I’ve been thinking about mobs.
Remember those ghastly scenes in reruns of the old Gunsmoke television show, where crowds of angry men tried to get Sheriff Matt Dillon to let them “take matters into their own hands” and lynch a prisoner in the local jail? That scene was repeated in John Wayne movies and dramas featuring the Ku Klux Klan in the south.
What is Mob Mentality?
Recently I have learned a little bit about mob mentality. When we are in a mob, it dilutes our feeling of guilt. For example, if we are in a group of fifty people, we only feel one fiftieth as guilty as we would if we were alone. Being in a crowd makes us more likely to succumb to peer pressure. Who wants to be the only one standing back and not participating? Also, if the rest of the group is doing something we usually feel is wrong, we begin to question ourselves and say, “It must be okay if all these people say it is.”
This is how the human mind works, and we have seen it again and again.
Mobs in World War II
In Germany and Russia, everyday people became responsible for filling mass graves with dead men, women, and children. That’s another thing about mobs: they dehumanize their victims. They tell themselves their victims are somehow subhuman.
Mobs in the 1960’s
It is shocking to see the ugly faces of white women in 1960's newsreels, when they distorted their mouths screaming opposition to school busing and integration. They dehumanized black children.
Mob Mentality and Muslims
Fear is part of being in a mob, along with an adrenaline rush. Today, there are individuals who are fearful of Muslims, who lose their healthy inhibitions because they are in a group of like-minded individuals, and who dehumanize their imagined foe by not recognizing they are human beings like us.
Mob Behavior at Conventions
I witnessed mob mentality at the Republican convention, when frenzied delegates began shouting, “Lock her up” regarding candidate Clinton. Do you think it would have been safe for her to visit that convention center? What might have happened to her, if she had attended and walked among the delegates? I saw dehumanization, fear, peer pressure, and dilution of guilt. Some there would have loved to “tear her limb from limb.” This also occurred among some Bernie Sanders supporters.
Mob Behavior this Week
This week, mobs of angry black Milwaukee residents burned businesses in their city. They dehumanized white drivers who happened to be on their street, pulling them from cars and beating them. Normal restraints on behavior disappeared in the seeming approval of a mob of people.
And what was the result? Black and white citizens had to go to work the next day and wait at turned-over bus shelters. Residents had to mow lawns filled with broken glass.
This behavior was characteristic of mob mentality.
Think for yourselves. If you can’t do that, stay away from crowds that are out of control.
Also, recognize when you are in a mob and how their behavior is influencing our own. Nothing good comes from mob behavior, as history has shown us.