Saturday, February 05, 2005

Eason Jordan and the risky shift

Way way back in college in the 60s, when I was a psych/soc major, I was required to take many courses--many more than I actually cared to--on group behavior. One of the more tedious among them featured research, and the culmination of the semester was an original research project each of us students was required to design and perform on his/her own. Ugh! To make matters worse, I wasn't even allowed to choose the subject of my own research--it had to be, just had to be, an exploration of the phenomenon known as "the risky shift."

Well, at least the name had a certain panache. "Risky shift"--what could it be? I found out that it refers to a tendency in homogeneous groups (bear with me here; it's going to become relevant, I promise) such that, in the process of making decisions, members will tend to make riskier and rasher statements and judgments than they ordinarily would. It's a form of groupthink that is common in gatherings of like-minded individuals.

I think the risky shift may be behind Eason Jordan's recent remarks about the US military "targeting" journalists. Emboldened by his presence in the bosom of this simpatico group, he probably couched his accusation in even more extreme terms than he otherwise would have. No doubt Jordan was absolutely stunned that Gergen and Frank voiced any objections whatsoever, because he had counted on them, as members of the group, to support his assertions. And he certainly wasn't counting on ever having to prove them or produce any evidence to back them up. Perhaps he didn't even think that anyone present would betray him--and the group--by telling the outside world what he'd said.

UPDATE: Some possible corroboration of my theory, from a Michelle Malkin interview with Gergen: "Gergen, who has known Jordan for some 20 years, told me Jordan 'realized as soon as the words had left his mouth that he had gone too far' and 'walked himself back'....Gergen also told me that he was under the impression that the panel was off the record."


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