If right now you're thinking 'The what-us of who?', just hold on a sec. I'm doing that teaser-ironic title thing. Let me explain.
I've been reading through Ross and Nisbet's excellent introduction to social psychology, The Person and the Situation. One of the first chapters is about social influence and the pressures of conformity. So Ross and Nisbet are describing Muzafer Sherif's landmark 1937 experiments in social influence. You can read a summary of the research, along with Asch's studies, which are often mentioned in the same breath, here. Anyways, here's how Ross and Nisbet summarize the implications of Sherif's work:
[this was] a result showing that social norms did not have to evolve from the converging views of well-meaning but uncertain truth seekers; instead, thy could be imposed by an individual who had no coercive power and no special claim to expertise or legitimacy, only a willingness to be consistent and unwavering in the face of others' uncertainty.
And I thought to myself – this is the genius of George Bush. And of course, Bush is someone who has a great deal of coercive power. I doubt that Bush himself understands the immense strength of consistency – more than likely he is simply stubborn and deluded. I just hope that the overwhelming reality of the world is finally beginning to overtake him.