Community, Fractious Overstatement and Hiveminds

13 min readSep 9, 2023

Differences are inevitable, yet in the final analysis, everyone on earth is part of the human community.

For most of the last century its main division has been into blocs aligned with the US and Russia, each being a tad possessed by the respective hivemind over which their intelligence communities presided.


Hiveminds are simple and ubiquitous things that arise when people share a mentality by going with emotional flow rather than circumspect logic.

Naturally there would be a well-developed academic pedigree for this concept, if academia had not bred confusion faster than insight in the relevant disciplines (which may seem reflected in a decline of Western society).

As it is, we have to be content on this topic, as for most, with first principles and common sense considerations, against a backdrop of whatever experiments might be relatively sound and well known. Yet for now we can even leave the latter to those with recognised expertise, for little is required in this case besides two principles.

The first is that emotion affects volition more immediately than mental reflection. The second is that, as a consequence, reflection is often subordinated to feeling.

Perhaps a large part of what distinguishes our species is that at least occasionally, our reflections are not so subordinate. Sometimes we exercise restraint and properly think an issue through.

Animals, however, rarely engage in any reflection (let alone soundly) and that is right for them. If starlings, for instance, were much inclined to deliberate about the directions they take in formation, they could never move together in such efficient and majestic ways as they do.

This might be an edifying example of what can lie between the evolutionary extremes of swarming insects and wisely sovereign people. Yet for clear contrast with uniquely human virtue, hivemindery is indeed a perfect designation. Lest that appear an unwholesome prejudice, I should emphasise that nothing prevents humans acting and thinking in rightly purposeful — even majestically — coordinated ways. Indeed, it is mainly just with regard to antagonism that group thought and action are problematic and then only from the side of error and injustice. Nevertheless, they are at least that problematic and the generic name for this opposition is war, the physical kind merely being the most corporeal expression.

Physical conflict between groups of humans condenses from mental and emotional levels, generally on account of how busily antagonistic one or more hiveminds happen to be. Again, the pejorative overtones of the term are not incidental or unfitting and indeed, hiveminds are the most fundamental and problematic aspect of the world’s problems.

However, as being in essence a dynamic, no hivemind can be strictly identified with any group or syndicate, except by way of accordingly erroneous bigotry. A particular hivemind is at most a temporal aspect of a group and its members and by no means an exclusive one. For any notion of such exclusivity would require the entire group to be in every way fully possessed by exactly one hivemind, which is impossible given the complexity of human life and individuality. There are indeed misgivings, however over-ridden they might be, even amid the worst cult atrocities.

Whether secular or religious, orthodoxy itself nonetheless regularly manifests cultish tendencies with regard to dissidence. Such testify to something everyone is deeply familiar with as a common and dynamic factor behind group antagonism and pathology, but which has been hard to name hitherto, because it happens to be precisely — hence as paradoxically simple and complex as — hivemindery.

The rare occasions when it throws entire countries into madness have been called mass formation, as recently described by Mattias Desmet in accordance with all of the above, such that I dare say the phenomenon is too generic and universally familiar to be a specific discovery except in regard to aspects of its most profound or curious dimensions and manifestations.

Groupthink and Evil

‘Groupthink’ is a preexisting name for the same phenomenon and there needn’t be a problem with having more than one, especially where differing overtones and degrees of seriousness apply. Indeed the difference is neatly complementary in this case, as the relevant state of mind trades off personal reflection for collective efficiency within a certain frame. Depending on perspective, this can accordingly be viewed as a fall or rise of functional intelligence. The relatively static term ‘groupthink’ emphases its fall with a phonetic and logical structure that harkens to Orwell, whereas hivemindery covers the spectrum more evenly with a due emphasis on activity.

Moreover, it does this without obscuring the fact that insect-like collective efficiency is a principle in contrast with any light of soul, spirit, or even sound reflection, but at the same time, not at all evil per se.

A token of hivemindery is evil when the possibility of it being unreasonable is dismissed by its owner in an unreasonable way.

Yet this happens often enough that hivemindery accounts for the bulk of evil on earth.

To see this requires appreciation of both social and personal factors, in a just balance. Comparing the worst personal engagements in conspiring and hivemindery, the former are by far more evil. However, they are also much rarer, as well as typically dependent on the latter for reach and success.

This is perhaps best illustrated by a conception of the naive Nazi — someone who trusted everything Goebels said as established fact and on that basis fought valiantly for Germany in the second world war. Even if nobody strictly fit that bill, some must have been closer to the description than others, on a spectrum covering the entire army. However trivial this may seem, it carries a point with regard to distributed, symbiotic culpability.

Collective Pathology

All conscious human interdependence is community and everything untoward about it ultimately reduces to three things: hivemindery, a much smaller fraction of conspiracy and confluences of these.

As a rule, contentious discourse runs these three together, in whichever way procures the greatest impact. Such tends to leave everyone’s brain, however noble or intelligent, thoroughly scrambled in the relevant domain, except with regard to occasional production of superficially compelling narrative.

This has come to a point where for nearly every controversial thing X, there is some contingent which expects all of humanity to see condemnation of X as obligatory.

Indeed, this very concept of condemnation is in the final analysis a pathetic and logically abortive fusion of ruination and resentful solidarity, as if the former were by fiat contingent on nothing but the latter.

One might protest that rallying such raw sentiment is crucial to getting things done. But that is actually most of the point: lowest common denominators are the currency of debasement and things are so debased that logic per se gets thrown under the bus.

There really is a massive coherence deficit in contentious discourse these days, which in regard to analysis and all manner of narrative from crude to baroque, profoundly impedes society if not causes it to regress.

A tabulation of distinct factors relating to the topical mixed and conflated categories may thus be handy. Please bear in mind here that confluences means between instances of one or both of hivemindery or conspiracy as well as broader conditions and to any degree of complexity. It is also worth marking that validity of this table as a conceptual structure with the specified columns and rows is independent of the accuracy with which its body may be filled out in regard to any given scenario. The following completion is a purely illustrative suggestion of relative weights corresponding to a scenario which in this case is unspecified yet offered as perhaps typical.

Having lacked a more broadly serviceable term than ‘groupthink’ (‘hivemind’ may have been as common, but ‘hivemindery’ was never a common term and no such terms were generally defined) it is no wonder that apparent collective efficiencies with a pathological dimension tend to be over-identified as conspiracy, especially when it is the least abstract, most sensational and thus handiest for narrative of the three.

Consequently, hivemindery and confluence tend to be underestimated if not downplayed. Moreover, the latter in particular bears consideration as multidimensional, since confluence can apply for many differentiable elements of a what is conversely a united activity in some regard. Its proportions with regard to conspiracy and hivemindery might thus effectively be intractable as often as not.


The biggest hiveminds in all domains naturally overlap with their respective orthodoxy, or whatever the most common view might otherwise be called.

In principle, from there it is infinitely divisible; in practice, down to whatever hivemindery is evinced on the lowest scales.

Again, groups are not hiveminds as such and neither are opinions held in common. Rather, hivemindery is a dynamic which contributes (along with other factors) to the collectivising and thus coalescence and fortification of opinion.

Paradoxically, hivemindery may be and often is stimulated by antipathy to other hivemindery and this regularly occurs across the line between establishment and resistance.

Oppositions to orthodoxy thereby, often all-too readily, shake out their own orthodox and heterodox differentiations as flow on-effects of the same fractiousness.

Modelling Mindsets

Such turbocharging of hivemindery is perhaps most intense and obvious on the platform formerly known as Twitter. Yet this phenomenon is perennial, albeit in generally less dramatic guises.

The line of least resistance for hiveminds that clash with anything (including other hiveminds) is to indulge presumption about any mindsets they are thereby up against. Though being central to prejudice and bigotry, this is mostly unrecognised as such due to normalisation of cheap and disparaging estimations of psychological states, which in our times go hypocritically hand-in-hand with scapegoating of its politically incorrect forms.

The terms ‘bigotry’ and ‘prejudice’ are thus typically reserved for the latter, providing extra assurance that one is free of both while habitually exercising them in regard to holders of politically incorrect views.

Narrative and Journalism

Conspiratorial tendency, if not planning, is thus over-ascribed due to three converging phenomena:

  1. Its being, of all collective pathology, the best defined and most sensational.
  2. Its being a lively token, of and for, disparaging psychological ascriptions.
  3. Its being perceived or imagined amid group splintering or strain.

Such a climate prevails over the fundamental ecosystem in which journalism finds itself located and thus inevitably compromised with regard to its charter to inform objectively.

The degree of this compromise has naturally tended to increase in tandem with both political polarisation and the cheapening of mainstream journalism (which latter is a direct result of its business model having been radically disrupted by the internet).

Reasonable dialectic hinges on agreed premises and valid inferences therefrom, yet the trend of opinion writing and verbal debate has, to extent that it ever abided there, veered from this toward contentious, performative narrative. This endpoint is also increasingly approximated, from a slightly different direction, by standard reporting.

Synoptically, this is a metastasis of shameless hivemindery, which has spread throughout most of the Western world at a minimum.

Who Isn’t Open to Some Conspiracy Theory?

While the orthodox may protest that conspiracy theory is the sole preserve of dissenters, this is in fact a typical example of the malaise described above, being a pejoratively-termed psychological stereotype and demonstration of all but categorically blindness to the relevant irony.

Indeed dissenters now stand convicted, after being charged on broadly and intensely divisive premises, of literally conspiring to overthrow the US government.

Objection that there is no irony here due to pivotal difference between conspiracy theory and conspiracy fact would only increase what it denies, via the fact that “truther” is the foremost historical pejorative designation of conspiracy theorists.

Bear in mind here that a condition of courts being reliable is that lawfare remains off the radar. Quadruple indictment of the most popular presidential candidate under similarly partisan logic, however, pushes any satisfaction of that condition well beyond reach.

Nor does the rearview mirror offer a better view, showing years of defective, orthodox allegations of devastating Russian interference in US democracy.

Though it has never been kosher in the mainstream to admit attribution of conspiracy, or, prior to the phenomena just described, engage in it explicitly, more implicit and diluted versions of such attribution have always been ubiquitous there and everywhere else. Appreciation of how and why is perhaps best fostered with a digression here concerning an equally pertinent matter.

Conspiracy and Controlled Opposition

Conspiracy theory is both rife and denied in establishment, but there is certainly no shortage of it among the heterodox, where it is more overtly fashionable. One very potent form happens to be unique to that side of the fence and develops through suspicion of infiltration by agents of the establishment, such that each side of an internal division is liable to cast the other as “controlled opposition.”

Such controlled opposition is more conceptually problematic than typically assumed. Presumably it lies along a spectrum, which might be thought to extend from paid frauds to self-censoring social media users, with variously compromised and conflicted interests woven throughout the middle.

But in virtue of being an epithet, it tends to reduce things to black and white terms, in ways that are rarely as worthwhile as they might seem. Though more or less treacherous by definition, semi-controlled opposition can still do good in specific, needed ways and sometimes on the whole.

Labelling something as controlled opposition is a blunt instrument effecting complex drama beyond the target area, whether or not there is a strong premise for the contention, which is generally better presented on its own.

Part of what motivates it is murky awareness that conspiracy and hivemindery can be analysed as a continuum of disposition with antagonism at the midpoint. Around this point each supports and enables the other, thereby forming part of its extended nature, along with various relevant confluences.

In fact such a notion of conspiracy is articulated in pragmatically significant detail by Julian Assange as part of the theoretical motivations of Wikileaks upon its genesis.

In brief, human networks that share an interest function instinctively as constraints on information flow that foster asymmetry of power in their favour.

At the opening of this brief essay he cites among others, Lord Halifax (1881–1959): “The best party is but a kind of conspiracy against the rest of the nation.”

It might also be fitting to gesture here toward the present account’s bio: “…whole truth…offends all parties,” as well as a prior article: ‘Virtual Conspiracies Could be Worse than Real Ones.”

In any case, Assange clarifies the concept he works with as not necessarily conspiracy which is mindful of being such per se: “…collaborative secrecy, working to the detriment of a population, is enough to define their behavior as conspiratorial.”

Logical opposition between interests is the essence of antagonism, which is understood secondarily as a type of sentiment which tends to accompany mindfulness of one’s involvement in such opposition. There is also a tertiary, volitional sense of deliberate hostile action, reflected by dynamic overtones of the term.

When the latter action is covert, illegal and collective, with however few participants, there is conspiracy in the fullest and most technical sense.

But when volition and sentiment are minimal, such that joint opposition proceeds in the least mindful way, there is merely a type of hivemindery that is barely antagonistic on balance and which amounts to conspiracy only in the weakest metaphorical sense.

Most of the excess friction in our world, including immoderate speculation and claims about controlled opposition is arguably due to under and over-estimations of the three mentioned senses of anatagonism and relations between them, especially in regard to mindfulness and to what degree it may apply or not at various levels of depth and detail.

Mainstream Derangement

Grotesque and disastrous contempt for such crucial nuance is ironically now emerging via intrusion to the mainstream of alleged “disinformation experts.”

These effectively flatter the most unhinged traditional conspiracy theorist, by exceeding them all in crudity of network diagrams and defamatory claims built thereon with maximally loaded terms and the most glaring non-sequiturs.

Much of this appears due to a sense that their acquaintance with formal methods of deception, used in state espionage, grounds an unfailing capacity to positively identify and prove as much on a basis of “unmistakable signs,” which they oft exhibit in greater measure themselves when making the relevant Swiss-cheese case.

Nor is there anything anomalous or sui-generis about the development, which is just perennial and increasingly overt intercourse between intelligence agencies and media organisations.

Naturally this may sound overstated to many, which is nevertheless fine, if not in fact all the better, to impress that the measure of over and under-statement is reality (however obscure it may seem), as opposed to appearance or estimation thereof.


Deviations of narrative from truth are more characteristically via systematic overstatement than demonstrable falsehood, though the latter is increasingly common. Adversarial contexts are thus now little besides escalation of contradiction, fueled by sprinkled factoids.

Viewed as dialectic, this can still be meaningful, even if only by demonstrating which side if not both is devoid of a clue.

In maximal contrast to all that, is having both sides focused on this question:

What potentially agreed premises entail something, agreement on which would narrow the gap between our positions?

All genuine discourse is rooted in this question, which serves to clarify how typically adulterated it is.

Fractious overstatement is to error and deceit as hivemindery is to “myth” and conspiracy. It is also the easiest of all these to effectively renounce, personally and collectively, resulting in massive attenuation to harm from all of the rest.

Nor would this come at any real cost of influence or impact. For aside from the occasional heuristic aspect, overstatement is just tantamount to hollow shouting, which only carries for a time in echo chambers, in ways that undermine them in the estimation of everyone else.

Resorting to fractious overstatement is typically just due to combativeness (or sensationalism). While this naturally attends perception that combat is appropriate, it is often counterproductive — even and perhaps especially in combat per se, where hostile attitude is at best auxiliary to applied intelligence and proficiency.

Running on overstatement, orthodox or dissenting, narrative is generally a write-off in regard to being reasonable.

In other words, any truth it conveys is typically misleading in situ.

A Mentality of Community?

Dialectic is not for changing minds but increasing understanding, however slightly and in whatever regard. If this results in no change of mind, so what?

Yet if it does, again, so what? Aversion to a rational change of mind is puerile and demanding or striving to produce one tends to be contemptuous of self-determination.

Dialectic and debate are about rationales, regarding which too much light can never be shed, as all mindful choices and consequences thereof are due to them.

If it could make sense to think you have some enemy on the plane of abstracta, know thy enemy would only be a more pertinent maxim.

As for friends, what harm can discussion ever be, if not fractious in ways ideally avoided through mindfulness of all the foregoing?

Just remember what current convention forgets: speculation and presumption fall categorically short of knowledge.




Were anyone to discover the whole truth, they would sadly find it offends all parties.