Saturday, June 06, 2009

Mob Psychology Part II


My intention is to edit this post over the week end (or maybe over the week) and throw out a bunch of little snippets as examples of mob behavior and mob manipulation.

I.

Today on Yahoo News:

"Web Mourns Two Deaths - The Internet faces the tragic loss of a young athlete and a beloved actor. (link) Sadness dominates the week"

This refers to the deaths of Karine Ruby and David Carradine. My first reaction was, "Oh no, the Internet is so young! I wonder if it's ready to face a double blow like this one! Maybe there's grief counseling, like for high school students."

Beyond the lazy construction however, there is the comfort of knowing that, not only am I being told how to think and feel, I've just been told how I was supposed to feel all week! Gee, now I feel guilty. I'm such a cold-hearted bastard. I gave Karine one raised eyebrow for succumbing to the Law of Averages for doing something stupid, egotistical, and dangerous. I gave Carradine one raised eyebrow for the rope. I've got a good friend down the street with a wife and two kids in college who is probably going to die from cancer sooner or later, but if things don't improve, sooner. This shouldn't happen to a dog, but he is a great guy. He didn't do anything intentionally dangerous to purchase this fate. Too bad he's not famous, or the rest of the world could be told how to feel about this situation. Good people die every minute. I don't mourn because I don't know them. I don't know these celebrities either; I know of them.

II

January 23, 2008, Birmingham.

After leading police on a high-speed chase, and attempting to run over one officer at a road block, the perpetrator rolls his minivan and is ejected from the vehicle. Several police officers proceed to beat the perpetrator, who appears to be unconscious. Story and video here.

In the eyes of the law, all are equally chargeable with the crime of assault. In psychological terms, two of the officers are more guilty of starting this beating frenzy than the others. First, there is the obvious choice, the one that struck the first blow. The second cop to join in created a psychological trigger point. By imitating the actions of the first beater, number two simultaneously established the first cop as the alpha, and established the scenario as a mob action. The rest joined in by reflex, without much, if any, conscious decision. Something tribal and ugly was fired off here. Emotions were at a fever pitch. The Blue Skins joined forces against a common enemy. It is probably a source of personal shame to these officers that they were unable to resist such a soft target. They are however, the warrior class of the community tribe. They are the man-hunters. That scene is not unique. It has been repeated in every major city throughout the years. If it resembles the monkey scene from 2001, a Space Odyssey, this is no coincidence. The tribal programming is there, courtesy of our ancestors, natural (and unnatural) selection, and instinctive behavior. We have only our fore brain to discriminate between impulses with desirable and undesirable consequences. Sometimes it's not enough, and the consequences follow. This is not an excuse for the officers' lack of vigilance. It's just a reason.

III

Oprah.

Master manipulator. Oprah says, "Look under your chair!", get a reward. Operant conditioning. Do what Oprah says, get a reward. She creates a nice, carnival atmosphere, and engages in the kind of generosity and philanthropy that has a huge pay-back in terms of her own image. She did not get super rich by giving it away or finding the cure for cancer. She's selling. The only difference between her operation and that of the Televangelist of your choice is her product mix is broader and includes very emphatically herself.

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1 Comments:

At 6:00 PM, Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitur said...

This is a favorite topic of mine. A big reason I stopped going to church when I was young was the frightening way people turned into automatons in a managed (or unmanaged) group situation. I purposely eschew large groups because of the overwhelming peer influence it has on a person. Of course, my Catholic conditioning makes me somewhat vulnerable to certain shaming tactics. I have an interesting book in my collection called "Extraordinary Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" by Charles Mackay. LL. D. This book was first published in 1841 and is an amazing chronicle of "the most remarkable instances of those moral epidemics which have been incited....and to show how easily the masses have been led astray, and how imitative and gregarious men are, even in their infatuation and crimes."

 

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