Bigots seldom recognize themselves (graphic: Peter Aranyi)

One of the perennial themes of this blog is an exploration of the ‘reasons’ for prejudice and conflict between different groups. See my 2009 post Q: Where does conflict come from? which records Tajfel’s social psychology experiments …

Henri Tajfel is perhaps best known for his minimal groups experiments. In these studies, test subjects were divided arbitrarily into two groups, based on a trivial and almost completely irrelevant basis.
Participants did not know other members of the group, did not even know who they were, and had no reason to expect that they would interact with them in the future. Still, members of both groups began to identify themselves with their group, preferring other members of their group and favouring them with rewards that maximized their own group’s outcomes.

It can be almost amusing to watch the outworking of ‘You’re not in my tribe — therefore you are less worthy and stupid… ‘ — bigotry based on nothing much except membership and non-membership. (Political differences being, very often, quite small potatoes, despite passionate position-taking.)
Well, it might be funny if some of the protagonists didn’t take it sooo seriously and sometimes take such drastic actions against ‘the other’. And behave so hatefully.

It’s easy (even for educated, otherwise rational,’civilized’ people)  to slip into a combative mindset when discussing ‘important issues’ (or things that masquerade as them).

Pick a tribe. That defines your enemies. Unleash the hounds!

Over the weekend I observed a febrile exchange on John Pagani’s blog where he basically, accused a couple of right wing bloggers I’ve mentioned here from time to time, Cameron Slater and Cathy Odgers, of benefiting from ‘secret funding’ supplied by a shadowy anti-MMP lobby group called Vote For Change. They denied it, some minor argy-bargy ensued … with accusations made and denied.

I dropped a comment in the stream (#15) purely from my POV, not seeing myself as in either disputatious ‘tribe’, but declaring myself openly in favour of MMP for reasons I outlined. See John Pagani:  Anti-MMP money is used to advocate for stripping citizenship.

Having met each of the three people involved in the online spat, I know them each to be intelligent and human. (Cameron Slater can be an arse at times, and, I feel, unreasonably insulting and pugnacious … but he’s not the devil.)

I think they’re in dispute with each other mainly because of a virulent dose of ‘not in my tribe‘. Pity.

How do you see it?

– P