The Emperor Has No Clothes

But you might not say anything if nobody else is:

And something curious here: variations on this experiment have found that, if just one person starts to speak the truth of his or her perceptions, then the group’s “spell” is weakened considerably and the bandwagon starts to stall.

Perhaps this explains why discussion threads at websites devoted to ideological causes (atheism, politics, a particular religion, etc) can become so heated when someone—a “troll”—enters the discussion and challenges whatever group consensus has already been achieved.

The trolls must be undressed lest our emperors be.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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5 Responses to The Emperor Has No Clothes

  1. andrewclunn says:

    See I NEVER do this, which explains both my contrarian nature, my early antisocial stigma, and my valuing of truth. By moving from place to place so often when I was young I would find that what was ‘normal’ seemed entirely subjective from place to place and quickly learned to reject group dynamics (later learning to fake acceptance of them, where basically agree with the group, but know that I’m only doing so for social reasons and that I’m lying when I do so).

    It’s actually one of the biggest reasons why Objectivism appeals to me so much. It says that, yes there are advantages to be gained by lying, but the truth and integrity to it is the only real virtue that can be found in a material non-deistic world, and therefore lying for conformity’s sake should be rejected on moral grounds.

    Also as a side note, I have never encountered more group thought prone forums than the supposedly secular ones.

    http://sguforums.com/index.php

    for example, is an echo chamber of the highest order.

    • santitafarella says:

      Andrew,

      I’ll check that forum out. And perhaps you already knew this, but Dante’s Inferno places those lacking integrity—that is, deceivers—in the lowest circles of hell. These are those who fake the truth to their families, their benefactors (such as Judas with Jesus), etc.

      In fact, here are the circles in general outline: the outer circles are devoted to animal impulses that go uncontrolled (gluttony, adultery, etc), the middle circles belong to those who commit violence (against self, others, nature, God etc), and lastly, the inner circles: deceivers; fakers of the truth; betrayers.

      I’m not sure I agree with Dante about betrayers because it places too high a value on loyalty for loyalty’s sake and has (historically) led to institutional abuses (“I was just following orders”).

      But, in general, these circles possess a rather admirable moral system and kind of fit with Objectivism pretty well, don’t they? Rand would also say that you should have the dignity of self control, do no violence to achieve your values, and never fake reality.

      Dante’s three animals symbolizing these three main realms are: (1) the lean and ever hungry she-wolf (representing animal compulsions not sublimated); (2) the lion (representing violence); and (3) the leopard (representing cunning and deceit).

      —Santi

      • andrewclunn says:

        I’ve read Dante’s Inferno. There is a lot about many Christian philosophers and moral teaching that I like, however I know that these moral codes arose out as an almost evolutionary process, and have been made to fit with certain interpretations (often jimmy-rigged ones) rather than derived from it. It was in fact less for my benefit that I adopted a different label (My morality could be ‘justified’ under Christian inspired Deism). i simply realized that if I ever had children, then it would fall to me at times to explain why I held one view over another and it is for the sake of clarity that I remove the unnecessary (and often counter-productive) step of scripture toward justifying morality.

  2. santitafarella says:

    Andrew:

    I agree that religious morality is not fully conscious of how it has evolved. Unlike Rand, who self consciously starts with metaphysical axioms and works her way down to epistemology, ethics, politics, and aesthetics, religion is more haphazard and historical. But when it comes time for my children to absorb moral lessons, I might read out passages from both The Fountainhead and Dante. Edward Tooey (if I recall his name from Rand’s novel correctly) is an exquisitely devilish character, well portrayed—and a good example of someone who is a Iago obsessed with bringing down one of his betters.

    Of course, then you could read Shakespeare’s Iago as well.

    —Santi

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