The Dangers of the Mob

“The Government got that wrong. They have double standards.”

It has been a common refrain around the country in the past few weeks when discussing the protests around the Black Lives Matter movement.

Many have asked why we haven’t been able to gather for weddings and funerals in large groups during the Coronavirus pandemic, but thousands of people have been given approval to meet together and protest. How is that fair? What is the government thinking?

Maybe the government was confident that the protesters would be outdoors and could maintain social distancing, or perhaps it had nothing to do with any political alignment or any opinion about how contagious or controlled the virus was, but was based on the power of the mob. Of course, not all protests turn into riots, in fact very few do – but the risk that something will escalate is real.

Here are three insights into mob mentality:

Mob Mentality is Dangerous. Something significant happens when large groups of people get together, especially when they are all in agreeance on a hot-button political and emotional issue. In a group setting, individuals are emboldened and grow in courage to act in ways that they never would if they were alone.

History shows us this – whip a mob into a frenzy and it can turn into a riot. We saw this in Cronulla in 2005, but there have been many others including in Kalgoorlie in 1934. We’ve seen it in America numerous times also, in LA in 1992, Baltimore in 2015 and, of course, LA in 2020 (among many others). Jesus was crucified by the mob, without evidence and without the explicit approval from the ruler of the day.

Mob Mentality is Powerful. Governments across Australia did not deny people the ability to come together and protest in the midst of a pandemic, basically because they had no power to do so. Some groups are just too large to stop.

For example, WA has almost 7,000 police officers, including auxiliary staff. All you need is for 8,000 people to turn up somewhere and authorities have little hope to quell anything that gets instigated. Trying to keep a large group from rising up and overpowering you in a violent incident is not as far fetched as we may think.

Fredrick Douglas said “the oppressors only have as much power as the oppressed give them.” Which means that the mob can be outrageously powerful, for a while.

Mob Mentality is Short-lived. It can escalate quickly but then, just as quickly it can dissipate. Sometimes within seconds, sometimes within hours, other times it can last for days and weeks – turning into an ‘occupy’ type situation. But the mob will always run out of steam and begin to disintegrate, but only after the damage has been done to the people and the places around it. The longer it lasts the more damage is done, and when it is over the community is left to pick up the pieces and get back to real life.

Politicians fear nothing more than an angry mob, because whilst it exists, they are powerless against it.

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