Beyond Redemption: The Rule Rather Than The Exception

Has mob mentality become the rule rather than the exception in today’s society? Has the world given up? Wouldn’t you rather be the exception than the rule? Are the cries of the mob louder than a single voice in opposition? If this is the case, then we are all beyond redemption but instead I choose to believe the opposite. I am not condemning nor endorsing anyone, it is important for humanity that people realize their short comings and faults as a society rather than blame it on the individual. It takes a village people… we are not immune to the woes of the world nor are we immune from the consequences of such actions taken against an individual or people. Humility, cooperation and strength is what will cause society to persevere and ignorance, fear, intolerance, cruelty and hate will be its demise. What I have to say may sound like blasphemy to some but I live in the realm of reality not expectations. Until people come to a consensus about what we as a world are instead of what we think we are, then no true change or peace can ever really happen. I would rather be an exception than the rule to better understand the world and its people without forcing my own opinions and beliefs on others. This article is meant to spark a debate not a yelling match as has always been the rule it seems. This is a two way conversation, not a one way street.

“What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult.” –Sigmund Freud

“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” –Thomas Jefferson

“The only kind of freedom that the mob can imagine is freedom to annoy and oppress its betters, and that is precisely the kind that we mainly have.” –Henry Louis Mencken

“Those who try to lead the people can only do so by following the mob.” –Oscar Wilde

“A mob is the method by which good citizens turn over the law and the government to the criminal or irresponsible classes.” –Ray Stannard Baker

“Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda.”-Hannah Arendt

“But steel bars have never yet kept out a mob; it takes something a good deal stronger: human courage backed up by the consciousness of being right.”-Ray Stannard Baker

“The vision that the founding fathers had of rule of law and equality before the law and no one above the law, that is a very viable vision, but instead of that, we have quasi mob rule.” –James Bovard

“Solitude is strength; to depend on the presence of the crowd is weakness. The man who needs a mob to nerve him is much more alone than he imagines.” –Paul Brunton

“Passion is the mob of the man, that commits a riot upon his reason.” –William Penn

“If you listen to fools, the mob rules!”-Ronnie James Dio

“Today is a new day. Don’t let your history interfere with your destiny! Let today be the day you stop being a victim of your circumstances and start taking action towards the life you want. You have the power and the time to shape your life. Break free from the poisonous victim mentality and embrace the truth of your greatness. You were not meant for a mundane or mediocre life!” –Steve Maraboli

“Behind every strong person, you’ll find a mob of weak people. This isn’t coincidence…” –Unknown

What benefits a few will not benefit the whole, therefore it is important for people to know what role mob mentality plays in the shaping of the present world. In today’s global society within which we all live in a local community, mob mentality seems to be the norm generation after generation a way to dispense our own justice for supposed wrongs a person, people or group has done to another. Several factors must be present for mob rule or the mentality to take shape and spread among a community, nation or in this case the world. Certain ingredients also seem to intensify the stronghold of the ruling mob making people believe they need or want what supposedly everyone else has such as wealth, technology, education, etc. A sense of entitlement is only one factor that plays into mob rule as a notion or belief of one individual or group trumps that of another because the one group is more deserving of the reward or benefit. Mix with apathy, fear and propaganda the mob can grow rather quickly eliminating the group that stands in their way either politically or literally. Mob behavior to some can be justified as a way to adapt and help groups recognize and react to danger while appearing civil in nature with undertones of pack behavior at its core.

The term mob mentality refers to behavioral characteristics that emerge when people are in large groups with an often negative connotation conjuring up images of aggressive, chaotic groups of people. Social psychologists who study group behavior often use the term herd behavior, herd mentality or crowd hysteria to describe similar behaviors allowing them to analyze situations ranging from problems during evacuations to public gatherings turned violent. Some of these behaviors can be described as influenced by peers adopting certain behaviors, following trends, and/or purchase items such as stock market trends, fashions in apparel, cars, music, superstition, religion, home decor, etc. Social psychologists also study group intelligence, crowd wisdom and decentralized decision making. The idea has been around since humans formed tribes, migrate in groups, perform marketing in teams and agricultural functions. The group mind or mob behavior was suggested first by 19th-century French social psychologists Gabriel Tarde and Gustave Le Bon and studied by Sigmund Freud and Wilfred Trotter. Sociologist and Economist Thorstein Veblen demonstrated that individuals imitate other group members of higher social status in their consumer behavior in his book Theory of the Leisure Class, while Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point, examines how cultural, social, and economic factors create trends in consumer behavior. The 21st century gave rise in the academic field to marketing and finance behavior to identify and predict the rational and irrational behavior of investors concluding that emotional reactions rooted in greed and fear will cause investors to join frantic purchasing and selling of stocks creating bubbles and crashes.

Herd behavior is all inclusive of animals and humans, however not until the 20th century did scientific theories about crowd behavior begin to apply to humans. Similar to animals, humans tend to exhibit the same behavior of those around them using the logic that the behavior must be worthwhile or else the group would not be doing it. The thought process behind it come naturally or subconsciously which is why animals or humans take part. The term includes a wide variety of behaviors such as herding, flocks, schools, demonstrations, riots, general riots, sporting events, religious gatherings, episodes of mob violence and everyday decisions, judgements and opinion forming. Raafat, Chater and Frith proposed integrated approaches of herding to describe key issues such as the mechanism of transmission and the patterns of connections between thoughts and behaviors. Therefore the diverse theoretical approaches make it applicable to many domains from cognitive neuroscience to economics. Herd mentality requires more thought than herd behavior as it can be influenced by peer pressure, conformity, need for acceptance and a desire to belong. These factors often cause people to behave in ways that are similar to other groups. The negative aspect of mob mentality related to two main factors which are greater anonymity within the group and distribution of responsibility for their actions. The person may believe that they act a certain way within the group and not have the same consequence if acted on alone.

Another factor in herd or mob mentality is the confusion or panic that exists in a large group and depending on the intensity can lead to crowd or mass hysteria within the group. Crowds that gather together because of grievances can involve herding behavior that turns violent especially when opposing ethnic or racial groups are involved. The Los Angeles riots of 1992, New York Draft Riots and Tulsa Race Riot are notorious in U.S. history. Sporting events can also produce violent episodes of herd behavior like the six century Nika riots in Constantinople the most violent in history and precipitated by partisan factions attending the chariot races. During times of mass panic, the herd behavior can lead to formation of mobs or large groups of people with destructive intentions such as during natural disasters, mass evacuations and clearing of shelves is common. Several historians believe Adolf Hitler used herd behavior and crowd psychology in order to gain the advantage by placing German officers in civilian clothing within the crowd attending his speeches. The officers would cheer and clap as the rest of the crowd followed their example making it appear the entire crowd agreed with Hitler and his views. These speeches would then be broadcast increasing the effect. It can also be useful for studying political or cultural phenomenon like the rise of Antisemitism or the genocide in Rowanda where governments and others can take measures to prevent such movements from occurring again. Benign herding behaviors occur frequently in everyday decisions based on information we learn from others such as where to eat, live, go to school and what to buy.

Mass hysteria is sometime part or the accelerator of mob or herd mentality. It is defined as the rapid spread of conversion disorder, a condition involving the appearance of bodily complaints for which there is no organic basis and the episode that causes the psychological distress is converted or channeled into physical symptoms. In short, all mass hysterias are collective delusions involving false or exaggerated beliefs but rarely do collective delusions involve mass hysteria as it must involve a reported illness symptom. There are many ways to spread and form collective delusions and hysterical illness such as mass media, rumors, extraordinary anxiety or excitement, cultural beliefs and stereotypes, the social and political context and reinforcing actions by authorities such as politicians, or institutions of social control such as the police or military. Being a part of group can destroy people’s ability to think making them do things they wouldn’t do otherwise. The individual no longer has their own values and principles leading to adoption of the group’s principles which have the potential to lead to rioting or violence causing destruction and avoiding detection. The person or group will begin to see their cause as just and righteous since the group assembled after a supposed act of inequality or unfairness and the emotions of the mob make the cause even more important.

A moral panic similar to a mass hysteria is an intense feeling expressed in a population about an alleged issue that threatens the social orders. Moral panic can lead to mass hysteria since the controversy in question involves arguments and social tension making disagreement difficult because the matter at its center is taboo. The media for example adds to the moral indignation even when reporting the facts and not consciously engaging in crusading or muckraking causing concern, panic or anxiety. Many sociologist point out the definition differs, according to Kenneth Thompson, as American sociologists emphasize psychological factors whereas British see moral panic as a crisis of capitalism. Moral panics do include some persecutions of individuals or groups such as the Red Scare, antisemitic pogroms, Stalinist purges, the witch-hunts of Renaissance Europe. Most recently, various Muslim groups claim that some actions in Western countries following the September 11 attacks affecting Arabs, Muslims, or those mistaken for them have comprised a moral panic. Some American sociologist see the responses to these attacks as moral panics such as a series of moral panics regarding Satanic ritual abuse originated in the US then spreading to other English-speaking countries in the 1980s and 1990s and in the 1990s and 2000s in the UK and the US related to colloquial uses of the term pedophilia to refer to unusual crimes of abuse such as high-profile cases of child abduction and murder. The British television show Brass Eye, written by and starring Chris Morris, attempted to satirize the public’s tendency toward moral panic, most notably in the episodes ‘Drugs’ and the special ‘Paedogeddon’ where celebrities and politicians were duped into appearing in fictional campaigns against particular social ills demonstrating the tendency for both such groups towards jumping onto the bandwagon to raise their own profiles.

The Boston Bombing at the Boston Marathon in April of 2013 demonstrates that the political and ethnic hatred of Americans is alive and well with mainstream media and politicians jumping on the bandwagon. American are losing their ability to think for themselves as was the case with the young man who was falsely accused of being the Boston Bomber because he was misidentified on social media and then on the news leading to the man’s disappearance and eventually his death before a formal apology was given. The same thing happen two years earlier when a young man’s life was ruined because of false accusations in the Atlanta explosion. The problem in America is the overwhelming size of the mob which people are more than willing to join when horrible injustices are committed abandoning the line of reasoning that people are innocent until proven guilty. America is a nation of laws and rights that allow its citizens to express their displeasure with the government without fear of reprisal whether the anti-government sentimentality is coming from the right or the left it is guaranteed by the Constitution which many including elected official would like to get rid of. What people fail to realize is tragedies resulting from crime or terrorism happen on a daily basis and cannot always be prevented, however there is no excuse for the mob mentality fueled by speculation, too much time on your hands, an internet connection, or news media especially television. When guns are involved the mob does not blame guns for the tragedy but the person yet it is okay in the case of this explosion to blame the person not the backpack the bomb was in. Therefore the mob rule does not always follow their own logic but who needs logic when people are willing to go along with whatever you say. Just because a tragedy happens does not give anyone the right to act irrationally or accuse anyone because they are an easy target, but unfortunately human history has demonstrated that mob rule always sways public opinion in their favor using whatever tactic necessary to convince people to think a certain way or blame a certain group or individual.

Therefore the mob mentality that occurs whether real, electronic or journalistic can be just as evil as those who perpetuate crimes and terrorism. As American history has demonstrated, there are several examples of individuals being punished for horrible crimes they did not commit. The United States government even issues reports claiming certain groups are dangerous such as religious and political with no proof other than speculation based on beliefs such as anything offensive is dangerous. Freedom of expression and the right to air our grievances against the government are threatened by private interest and political agendas. In essence, mob mentality is another way to bully people into believing what the individual or group believes using various tactics including some groups working with the government to force to people to accept what they are saying as fact. People need to realize that the mob does use unethical tactics without credible evidence to move their cause forward and governments are just as guilty as other groups therefore no amount of laws, political mumbo jumbo, or celebrity victims tours can prevent all tragedy from happening.

However, through a conscious effort to bring new ideas to the forefront and squash the mob mentality, governments and individual can start to rectify the situation better than following the old methods that benefit a few but not the whole. The real tragedy occurs everyday in America as innocent people or groups are detained or arrested based on no evidence, proof or probable cause due to public opinion being swayed by the mob and its beneficiaries. The more the United States and the world fails to break away from mob rule, the more the world and humanity will suffer thus continuing to make the mistakes that continue to repeat themselves and materialize through wars, conflicts, economics and government. The intellectual in modern society is  a dying breed as more people fail to question their government and their environment make it more difficult for humanity to evolve and making the intellectual the exception rather than the rule.

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