Mob Mentality

There is a phenomenon in which people who normally know and adhere to their values change when in the company of an emotionally charged group. Over the past millennia, I’ve seen it far too often. Call it “peer pressure”, “groupthink”, or “mob mentality”, it doesn’t matter.

Since most people in your time are not scholars of history, I won’t use an obscure example, but one with which most of you are familiar. Nevertheless, the same interaction has recurred time after time–the living do not learn, so it is up to those of us who are gone to explain.

In an ancient land with no BBC, no cable, no wi-fi, a man approaches a village. A murmur passes through the crowd. “This is the ONE that we’ve been waiting for! He is the one!”

The people run together and a crowd forms and welcomes him. “Hail to our hope! Hail to our future! Hail to military victory!”

But it is not Alexander, or Caesar, Hitler, or Stalin. It is an itinerant teacher who has asked for nothing; who has accepted only a place to sleep and a shared meal.

As he approaches, the people line the streets.

“You are what we’ve prayed for! You are the best–Holy, Holy, Holy (holiest, the third order of holy). We wave palms over your head! We lay our cloaks for you to walk over. You are THE one.”

A few days later, in the middle of the night, a kangaroo court is held to condemn the same man to death. The mob, this time, cries “Crucify him.”

Was it the same people?

Think.

 

 

Fact and Fiction

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

John Adams

If something is a reasonably accurate representation of reality, it is a fact. As humans, we’re incapable of observing, remembering, and then stating any event with 100 percent accuracy, even though most people try.

However, if you tell a lie, that’s what it is.

If you repeatedly tell a lie, it remains a lie.

If you get a million people to repeat your lie, it still remains a lie. It does not become a fact.

You may be able to kiss a frog and have it become a prince, but a lie is a lie is a lie.

It’s not a difficult concept, so why do so many people find it impossible to understand?

Are You Being Targeted?

I’m glad I died long before humans and computers began consorting. I never claimed victory in my search for an honest man–although, then again, was I honest when I said I was searching?

In any case, in your time, Facebook, video games, Twitter, and the computer thingie du jour draw you in like flies to a jar of honey. Even worse, you go willingly. Pity.

What if they worked together–or are working together? Google and Amazon know what you want. Facebook knows almost everything else.

But, what if one of the search engines or bots (they’re really the same) tracked your ability–or inability–to separate fact from fiction? If you readily believe the various conspiracy theories without adequate facts to support that belief?

There would be lots of money to be made by selling lists of such people to advertisers, scam artists, and (of course) all of the Nigerian Princes who are trying to get their inheritance.

Fool me once, your fault. Fool me twice, my fault. Fool me three times and I’m an easy target.

Hey! This magic potion will make you rich!

Decivilization

Death and destruction has always been fascinating–for observers, not participants. Crucifixion, hanging–especially when accompanied by drawing and quartering, and beheadings of any type have always been crowd pleasers. The brutality of man against man could draw a crowd, amuse it, and leave it calling for more.

In your twentieth century, there was the term “like watching a train wreck.” It’s nigh on impossible for anyone to turn away because a train wreck is factually as well as literally, extraordinary.

I understand that. I may not approve, but I understand it. The observers don’t set out with the intent of seeing carnage, but happen to be there when it does.

On the other hand, when Facebook (which I also do not understand) has to remove 1.5 million–MILLION–videos showing the slaughter of people trying to pray in New Zealand, I’m astounded. Actually, I’m disgusted. A man who lived in a sewer and treated others the way I did is not easily disgusted.

In the millennia from my time to yours, it would be reasonable to expect to see some small amount of societal progress. Instead, people in the twenty-first century can easily put Emperors Tiberius, Nero, and Caligula to shame.

Us, Them, and Me

“I” am powerful. “We” are dangerous.

If someone has an agenda, such as a politician or an actor, the worst way to build a following would be to sit  down, one-on-one with another individual and lay out the idea in a logical format. Why? The listener would examine the proposal, critically evaluate its merits and reach a logical conclusion as to its intellectual merit.

On the other hand, if the proponent presents the idea to a group–the larger the better–inevitably there will be some who agree with it. When these people express their support through cheers or chants, more will pick up the emotion and join in. Eventually, few will be silent.

Unfortunately, one of the easiest emotions to stir up in people is irrational hate.

The same people who had welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem, turned up at his illegal overnight kangaroo court with cries of “Crucify Him!”

In America, there has often been the idea, spoken loudly, that, “The only good [Insert group here] is a dead [and here].”

My advice to you is “Never let go of yourself. The individual is better equipped to make decisions than any group.”

In George Orwell’s novel 1984 he spoke of “groupthink,” in which all, or at least most, of the members of a group accept an idea because the group does, not because they have made a conscious and deliberate decision that it is what they believe. There is another term for this–mob mentality.

Perhaps the idea is best expressed in the movie Men in Black: 

Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Everything they’ve ever “known” has been proven to be wrong. A thousand years ago everybody knew as a fact, that the earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on it. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.

How Dare He!

Andrew McCabe was once a member of the White House Theatrical Troupe–so called because at any given moment many top officials work in an “acting” capacity. McCabe was acting Director of the FBI (and, I might add, never nominated for an Oscar, an Emmy, or even a Tony).

Unfortunately, McCabe neglected to learn the rules. According to the rules, 96.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot. In most cases they are unnecessary because “people tell me” or “I’ve heard” is sufficient to substantiate a statement.  The rules further state that facts are, fluid, dynamic and always changing. And most importantly, anything with which you disagree is “fake news.”

McCabe, instead, looked to, of all places, the United States Constitution for guidance. In this case, he questioned whether the 25th Amendment should be considered. Using the Constitution is really hitting below the belt. It’s a good thing he got fired before he could invoke any other sections or amendments to the Constitution.

Who does he think he is, anyway–James Madison?

 

Which Way Did They Go?

There was a time, or maybe I just imagined it, when the conservative party had clear goals and objectives:

  1. People should take personal responsibility for their actions.
  2. Try not to spend more than you earn, and to the degree possible, avoid going into debt.
  3. Values are important.

Where did the people who believe that go? They were either replaced by, or became the ones who now espouse different values today:

  1. “It’s not my fault! I can’t remember! My attorney did it!”
  2. “If there’s a huge debt, but I’m gone, it doesn’t matter.”
  3. Value = Personal Benefit

Well, it’s just as well, those pesky idealists are a nuisance. However, Reagan is probably spinning like a gyroscope in his grave.