Monday, June 25, 2012

Blinded By Groupthink

Recently we have seen how top civil servants make stupid mistakes and say the stupid most things in public. Given these are supposedly the best talents in the land, at least best as public money can buy, how did this come about? One is reminded of the briefing RAND Corporation's Daniel Ellsberg gave to the then newly minted head of the National Security Council, Henry Kissinger:
"You've been a consultant for a long time, and you've dealt a great deal with top secret information. But you are about to receive a whole new slew of special clearances, maybe fifteen or twenty, that are higher than top secret...
     First, you'll feel exhilarated by some of the new information... you will forget there was ever a time that you didn't have it, and you'll be aware of the fact that you have it now and most others don't... and that all these other people are fools.
     Over a longer period of time... you'll eventually become aware of the limitations of this information... In the meantime, it will become difficult for you to learn from anybody who doesn't have these clearances.  Because you'll be thinking as you listen to him, "What would this man be telling me if he knew what I know?" And that mental exercise is so torturous that... you'll give it up and just stop listening...
     The danger is you'll become something like a moron.  You'll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they may have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours."

Two years later, Kissinger dismissed the advice of a team of consultants about the dangers of escalating the war into Cambodia because "They never had the clearances". The consultants turned out to be right, Kissinger wrong.(extract from "Econned", Yves Smith)

When the elitist mandarin class monopolise the discussions in their closed door meetings, the additional danger is that the these privileged few become overconfident in their groupthink and start drinking their own Kool Aid. That's when the country starts to fall apart.


  1. Hi Tattler,

    I am a regular reader of your blog.
    I am also in the Civil Service with access to privileged information. What you have just described is very true, and very worrying for the country.

    It doesn't help when you have the PAP lackeys who like to play up the "greatness" of the PAP leaders, when the truth is far from that. Any civil servant who works regularly with the politicians can attest to that.

    It's really a pity for the country that what you have just described is not made known to the Singapore public, thanks to our local media.
    I'm worried that by the time things blow up (if they have not already done so), our country would have to pay a terrible price.

  2. It is hapeening before our very eyes, right here!

  3. Right, why do we vote for these type of people.

    Vote them out.

    1. 60% of your close friends and relatives voted for the Proud Arrogant People.

      Please make it your personal mission to convert ONE of your friends/relatives into an Opposition voter.

      If all of us do this.
      40% will become 80%.

  4. Alternative explanation.

    THEY are just plain stupid people.

  5. They are just highly paid civil servants. Good for obeying orders but do not think out of the box. Mian concern is their own pension and pay. IQ High; Salary High; Quality ???

  6. The surest way to encourage groupthink within the PAP is to have a bunch of yes-men and put in place a party whip to ensure they vote accordingly.

    Having said, groupthink with greatminds can lead to unintended consequences, but groupthink with nitwits can only have one consequence.

    So what can LimSS, TeoSL, Vivian, TinPL, IreneNg, FooMH, Vikram, BaeyYK, LeeBW, etc plus the bunch of ex military buggers bring to the table that will effect a positive outcome for spore and its people?

    1. A genetic predisposition towards a short and happy life?

  7. The PRC trick to a faster S'pore passport, I was told, is to declare a high income voluntarily to IRAS so that one ends up paying a higher income tax. A small sacrifice to pay to show one's sincerity in becoming a citizen.

    I suppose it doesn't matter to IRAS if you are actually earning that income so long as you pay some tax.

  8. As far as I know there is no Kool Aid in the groupthink, only Singapore Sling. Unfortunately that is even worst than Kool Aid.

  9. We are the ones drinking the Kool Aid. We have accepted without any question another of their buddies, an investment? expert, into the board of directors of Temasek Holdings to direct them with more mistaken, loss making ventures.

  10. Sigh... No wonder they just don't seem to empathise with the ground sentiments. We are talking on different levels and frequencies totally out of syn. Remember when GY got ousted? He said that he didn't understand the overwhelming negative sentiments against them. All these while, he didn't realise until DD - Day of reckoning!

  11. Outstanding reads! If ever you need help in Green card application, I would be very happy to help you!