October 30, 2008

Group Pride, insecurity and the Left

Strictly speaking, the generalizability of the research below is limited by the sample they used but the conclusions are very ancient and almost certainly true. In ancient Athens, hubris (arrogant pride) was actually considered a crime while megalopsuchia (proper pride; big spiritedness) was a virtue. I follow the report below with a few notes about the wider implications of the research
From screaming baseball fans to political rally-goers, groups that engage in boastful self-aggrandizing may be trying to mask insecurity and low social status. "Our results suggest that hubristic, pompous displays of group pride might actually be a sign of group insecurity as opposed to a sign of strength," said researcher Cynthia Pickett, associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis.

The new study reveals how two types of pride are related to a person's good feelings about one social group or another to which they belong. These good feelings could come from being a Los Angeles Lakers fan (when they win), a war veteran, a member of a particular ethnic group or a sorority gal or fraternity brother. But while authentic pride is linked with real confidence in your group, hubristic pride is a false arrogance that belies insecurities about one's group. These results build on past research showing similar pride characteristics in individuals.

"It turns out, people who have the hubristic collective pride in their group, underlying it all is an insecurity about whether the group is good enough, really," said researcher Jessica Tracy, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia. The research was presented last week at a meeting of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology in Sacramento.

In three studies, Pickett, Tracy and their colleagues surveyed more than 300 undergraduate students, first asking each participant to write about an experience when they felt proud of their group. In one of these studies, students had to recall the UC Davis football win over Stanford. In another, Asian American students were asked to write about a proud experience tied with their ethnic background. Other experiences ranged from sports team wins to achievements by sororities, say raising a big chunk of money for a charity.

Each participant then rated to what extent they would use certain words to describe themselves at the time of the event or achievement. Some of the descriptors indicated hubristic pride, such as "snobbish," "pompous" and "smug," while others were linked with authentic pride, such as "accomplished," "successful" and "confident." Students also answered questions about the status of the group, including whether the group was valued by non-members, whether they themselves thought highly of the group, whether the group was under threat or in competition with another group, and other group-related questions.

The results showed that groups in which individuals boasted and gloated - a sign of hubristic pride - tended to have low social status or they were vulnerable to threats from other groups. So the worse the person felt about their group's status as well as how badly they thought the public viewed the group, the more likely that member would experience that empty, boastful pride. In contrast, those groups that expressed pride by humbly focusing on members' efforts and hard work tended to have high social standing in both the public and personal eyes.

Hubristic pride can rear its ugly head in both small groups like sports teams and larger groups like citizens of a country. "A lot of this has real-world implications," Tracy told LiveScience. "There are some kinds of collective pride where people get really angry and hostile and feel like 'it's not just that my group is great but my group is better.'" She added, "You can think of it as the distinction between nationalism and patriotism, with nationalism being the sense of it's not just that I love my country, it's that my country is best."

When group members show signs of hubristic pride, such as making grandiose statements about their country, that could be a sign of underlying insecurity, the researchers said. "When you hear groups starting to get into that type of rhetoric it may be because they're starting to realize they're in a losing position and that they need to do something to try to drum up respect, to drum up the kind of status that they feel they're lacking," Pickett said.


The first thing that needs to be stressed about the above findings -- something the authors themselves imply -- is that not all group loyalty is dysfunctional. Tribalism or group action is very common in the animal world -- from ants to apes -- and it is part of humanity too. Leftists tend to deny that, however. They see any kind of group loyalty -- such as patriotism -- as primitive. And tribalism certainly is a prominent feature of primitive societies. That something is primitive does not mean that it is weak, however. And in fact tribal loyalties of one sort or another still to this day dominate most human societies. In Muslim lands, for instance, there is virtually no loyalty to the nation. All loyalty is to your tribe, to your clan, to your kinship group or to your religion.

As Emmanuel Todd, a French Leftist historian, correctly pointed out, it is the Anglo-Saxons who are deviant. To Southern Europeans, the English family is incomprehensible. It appears pathologically fractionated. Instead of strong family loyalties, the English simply go their own way once they leave home and have almost no further contact with one-another by normal human standards. I saw this in the late '60s when I was doorknocking with a social survey in an ethnically mixed area of Sydney. One of the questions I asked was: "How often do you see relatives?" The Greeks and Italians would usually say: "Every weekend". By contrast, about half the Anglo-Australians said: "Never!".

So if even family ties are so weak among Anglo-Saxons, one can understand that tribal loyalties are very limited -- usually seen only in attachment to particular sporting teams. Sport is a re-enactment of real combat so it is a very primitive thing and draws out primitive reflexes.

But tribalism DOES have some life among Anglo-Saxons outside sport. In particular, Anglo-Saxons do have some attachment to their own nation and ethnic group. They put up surprisingly well with having other ethnic groups living among them but their preference nonetheless is generally for their own ethnic group. See here, for instance. And this tattered remnant of group loyalty is what Leftist routinely stigmatize as "racism".

Ironically, however, it is Leftists themselves who seem to have the strongest group orientation. Contrast the lukewarm support of conservatives for McCain with the hysterical adulation for Obama on the Left. And, from Hegel through Hitler ("Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer") to Obama, it is Leftists who glorify unity and seem to regard as ideal an anthill type of existence where everybody obeys implicitly direction from the top. So Leftists are clearly the political fanatics. And the research above does therefore identify them as the most insecure.

And there is reason for that insecurity and its compensatory fanaticism. They know that what they really want is the utter destruction of the "system" in which they live and there is always a great risk that the mask will come off that and expose them for the haters and destroyers that they are.

And that Islamic hypersensitivity about "insults" reflects insecurity is a common observation. They certainly have little to be proud of by way of real recent achievements and their sensitivity to slights shows that they know that a low opinion of them and their hamstrung lifestyle has some justification. By contrast, cartoons ridiculing Christians are routine (usually from the Left) but I have yet to hear of any Christian demands to behead cartoon publishers.

Reference: Todd, E. (1985) The explanation of ideology Oxford: Blackwell

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