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Below is an op-Ed from a DML News reader, Heather Warren. Please share it.

Even for the casual consumer of news, it would be almost impossible to miss a common featured theme in this week’s headlines: Mob Rule. According to Don Lemon and Brooke Baldwin of CNN, we should not believe our lying eyes, and the “M” word itself should go straight onto the no-no list. We should also ignore the obvious causes of some of this uncivilized behavior spurred on by prominent public figures like Eric Holder, who said: “When they go low, we kick them.”

Mob mentality is not always defined by a group of people with hoods and pitchforks. In order to understand it, we have to strip it down, and try to identify what makes it tick so that we can recognize it when we see it, and avoid it in our own lives. As imperfect people, living in a Balkanized society, it is often easy to mistakenly fall into a group think.

What does “Believe Her”, the Kavanaugh hearing, the riots in Portland, the Ted Cruz dinner debacle all have in common? Collectivism. In all of these situations, the rights of the individual is overshadowed by the rights of the collective. Why is this so dangerous?

As covered in Medical Daily in 2014, Mina Cikara, a sociologist at Carnegie Mellon University, lead a team of researchers in a paper where they were able to discover new insights into mob behavior. Prior to their research, there were already some well-known causes, one of them being anonymity. Black hoodies, anyone? When people know their identities are masked, they understand they will not be called out by their actions, and tend to engage in irresponsible or even dangerous behavior. We are seeing now, that because of a lack of police presence, or repercussion by those who engage in unpeaceful protest, anonymity is not so important. Mobs have grown even more bold, and don’t even bother to hide. Another well-understood feature is personal accountability. Guilt and shame distributed throughout a collective, are much easier for a person to tolerate.

What was less understood was just how much an individual’s moral compass was diminished when engaging in a collective effort. An individual acting alone is much less likely to destroy property, heckle, or harm someone than when they adopt the mob code of conduct.

The most amazing part of Cikara’s research found that the sense of self, including an individual’s moral compass, could be studied in a more quantifiable way through brain scans that measured the activity of the medial prefrontal cortex. A lack of activity in this area of the brain indicated a lack of a sense of self, and therefore, a lack of morality.

A collective moral compass is not objective. There is no standard of civility and so right and wrong are defined by the masses wielding more force and power. If gone unchecked, what happens? Will the mob grow to the size of an entire political party? Will we see more violence or threats of violence from the individual, who recognizes there has been no repercussion for those acting in a group? What will happen to our individual right of due process? One thing is for certain. If it talks like a mob, walks like a mob, acts like a mob, it’s a mob.

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  1. I was a Sociology major in college. I remember learning about this. People are more likely to do something if everyone else is doing it. When asked about their behavior later they admit they never would have done that alone. Young people are very susceptible and they are used by powerful people to join in under the guise of acceptability. In the same token, a group of people will lift a car off someone in need without realizing the strength it required. Well written article! Thanks, Heather. And thanks, DML, for sharing.

  2. So well said, unfortunately the ones that need to read such a powerful article will dismiss it as right wing bull. Thank you.

  3. Loved Heather’s article. I wish that “and the Left” was ommitted from the title though. I’m afraid that attaching labels, like “The Left” to something negative like Mob Rule in the title will automatically put those people off from reading the article past it’s name, and aren’t those the people we are trying to persuade to think more like us?

  4. To add more prespective to my previous comment, I don’t think that everyday people who vote liberally associate themselves with mobs, anymore than everyday people who vote conservatively associate themselves with the KKK. Half the battle seems to be getting people to read past a headline.


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