Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Groupthink / Groupspeak

It was an hour into the House of Commons debate on Ukraine when a conservative backbencher noted that a majority of Crimeans probably want to be a part of Russia, whether the recent referendum was a shoddy affair or not. Otherwise the Members of parliament spoke with a common voice, vilifying Russian "aggression". It wasn't so much a debate as a signal to the Russian authorities who may have been watching and a statement of British will. Groupspeak, for want of a better word.
Or was it an example of groupthink, "when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment”.
Perhaps the government has taken a more analytical approach behind closed doors, carefully considering all arguments and developing a strategy to play this international game of geopolitical power. Then spinning a line in public discourse in order to influence Russian behaviour.
Interactive Democracy may undermine these games of brinkmanship, because the debate would be more open. For example, using the ID system someone may point out that European money supported opposition in Ukraine leading to revolution; that Crimea has its own Parliament that voted to have the referendum; that Ukraine does not yet have a government approved via a general election; that the Ukrainian interim government planned to outlaw the Russian language, precipitating fears among Russian speakers; that the international community haven't advocated the right for self determination of Crimeans despite using this argument in other situations, such as the Falkland Islands; that troops on Crimean streets has not had a violent effect and may have actually calmed the situation; that there is no evidence of voter intimidation by troops; or that Crimea is geographically distinct from mainland Ukraine. (All stated as counterpoints to the much publicised arguments on the other side; facts not checked.) Others may state a desired objective, such as to promote democratic self determination and political transparency; or to reinforce democracy in other "threatened" states. And some may make predictions - that Russia won't relinquish its grip on Crimea in any event, for fear of looking weak.
Personally, I'd rather have an open, honest, probing and democratic debate than let politicians play geopolitical games. And I'd advocate the same for other countries, too.

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