki:

12-string guitar "Chorus" effect:
"...The double ranks of strings of the 12-string guitar produce a shimmering effect, because even the strings tuned to unisons can never vibrate with precise simultaneity—that is, they vibrate out of phase. The result to the ear is a sound that seems to "shimmer", which some describe as resembling strings that are slightly detuned. The interference between the out-of-phase vibrations produces a phenomenon known as a beat that results in a periodic rise and fall of intensity that is, in music, often considered pleasing to the ear"

and

"...The Voix celeste, (Voix céleste) [Fr.] (heavenly voice) is an organ stop consisting of either one or two ranks of pipes slightly out of tune. The term celeste refers to a rank of pipes detuned slightly so as to produce a beating effect when combined with a normally tuned rank. It is also used to refer to a compound stop of two or more ranks in which all the ranks are detuned relative to each other.[1]..."

I am Laslo.

gg6 said...

Howard said........It's the free pizza and the fuck-off work time that get's people excited enough to play along."
Ah, so it's much more Jungian than the faux 'social science' of Durkheim? Yes, then I'm w/ you 100%.

Howard said...

Trumpensinas shouldn't listen to Kurt Anderson

gilbar said...

If you hear the anthem at home alone, do you stand up with hand on heart?

i don't usually stand up, but i nearly always sing (usually with hand on heart)

wholelottasplainin said...

The Crack Emcee said...
RigelDog said...

"our current screaming self-righteous SJWs and Antifa."

Just like the Left blames everything on Trump.

Both sides are mirror images of each other.

You're all fucked up.
***********************************

Again, what Raylan Givens said :

“If you get up in the morning and you meet an asshole, you met an asshole.

If you meet nothing but assholes all day, you’re the asshole.”

tim in vermont said...

I admit that I don't get the whole "unify" thing as a goal in politics. It's creepy. Look through history at the nations that were unified for your own examples. But Orwell called it in 1984 with the unifying power of hatred of a specific individual. One more reason that it's creepy.

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