I’ve finally gotten round to reading Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker, on the basis that if so many smart people say it’s a good thing, it must be a good thing. I’ll finish the thing before I say much about it (suffice to say I find it odd that I haven’t read anything about it as social satire, nor anything reflecting on its extraordinary similarities to Gulliver’s Travels), but this jumped out at me in the bath this morning as a prescient critique of the social dynamics of online communities:
Communal parenthood gave to the tribe a unity and strength quite unknown in more individualistic races. The primitive tribes were groups of a few hundred or a few thousands individuals, but in modern times their size greatly increased. Always, however, the sentiment of tribal loyalty, if it was to remain healthy, had to be based on the personal acquaintance of its members. Even in the larger tribes, everyone was at least ‘the friend of a friend’s friend’ to every other member. Telephone, radio, and television enabled tribes as large as our smaller cities to maintain a sufficience degree of personal intercourse among its members.
But always there was some point beyond which further growth of the tribe was unwholesome. Even in the smallest and most intelligent tribes there was a constant strain between the individual’s natural passion for the tribe and his respect for individuality in himself and his fellows. But whereas in the small tribes and healthy larger tribes the tribal spirit was kept sweet and sane by the mutual respect and self-respect of the individuals, in the largest and imperfectly sane tribes the hypnotic influence of the tribe was all too apt to drown personality. The members might even lose all awareness of themselves and their fellows as persons, and become mere mindless organs of the tribe. Thus the community would degenerate into an instinctive animal herd.
Love the idea of “sane and sweet” tribes. And under “imperfectly sane” I’d list Apple fandom, paywall haters, copyfighters, teenage music fans and Liverpool supporters. Not to mention Daily Mail readers.