Mailbag: Readers explain people whose views differ from their own

Trump supporters gather for an anti-mask "freedom march" in Huntington Beach on Monday, June 14.
Trump supporters gather for an anti-mask “freedom march” in Huntington Beach on Monday, June 14.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

A June 20 Forum letter in the Daily Pilot Mailbag begs with anguish, “Please, someone, help me to understand these petulant people.” Here’s an explanation for why some folks hold mind-boggling views. It’s something I learned in 1963 from a sociology course at the University of Redlands. The key is the difference between a “membership group” and a “reference group.” A person has several membership groups, reflecting various facets of one’s life. But one of these groups serves as a reference group, and it is from that group that the person draws their attitudes, values, beliefs, commitments. It matters little if those beliefs are in conflict with scientific facts or even dangerous to one’s life and family. Those beliefs and behaviors are passionate expressions of one’s loyalty to their chosen “reference group.” If cognitive dissonance becomes too great, a person may explore a change in reference group. This sociological construct helps explain how a person converts into a rigid new world view, as well as how someone grows into a healthier perspective. I’ll let the readers supply their own real-world examples of the power which can be exerted by a reference group.

Gary Barmore
Costa Mesa
(Pastor Emeritus of Fairview Community Church)

In his recent letter regarding the June 14 “anti-mask” pro-Trump rally in Huntington Beach, Ben Miles asked for help in understanding their motivation. He queried “Are they proud of their ignorance?” The answer is a resounding “Yes!” regarding these “know-nothings.” He made the mistake of referring to them as “petulant,” for few of them would understand what the word means (hint: insolent or rude in speech or behavior for a start). Their “freedom march” was definitely “lemming-like.” Yes, to some extent, the protesters have the individual liberty to be stupid. Their hero, Donald Trump, was famously unintelligent in many areas, especially regarding COVID-19 issues. “Anti-mask, anti-vaxx, anti-science, anti-reason,” etc., you get the picture. It’s sad that my hometown is becoming known less for being “Surf City” than that portrayed in the Guns N’ Roses song “Paradise City” (think “Desolation Row”). Keep up the good work, Ben, Steve, Lynn and others in writing about the need to turn things around with H.B.’s reputation. We definitely deserve better!

Tim Geddes
Huntington Beach

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