One of the more interesting findings from social science is how groupthink makes people dumber. A group of even very smart people who all think alike is more likely to come to stupid decisions than a group with a collectively lower IQ that also has a more diverse arrangement of perspectives. That’s because many of the most productive questions are asked when people don’t all have the same set of priors. (This is why I’ve always argued that any meeting of government policy makers should always have at least one libertarian in the room. Asking, “Why should the government do anything about X at all?” or “Can the government actually fix this problem?” is the best way to begin any conversation about a proposed government intervention.)
Anyway, I bring this up because I would love to be a fly on the wall at PETA when they plan their publicity campaigns. I’ve always wanted to know what the conversation looked like when someone came up with the idea of “Holocaust on Your Plate” in which they claimed that eating animals was just like the Nazi extermination of Jews.
“I’ve got a great idea! Let’s show pictures of starved Jews in the death camps and tell people eating a chicken sandwich is no different.”
Did the assembled geniuses say, in turns, “Brilliant!” “Finally, we’re getting to the heart of the matter!”
Did anyone say “Uh, that’s not a great idea?” Or was the only criticism something like, “Does it go far enough?”
Anyway, that was a long time ago. But it came to mind when I saw the latest display of PETA genius:
I’d just love to hear the internal debates about this. “The Holocaust thing was great, but we gotta focus on what really moves people. Sex sells!”
According to the PETA website, they really think that they’ve got a winner this time. From their website:
“Meat Interrupts Your Sex Life!” That’s the message on new PETA billboards going up this summer in Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia—the country’s top producers of beef, pork, and poultry, respectively.
Did everybody behind this campaign really think that Texans, North Carolinians, and Georgians would turn their backs on BBQ and burgers because of this?
There’s nothing sexy about animal suffering and clogged arteries. PETA’s cheeky billboards will have diners swapping that deadly date-night steak, pork chop, or fried chicken for a vibrant veggie burger in a heartbeat.
Groupthink is a helluva drug.