In-groups do harm (violence) through identifiable tactics. This week and next, I will briefly identity some of them.
The first tactic is distortion. Out-groups are caricatured and stereotyped in ways that treat them as categories–as problems to be solved rather than people to be known. Universalization (“All _______are _______”) is frequently employed, so that individuals in the out-group are immediately suspect. Inuendo and flat-out misinformation are used to paint the unreal picture.
A second tactic is danger. The out-group is a threat to goodness, truth, etc. Danger creates fear, and who in their right mind would not want to eliminate danger from the community. But it is not right-minded fear, it is fear generated by fear mongering. It perpetuates danger by a lopsided means: calling out the worst in the out-group while extolling exagerated virtues of the in-group (bad guy/good guy)–and again, who wouldn’t want to be one of the good guys? Danger makes the choice appear obvious.
Distortion and danger are accompanied by a third tactic: distance. Ongoing relationships, much less friendships with out-group people, are not cultivated or encouraged, because the in-group people know that would reframe the picture and raise questions about the distortation/danger narrative. Instead, the in-group portrays itself as the source for “all you need to know” about the out-group. They say in effect–get close to “us” and stay away from “them.”
Distance is also kept from those in the in-group who risk interacting with the out-group, and as a result, begin to see things differently. These colleagues are now ostracized and deemed going down a “slippery slope.” Distortion and danger are now applied to those willing to raise new questions or offer new evidence. The in-group can no longer afford to associate with them. E. Stanley Jones experienced this when he associated with out-groups in India. Some fellow Christians ceased to have fellowship with him.
Distance essentially brings to a halt communication between the in-group, former but now suspect in-group people, and out-group members. In-group members only talk to other approved in-group members. E. Stanley Jones found this dynamic in place when he arrived in India, and that is why his Round Table alternative was viewed as a threat by the white civic and religious in-groups (which largely overlapped), but which was a method that gave hope to out-groups. He writes about this in his books, ‘Christ of the Indian Road’ and ‘Christ at the Round Table.’
There are other major tactics used by the in-group. We will look at a couple more next week.