Groupthink v. Vigilant Appraisal

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download


  • The Modern Era: Groupthink vs. Vigilant Appraisal

    Giaan Nguyen

    GOVT 2305: Federal Government

    Professor Darrell Lovell

    16 June 2014

  • Nguyen 1

    The Modern Era: Groupthink vs. Vigilant Appraisal

    In the cold events of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy had to turn to

    another group decision method, one that would work in the facing Cuban Missile Crisis. The

    presence of groupthink was rather too problematic in effectiveness. As defined by Irving Janis,

    groupthink occurs when irrational choices in the comfort of group security are enacted, made

    possible by a number of factors: extreme negative views of the enemy contribute to the desire of

    taking extreme risks in retaliation; constant pressure bars members from expressing disagreement

    towards other members and important figures, such as the leaders of their representative groups

    and, obviously, the president; the desire of being secure in conformity and unanimity prompts

    members not to take awareness in consequences and ethics of their decisions.

    In an accomplished contrasting effort in the face of the crisis, Kennedys antithetical

    framework of vigilant appraisal is marked by the feeling of insecurity and irritableness,

    attempting to rectify the factors of groupthink, those of which include limiting the involvement

    of the president in the sessions, assigning each member the role of critical thinker, and allowing

    decisions to be questioned upon deep consideration of the potential consequences. However,

    Kennedys effective tactic would only be used in his era as other leaders fall back on groupthink.

    With a shift towards the unitary system of decision-making due to the nature of hysteria,

    the lower levels of government tend to adapt a more groupthink-like approach. The unitary

    system involves an individual having central reign over the decisions involved with little to no

    criticism left to the public or the workers. When Franklin D. Roosevelt took over the presidency,

    he began New Deal programs, dominating over the government in passing new reform, relief,

    and recovery legislations (New). With one-fourth of the nation gripped by unemployment, low

    morale would be commonsensical, yet they all experienced high vitality, despite the bare

  • Nguyen 2

    improvement actually done. By Roosevelts nearly complete takeover of the government, the

    matter of the Great Depression gave rise to two approaches throughout the pre-Kennedy era: the

    existence of a catalyst to induce the unitary system and the importance of an established directive

    to the people.

    Indubitably, factors like fear and worry provided a desire to fall back on groupthink for

    comfort. Congresss sudden willingness to pass multiple legislations such as the Emergency

    Banking Relief Act and the National Industrial Recovery Act emphasized Roosevelts easiness to

    influence their decisions during his first term. However, the president is not always the chief

    ruler of the unitary-like system. At the height of the Second Red Scare, the public grew in

    paranoia as negative attention was focused upon the gaining prominence of the American

    Communist Party. Senator Joseph McCarthy was easily able to influence the State Department to

    convict and execute Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for so-claimed espionage (Rosenberg). Even

    President Eisenhower dared not to confront McCarthy (Joseph).

    In addition, the early usage of the media provided reassurance to the people. Roosevelts

    fireside chats gave the American public promising faith in the government and his programs

    (FDRs). Even McCarthys televised hearings relieved the American people from the alleged

    communists in the nation, even though most of them were probably innocent (Joseph). Both

    cases emphasize early media as an advocate of groupthink and the medium to relieving the

    worrying factor, for the comfort of the people is reciprocated in and by the comfort of officials.

    Adversely, although the post-Kennedy era continued to see the existential catalyst as well,

    the media played a different role: its growing state serves to attempt to limit the utility of

    groupthink in the post-Kennedy era, especially with the increased involvement in international

    affairs, but did not come about until the 1980s. The events surrounding the Watergate scandal

  • Nguyen 3

    saw top executives negligent to protest in defiance the hysterical Richard Nixon, who was

    already unpopular due to the Vietnam War, as the unitary-like system was still embedded

    (Watergate). In the Iran-Contra affair, the National Security Council secretly sold weapons to

    Iran and gave the profits to Nicaraguan contras not in fear but in desiring support of the rebels,

    not accounting for the dire consequences (Vile). Even Kennedy himself saw use to attack the

    irritable newspaper reporters and editors in an effort to censor the Bay of Pigs decision process.

    The media soon began to become a devils advocate against the government, like that of CNN

    and Fox News. The process is slow, given that much of television is geared towards

    entertainment, yet the presence of the political media has impacted on politicians and decision-

    makers, forcing them to look back on their past and current decisions. However, it is debatable

    that barely any departure from groupthink has occurred. Despite opposition from other nations,

    President George W. Bush proceeded with the war on terrorism in Iraq upon the September 11

    attacks, his actions supported enthusiastically by the Americans (What). Negative extremisms

    such as Saddam Hussein supporting al-Qaeda and fears upon the terrorist attacks left the

    decision-makers vulnerable and wanting to feel safe as initial support for the Iraq War was

    exemplified by much of the nation.

    Since the Cuban Missile Crisis, there has not been any use of vigilant appraisal

    unfortunately. Most of the presidents, both pre- and post-Kennedy, seem to have carried too

    much of their own hysterias and worst moments of the time in order to fully depart from

    groupthink and the unitary system, despite the potential archetype made during Kennedys term.

    It is by nature for humans to wish to feel safe and sound. The only change is the role of the

    media, which has developed over the decades to become more independent and critical of the

    decision-making and has given sight to certain features of groupthink within the modern era.

  • Works Cited

    "FDRs Fireside Chat on the Recovery Program." National Archives and Records Administration.

    National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. Web. 16 June 2014.

    "Joseph McCarthy." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2014. Web. 16 June 2014.

    "New Deal." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2014. Web. 16 June 2014.

    "Rosenberg trial." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2014. Web. 16 June 2014.

    Vile, John R. "Iran-contra scandal." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2014. Web. 16 June 2014.

    "Watergate." Watergate. United States Senate, n.d. Web. 16 June 2016


    "What is Groupthink?" What is Groupthink? PsySR, n.d. Web. 16 June 2014.