Fanboyism

2007-04-16 15:46

Engadget has a poll up, for “best console of 2006”. I first saw this through a link on a Playstation fan forum, where someone had cheerfully commented that “second place isn’t bad, with all the negative press”. Now, consider that, of the other three contenders, one is the Nintendo DS, which was released before 2006, and one is the “GP2X MK2”, a specialized hobbyist console. Obviously, the third is the Wii. The numbers were pretty solid last I checked; the Wii was at 63% of the vote, and the PS3 at 24%. Second place is, in this case, quite bad.

In fact, right now, a lot of PS3 owners are pretty touchy, and inclined to say some pretty mean things about people who like the Wii. It’s pretty easy and casual to dismiss them as “fanboys” — people too devoted to a thing to appreciate its faults, or to see the merits in its competition.

What seems to be hard for people to understand is that, at some level, fanboyism is the default state of humans. Fanboyism is the root of “religious violence”, and it is the root of football hooligans. It’s the basis of “partisan politics”. When we divide people into groups, powerful instincts kick in. We not only side with the people in our own group; we filter our experiences, giving them the benefit of the doubt, while denying it to members of competing groups. We remember others as stupider and less competent than they are, while playing up the skills and attributes of those who are like us.

Fanboyism is dangerous and powerful, and easily manipulated. One of the first things a good scammer will do is mention religion; in America, generally Christianity. Trying to get someone to participate in a scheme wherein you send them fraudulent checks and they send you real checks for some of the money? Start by talking about your strong Christian values. (Russell Seehafer wrote an excellent article on a related note, exploring why GodTube is stupid.) When people talk about the importance of “Christian values”, they’re relying on fanboyism to make people who identify as Christian rubber-stamp a policy which is, more likely than not, anything but.

This is a hard thing to overcome, because it’s a powerful instinct, bred in the bone for many generations. A few things to try:

1. Make a point of associating with people you don’t agree with, or don’t identify with.
2. Don’t get into tit-for-tat games. The fact that someone in “their” political party was also corrupt does not make it a non-issue that someone in “our” party was corrupt.
3. Reject privileges that come from groups. If special privileges are being extended to you because of your religion, or your color, or even just because of your favorite football team, reject them. Accepting these privileges leaves you even more emotionally invested in the distinctiveness of your group.
4. Include, rather than exclude. Don’t define policies in terms of the people you can remove or exclude; define them in terms of the people you are actively seeking. Don’t kick people out for not fitting the mold; welcome them for broadening your horizons.

Good luck.

Peter Seebach

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Comments

  1. Interesting.

    I noticed this phenomenon during my recent trip to the US. I was struggling to come up with a term for the concept and had settled with "groupthink". The impression that I got was that most of the people I met seemed to feel some need to identify with something outside of themselves. I had the distinct feeling that individuality was strongly discouraged.

    There was an incident where I attended a dinner theatre where everyone was asked to stand in support of "our" troops. Everybody stood: except (of course) I. The rancour I felt from those around me was quite palpable and people that had been quite chatty to me previously now ignored me. It became apparent that I was now "outside" and not worth talking to.

    On another occasion I saw a church of a different faith and I asked about the church and those who attended it. Nobody knew anyone personally who attended that church nor anything about it despite our host knowing virtually (it seemed) everybody in the town. When I expressed a desire to visit the church out of curiosity the reaction was quite surprising to me.

    I also had a couple of discussions of history with a few people. Now when I usually discuss history with people interested in history it becomes a lively debate as to the causes/effects etc. of history. However, in my discussions in the US it appeared that those I talked with knew of only one view of history - which they regarded as the correct one.

    There seemed to be a substantive lack of critical thinking and in particular: a lack of exposure to different opinions. Those I spoke to were unused to speaking with people who held contrary points-of-view and often took a differing opinion personally. I found this most disturbing. In contrast, one of my best friends holds an almost totally opposite opinion to me on virtually every issue. We can talk and discuss politics, religion, economics, philosophy, history etc. for hours on end and usually end up laughing our fool heads off.

    It really disturbs me greatly that in the US (a country that purports to be a bastion of democracy) there seems to be so many favoured truths that cannot be challenged. One of the strengths of any democracy is the education of its citizens. The difference between education and propaganda is that education teaches a person how to think whilst propaganda teaches us what to think. Whenever an opinion is "wrong", then usually you have propaganda.

    — Swart · 2007-04-17 20:28 · #

  2. Interesting comparison!

    — FatBurger · 2007-04-18 11:59 · #

  3. You're obviously a huge faggot.

    — Big Dick · 2007-04-19 22:37 · #

  4. Very eloquently put.

    — Morgan · 2008-02-04 20:15 · #

 
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