“When a hundred intelligent heads are united in a group,” psychologist Carl Jung once wrote, “the result is one big fathead.”
As we peek out between the blinds these days, it’s clear mob rule has become the only rule.
Historically speaking, of course, this is nothing new.
Mob madness comes and goes. Just like news cycles. Market booms (and busts). And Bigfoot sightings.
But, I get it.
It’s hard to maintain the cyclical perspective when you’re in the thick of it.
Which is why, this week — what we’re calling Mob Week — we’re focusing on the histories, mysteries, and blisteries of the mob mentality.
In yesterday’s episode, as you know, we explored a brief history of riots at the White House. (And how the most violent White House riot was, get this, when the mob supported a central bank… and the president, John Tyler, didn’t. Imagine that!)
Today, we turn our attention to a mob which recently tried to maim Senator Rand Paul and his wife in D.C.
The irony here, as you’ll see, is thick.
The Unexceptional Madness of the Mob
In the video, you can hear the protesters demanding Senator Paul say Breonna Taylor’s name.
Breonna Taylor, as you may know, was the 26-year-old African American EMT who was brutally murdered in her own home by Louisville police officers during a no-knock police raid.
It was absolutely, without question, unjustifiably horrific.
Fortunately, as FEE.org’s Brad Polumbo pointed out, “Polling shows that a clear majority of Americans support reforms such as ending “no-knock” search warrants, limiting police use of chokeholds, eliminating the civil liability shield for abusive police officers, mandating dashboard and body cameras, and more. In fact, even a majority of police officers support these reforms.”
Rand Paul has been on the frontlines — doing more than any other politician, Democrat or Republican — to seek justice for Breonna Taylor.
Go down the list.
1] Paul personally visited and spoke with Breonna’s family in Kentucky.
2] He worked with them to craft legislation to ban “no-knock” police search warrants which led to her death.
3] He called it the “Justice for Breonna Taylor Act.”
Even so, the mob went not only for him, but his wife, too.
“Just got attacked by an angry mob of over 100, one block away from the White House,” the senator tweeted. “Thank you to [the DC Police Department] for literally saving our lives from a crazed mob.”
“Thursday night felt like being in a terrifying dystopian novel,” Kelley wrote in an op-ed piece for the Washington Examiner. “The mob swarmed me and my husband… We rushed up to two police officers, and I believe that is the only thing that kept us from being knocked to the ground. As the mob grew and became more threatening, we literally could not move, and neither could the two officers for several minutes. The rioters were inches from us, screaming in our faces.
“Mobs are terrifying,” she added. “They looked at us with no humanity — just a vicious and righteous zeal.”
The Problem of Mass-Mindedness
“The mob,” said Diogenes, “is the mother of tyrants.”
“The nose of a mob,” said Edgar Allen Poe, “is its imagination. By this, at any time, it can be quietly led.”
“A mob is not, as is so often said, mindless,” said author Teju Cole. “A mob is single-minded.”
No particular facet of the political diamond is immune to this force of mob mentality, and both sides (naturally so) will enable it so long as it works in its favor.
Besides, groups are incredibly comfortable things.
Being an individual, however, is incredibly uncomfortable.
As tribal creatures, we’re used to the former. The latter, psychologically speaking, is actually a (relatively) new concept.
Furthermore, contrary to popular thought, the path of least resistance isn’t sitting down and staying quiet in favor of detached observation.
The path of least resistance is jumping to conclusions from within the safe, self-righteous confines of an angry pitchfork-wielding crowd.
Sometimes, sure, the crowd is on the proper side of what’s right and wrong. But its track record is far too inconsistent to count on in the long run.
The obvious problem is that the tribe-minded can be made to do anything… to anyone… so long as it does not feel like a lone, individual act.
“The sense of security is increased,” Jung wrote, “and the sense of responsibility decreased when one is part of a group.”
During World War I, Jung felt the power of the mass-mind firsthand when the Swiss psychotherapist was drafted as an army doctor for the neutral country.
In a letter to a fellow therapist, he wrote:
“Once I ran into a thick fog while crossing a treacherous glacier, full of crevasses, with a company of soldiers. The situation was so dangerous that everyone had to stop just where he happened to be. Yet there was no trace of panic, but rather the spirit of a public festival! Had one been alone, or had there only been two of us, the danger could not have been overlooked or laughed off.”
The timid, he said, “took heart from the plucky ones, and nobody said a word about the possibility of having to improvise a bivouac on the glacier, which could hardly have passed off without frostbite, etc., let alone about the perils of an attempted descent. This is typical of the mass mentality.”
The group, Jung observed, tends to accentuate the ego; “one becomes braver, more presumptuous, more cocky, more insolent, more reckless; but the self is diminished and gets pushed into the background in favor of the average.”
Don’t Seek Praise. And Don’t Apologize.
Such is the unexceptional madness of the crowd.
And as we saw in the example of Rand Paul… nobody is truly safe from the mob.
There’s nothing you can do to appease the crowd. The mob doesn’t actually care if you do the right thing.
The mob doesn’t see you as an individual capable of right or wrong action… because, of course, it doesn’t see itself as an individual capable of right and wrong.
(Deeper, as it has been said, only a stranger to oneself casts stones at other strangers.)
Mob rule has never been about what’s right and wrong. It’s about what the mob can get away with that the individual cannot… and wouldn’t even attempt.
The solution? Focus on what you can control.
Do what you know to be the right thing. And all of the time.
And, never, ever, apologize or plead for praise for doing what’s obviously the right thing.
Because you deserve neither.
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today