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Reality Shopping and the group psyche

On July 12th covering ,

This Onion interview with Matt Taibbi, who I only know as an annoying and smug guy who comes on the annoying and smug Bill Maher show that I watch religiously, is brilliant in many respects. The topic is superficially political, but it’s really about the national psyche.

Taibbi is a keen observer of the way people in groups distort reality for emotional reasons. Never mind whether you like his politics or his blunt and profane manner of expressing himself. He deserves notice if only for the wonderful phrase reality shopping, which describes groups that have been gripped by a particularly virulent form of groupthink.

the 2000 election was a situation where if you were on the Bush side, you believed X set of facts, and if you were on the Democratic side, you believed Y set of facts. The wound was never healed. You got a situation where people decided to reality-shop and search for their own sets of facts at their own news sources, and they just kind of stopped coming to this common meeting-place where we all had the same commonly accepted set of facts.

This is part of what psychoanalysts call a perverse attitude toward reality. My colleague Susan Long has written a wonderful book titled The Perverse Organisation and its Deadly Sins, about the forces that push people into this destructive frame of mind.

The perverse state of mind acknowledges reality, but at the same time, denies it. This leads to a state of fixed ideation and fantasy to protect against the pain of seeing and not seeing at the same time.

I see perverse frames on mind in organizations and groups of all types. Scott Adams, the Kafka of our age, is the poet of the perverse in his Dilbert. Sometimes I see couples who can’t come close to agreeing on the bare facts of their lives together, let alone come to mutual understanding of one another’s inner experience. Usually one or both members are reality shopping. Spotting this sort of thing is a useful knack to acquire.

Taibbi’s got a book out. I suppose I’ll read it.

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