we are the swarm (why bandwagons are good)


“Groupthink.”  A rather unfriendly description of any time people are on the same page.

It is certainly true that there are many, many examples of people uncritically accepting and repeating the ideas of a group that they belong to.  Really this is not so much “groupthink,” which could be an intelligent form of collaborative brainstorming, so much as “uncritical following”, “blind allegiance,” etc — and really most of the time it is not so much a case of following the group’s party line as much as following the leadership’s.  Which can be fine, if they’re actually correct, though there is definitely an over-reliance in even the best left groups on taking signals from one key group of individuals, and giving everything else the cold shoulder.

However, I’d say the Left is overwhelmingly correct on most social issues, most of the time.  It’s impossible for a single individual to be an expert in everything.  So you find the bandwagons that are correct most of the time, strap yourself in, and oppose the bandwagons that are wrong most of the time.

Have you ever shared some item on social media which you later regretted?  Raising my hand, guilty!  However, the rapid speed and depth of awareness-spreading is so beneficial that it cannot even be compared to the minor damage caused by the occasional rumor, lie, mistake, or lack of citing.

Sometimes it can seem corny and forced to be on the same page all of the time.  Sometimes the celebrity causes of the Left seem random or artificial or forced (though they are typically an iconic example of a larger thing).  It’s important sometimes NOT to be on the same page; otherwise we have too much in common with Stalinist show trials.

However, the hard truth is that sometimes we need to mobilize around an issue or incident with a speed and bulk of numbers which disallows time for discussion or reflection.  This can take the form of following the directives of an elected leader in a group (and reviewing their decisions later), or simply the emergence of an activist-network, social-media, mass-attendance mobscene.

Is this a disciplined approach?  Is this an orderly approach?  No, it’s none of those.  But it’s how real life works; it’s also how Anonymous works, in all its strangeness and hyper-relevance.  People vote with their feet.

Let’s all just admit that the critical mass factor is key to any rebellion, uprising, or revolution.  It involves a lot of people who only instinctually understand what is going on and to some degree get swept up in the moment.  We should try to work with these people, during these moments of mass-outpouring, and run educational discussions so people are a bit more self-conscious about WHY they’re doing what they’re doing.

But mostly we should just be glad they’re on our side — and not the other side!

Really the fact that our ideas of class warfare have an instinctual, non-intellectual resonance with large numbers of people should be something we take as a compliment.  It means our ideas are organic and relevant, and actually represent the people, as opposed to being some little freakshow off in the corner, which is how we feel a lot of the time.  We should feel blessed to be respiring in unison with the living breath of the population.

Rather than seeing this as exceptional, it should be our permanent orientation — to bridge the gap between the self-conscious tiny few radicals, and the “apolitical” but aggrieved and solution-seeking masses.  The synthesis of these two is itself a form of organization.  It is an organization without formal boundaries, sometimes dormant and invisible, yet nonetheless very much existing; this organic swarm is the thing of which I consider myself a member.

Wrap it up with an extended Gramsci quote:


Pages 338-340 of the below:


3 thoughts on “we are the swarm (why bandwagons are good)

  1. Pingback: we are the swarm (part 2) | spreadtheinfestation

  2. There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come, yes? I don’t think that the masses are not up-to-date on thinking about the problems or the solution. People see the issues but there is a reaction only when that action, sometimes suddenly, becomes possible.

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