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This is part four of a three part series on Sheeple :: Cause I’ll do what I want!!

“What the hell are sheeple?” :: asks no one.  But then someone does ask :: because they struggle to understand portmanteaus :: and suddenly asking becomes all the rage and every last one of the sheeple steps up to the microphone and asks :: “What the hell are sheeple?”

Fucking sheeple … so predictable.

Previously we discussed {and then immediately forgot because uncomfortable truths are best left unexamined} the Milgram experiment :: the Asch conformity experiment :: and the Zimbardo prison experiment.  Each of those famous studies showed that humans have a strong {scary strong} tendency to conform and obey.  But that’s all old science :: and old science is for dudes with beards.  So let’s take a shave :: and leap forward into modernity.

In the video Stephen Colbert interviews James Fowler who :: along with Nicholas Christakis :: has been studying {and writing books about} how people are influenced by their social networks.  Their conclusions are eyeopening :: even if you {like me!} were already under the impression that humans are worthless drones who would rather choke to death on a chicken bone than waste a solitary moment on independent thought.

Doctors Fowler and Christakis used the medical records from the Framingham Heart Study {which is big … and old} :: to track how social networks effected various aspects of health.  Turns out :: if one of your BFFs starts growing a massive pair of ManBoobs :: then you are 50% more likely to start growing your own voluptuous set of non-milkers.  50% :: Holy Shit! Stranger still :: if your friend’s friend starts sprouting a pair {but your friend doesn’t} :: you’re still 20% more likely than the average.  And 5%-ish if it’s your friend’s friend’s friend.

The same kind of eerie correlation holds true for smoking ::  loneliness :: happiness :: depression :: alcohol consumption … etc. etc. :: probably any behavior with a social dynamic.  Further elucidation from Clive Thompson’s excellent New York Times Magazine story {link} …

“Christakis and Fowler’s strangest finding is the idea that a behavior can skip links — spreading to a friend of a friend without affecting the person who connects them. If the people in the middle of a chain are somehow passing along a social contagion, it doesn’t make sense, on the face of it, that they wouldn’t be affected, too. The two researchers say they don’t know for sure how the link-jumping works. But they theorize that people may be able to pass along a social signal without themselves acting on it.”

Also creepy/strange …

“They discovered that behaviors appear to spread differently depending on the type of friendship that exists between two people. In the Framingham study, people were asked to name a close friend. But the friendships weren’t always symmetrical. Though Steven might designate Peter as his friend, Peter might not think of Steven the same way; he might never designate Steven as a friend. Christakis and Fowler found that this “directionality” mattered greatly. According to their data, if Steven becomes obese, it has no effect on Peter at all, because he doesn’t think of Steven as a close friend. In contrast, if Peter gains weight, then Steven’s risk of obesity rises by almost 100 percent. And if the two men regard each other as mutual friends, the effect is huge — either one gaining weight almost triples the other’s risk.”

The idea of the rugged individualist who cuts his own way through life like the Marlboro man on a fucking unicorn :: seems to be about as realistic as Santa Clause and Leprechaun Gold. Humans are :: surprise surprise :: deeply effected by the actions of others.  Your friend’s fat friends are making you fat :: you don’t walk {or chubb out} alone.

In all of the Sheeple experiments we’ve discussed :: the researchers were trying to sort out how people behave under what were basically “normal” circumstances.  Re-watch the BBC recreation of the Miligram experiment and see just how subtle and innocuous were the promptings that lead to such a high proportion of test subjects administering the massive 450V shock.  But our subject is not a part of the “normal” world :: it’s much darker here :: much colder and more sinister.

The D-bags that take residence on this blog are cynically :: and viciously :: manipulating core human tendencies.  They herd people into a group :: encourage them to isolate themselves from previous groups and attachments :: and then use the group against itself in order to extract the maximum amount of cash/debt from each individual within the group.

If humans are such slaves to social pressures in innocent environments :: how can they be expected to resist professional manipulators who have made careers around shepherding groups to slaughter?

What the hell are sheeple?  They are just people … and they need to be protected.

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