The damage of progressive groupthink

The Bill Maher controversy demonstrates this narrow-minded mentalty in action.

Ronald Dixon

In my experience door-knocking for Democratic Farmer-Labor party political candidates, I have often come across individuals who may agree with progressive political, economic or social views but decide not to cast their ballot and have a say in elections.

At first, it’s easy to blame these individuals. In fact, I sometimes vent to my friends that these are the people handing elections to the Republicans. If more progressives had voted last Tuesday, then the DFL may have retained the Minnesota House.

The concerns of the politically disillusioned, though, seem to stem from their legitimate antipathy for “groupthink.”

This concept, popularized in George Orwell’s influential, best-selling dystopian novel “1984,” can be attributed to the following types of individuals. People who defer most or all of their opinions to the group consensus place an overwhelming amount of faith in the group. They also push for ideological uniformity and may viciously lambast those who may associate with the group but sometimes disagree with its prevailing views.

Unfortunately, groupthink is prevalent in progressive circles. For example, progressive and secular HBO host Bill Maher, who has based part of his career on critiquing religion, recently landed in hot water for making seemingly harsh claims against the Islamic faith.

Some students at the University of California-Berkeley have started a signature drive to uninvite Maher from serving as a commencement speaker in December because of this controversy.

Shortly after these efforts began, Maher openly defended himself, saying that even his most critical guest, Reza Aslan — who is a Muslim — believes that he is not a bigot. Furthermore, he said the Berkeley protests are ironic because the university is about to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its own Free Speech Movement.

While some progressives, including myself, agree with Maher’s critiques of religion and support his right to free speech without obstructionism caused by political correctness, there are many left-wing news and blog websites that have openly criticized Maher for his arguments against the Islamic religion.

It’s curious, though, that these same websites glorify Maher whenever he makes a claim that neatly aligns with the current progressive zeitgeist. In fact, they will run pieces, not too far from each other, that both raise him onto a high pedestal and attack him for being bigoted, narrow-minded, sexist and Islamophobic.

This is the type of behavior that causes well-meaning, educated individuals to disengage from politics. Indeed, it is the groupthink mentality that stifles intellectual inquiry and harms democracy.