The Ukraine Crisis, Propaganda, and ‘Groupthink’

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“Groupthink”, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972), occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment” Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups. A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making. “[1]

What’s more interesting is the examples Janis included to explain the nature of groupthink.

“Current examples of groupthink can be found in the decisions of the Bush administration and Congress to pursue an invasion of Iraq based on a policy of ‘pre-emptive use of military force against terrorists and rogue nations’. The decision to rush to war in Iraq…has placed the US in an unenviable military situation in Iraq…costly in terms of military deaths and casualties, diplomatic standing in the world, and economically.”

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What about Putin and Russia? On the basis of what Janis had presented, the propaganda war waged by the US mirrors that seen in the war in Iraq. If the American government is suffering from ‘groupthink’, does this make U.S decision makers more dangerous? Emotions laying the foundations for war, not facts, are a steadfast way to destruction on both sides.

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He starts with the falsehood surrounding the non-existent nuclear weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein had “intended” to use as support that this propaganda exists. With Iraq fading from our memory, and the Afghanistan scenario wearing thin on the public, our attention is now turned to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Ukraine crisis. In The Pontiac Tribune, the ‘Putin Did It’ conspiracy is dissected to separate fact from fiction regarding claims made by the U.S.[2]

A year ago, it was a spat between the EU’s German Chancellor and Ukraine’s Yanukovych that had caused relations in the region to sour. Years of negotiation and agreement came to a head when Yanukovych announced that he needed “several billion euros in aid very quickly.” While the Chancellor mocked the Ukraine’s leader, for the failed negotiations that would strengthen Ukraine ties to the EU through policy, these figures were largely ignored. Ukraine wanted to become the bridge between the East and West, but not at a cost of losing $3 billion per year in lost exports to Russia. Germany was telling the Ukrainian government that it must sacrifice these ties if it wanted to forge closer relations with the EU. [3]

Russian President Putin and German Chancellor Merkel answer journalists' questions during a joint news conference in Moscow's Kremlin

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On closer examination of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, we realize that the conflict in Ukraine must rest partially on her shoulders. The $15 billion bailout [4]offered to the Ukrainian government from Putin in late 2013 always fails to reach main stream media headlines, for reasons that we should know by now. Groupthink becomes a plausible theory when we start addressing the less publicized facts, and contrast them to the “facts” being touted as truth in the Mainstream Media.


[1] Retrieved from http://www.psysr.org/about/pubs_resources/groupthink%20overview.htm :

Janis, Irving L. (1972). Victims of Groupthink. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Janis, Irving L. (1982). Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. Second Edition. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

[2] Parry, R for Consortium News. (2015, February 16). The ‘Putin Did It’ Conspiracy Theory. [The Pontiac Tribune]. Retrieved from http://pontiactribune.com/putin-did-it-conspiracy-theory/

[3] (2014, November 24). Summit of Failure: How the EU Lost Russia over Ukraine. [Spiegel Online International]. Retrieved from http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/war-in-ukraine-a-result-of-misunderstandings-between-europe-and-russia-a-1004706.html

[4] Mackinnon, M. (2013, December 17). Putin outbids EU with $15-billion bailout offer to Ukraine. [The Globe and Mail]. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/putin-outbids-eu-with-15-billion-bailout-offer-to-ukraine/article16015367/

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