Noting for future reference Robert Jay Lifton’s Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, whence the origins of the “Eight Criteria for Thought Reform” and the concept of the “thought-terminating cliché.” I’m alarmed that I recognize some of the eight criteria from some of the subcultures and cliques I’ve mucked around in. And some of the more public and dramatic dust-ups on LiveJournal — not naming names or citing examples, but the word “fail” comes to mind — seem to be manifestations of criteria three (“demand for purity”) and four (“confession”). It’s not the people who are diametrically opposed to your point of view that are most singled out for opprobrium, but the people who self-identify as belonging to the same group as you, but who are only 98 percent on the same page. For that remaining two percent, however, they must be flamed, and flamed good, until they repent their errors or leave the compound.
Groups and Subcultures
Last month, Reptile Channel’s Russ Case posted a blog entry on women and reptiles — specifically, on the growing presence of women in the amateur herpetocultural community. Whereas once reptiles were “usually considered a guy thing,” Case argues,
Somewhere along the way, things changed. The next time you’re at a reptile expo, pay attention and you’ll notice just as many women wandering the aisles and enthusiastically examining the reptiles on display as there are men. And they’re not just in the aisles — you’ll see plenty of women vendors selling reptiles and amphibians, too.
It’s something I’ve noticed as well — not the trend, because even after 11 years, I haven’t been in the community long enough, or paying attention to it enough, to be aware of the trend — but the presence of women in the herp community, wrangling frogs, snakes, and lizards with the best of them, and I was aware that it was counterintuitive insofar as common sense or received wisdom was concerned. I’ve also met women who were bolder and less afraid of snakes than their male partners (which I found very interesting).
This thread epitomizes something I’ve seen very often on photography discussion boards: a beginner asks for advice, and receives advice completely inappropriate for beginners. Someone asking for “the top five must-have lenses for a starting SLR photographer” gets recommendations for lenses that even pro photographers would have a hard time affording. Instead of beginners’ lenses, she gets dream lenses.
It’s the same as if someone asked what the best snake for a first-time snake keeper would be. (The correct answer is always “a Corn Snake.”) And it’s often happened that the recommended first snake is something that is not only obscure and expensive, but more difficult to keep. I can’t remember what it was that someone recommended, but I’ve actually seen this happen.
What’s going on here?