As the campaign for the Presidency has unfolded in our country over the past year, the feeding and fomenting of the mob mentality has been evident. To this date – as I write this article – never more evident than during the Republican Convention the night Chris Christie spoke. His “prosecuting” Hillary Clinton in his speech triggered an ugliness in the crowd, a destructiveness in the crowd, that resulted, right there in convention hall, with the crowd yelling “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
That’s what we saw in the convention hall. But who knows what dire consequences and acting out will occur in other areas of our country and world as a result of Christie’s feeding the fire of violence and destruction.
We need to wake up to this dynamic in the campaign and in our world. We need to look at what part we play in this, each of us … no matter what “side” we are on. We need to ask, “What within me has been triggered to cause me to become part of feeding a mob? To become part of a mob?” We are all affected disastrously by the mob mentality, even if it doesn’t appear so in the moment.
As a result of the mob mentality showing itself so “out there” right in front of us in this campaign, I am re-posting an article from a previous election. We may see some things differently in hindsight, but the causes and effects of the mob mentality stay the same.
The conventions are over, there’s a bit of distance from them, and as long as you aren’t someplace where a candidate is “stomping” right now … hopefully you can take a moment to breathe and a moment to be objective.
One of the scary and dangerous things about the election campaigns is the phenomenon of the mob mentality. People get caught up on a wave of energy and feeling … exactly the wave the campaigner intends them to get caught up on … and carried away to exactly the place the campaigner intends. In the midst of this mob dynamic, people stop thinking for themselves, and allow the campaigners to think for them. And allow the campaigners to get them, the people, to think whatever the campaigners want them to think. Carried away on the wave, people disconnect from their own moral compass and their true feelings and instincts, and can no longer sense when a red flag is raised or an alarm bell is ringing. They are so carried away, they cannot even tell when there is danger afoot, let alone respond.
This is one of the things that was of such deep concern during the conventions. The speakers were whipping up the crowd, one by one, building to a crescendo that they hoped would carry people, unwittingly, into their camp. If a convention was for the party you are not part of, it might have been very scary to you to watch that … whether you could name it or not. If a convention was for the party you are part of, it might have been very exciting for you to watch that … whether you could name it or not, and whether you could discern that the same thing was going on in each convention or not. Maybe it just felt less scary to you with the party that believes what you believe. But it’s not less scary really. For in either case, the people in the crowd have suspended their own good sense, thinking, awareness, instinct … and, consciously or not, have said ‘yes’ to being carried away.
Do you like a roller coaster? If so, it’s like you have said “Yes I’ll go on this roller coaster ride … never mind the consequences! Never mind the danger!”
But what happens when you find out the consequences of your having suspended your own thinking? Then what happens? Then do you realize that by saying “yes” to being part of the mob dynamic … You have contributed to the mob? You have fed the mob energy? You have added to the mob frenzy? You have been part of actions taken and actions in process that you never intended to have happen? And that you will not now be able to stop? You have been part of things that you now regret. Or if not now, at some point you will regret?
This can happen on a micro level, like in a family, or on a macro level, like in a society. This can happen to you, too … even if you believe it can’t. Many of us believe we’re immune to this. But honestly, who amongst us is absolutely, perfectly conscious?
Let’s look at an example of the micro-level*: Many years ago a very new friend of mine married someone she’d known since childhood. They had been friends, and their families had been friends for years. I was invited to the wedding and attended. I was also very uncomfortable. Something felt “off” to me about this “match made in heaven.” Some years later, my friend and I were walking, and she said she was getting divorced. We talked about what was going on, how she and her husband came to that decision, and how she felt. And then I told her I had been concerned from the beginning but hadn’t felt it my place to say anything since our friendship was so very new. With tears in her eyes she turned to me and said she wished I had said something. She shared that the families were so excited about the two of them getting married that she got carried away on the wave of the families’ excitement. She suspended her thinking, her real feelings, her instinct and let the mob mentality, so to speak, carry her someplace that wasn’t really good or true for her to go.
This kind of thing happens all the time on a micro level … in families, among siblings, among friends, and so forth. Often with painful, sometimes even truly destructive consequences. Think, for example of a family bullying one of the children in the family.
Now let’s look at an example of the macro level: In the book The Oxbow Incident, three innocent men are hanged by a would-be posse. Although one amongst them tries to save them, being part of the mob carries the others away from truth and justice. Only after the hangings have taken place, does the mob discover that their supposed justification for suspecting and killing the three men had never occurred at all. A truly serious, destructive consequence of getting caught up and carried away by the mob mentality.
Or let’s look at how the charisma of Adolph Hitler – which could have been used for great good – was misused and abused to carry people on a wave to their worst instincts and intentions … without their even realizing it. And how the mob mentality turned into a riot mentality that caused the deaths of millions of innocent people, the torture of millions more, and destruction beyond comprehension. Yet we do need to comprehend that kind of destruction that results from being carried on the wave of the mob mentality.
One final macro example: As I write this article, it has been revealed that there have been riots in two Middle Eastern cities at the embassies of the United States. The cause: Someone in the U.S. put an amateur movie clip and trailer on the internet making fun of Allah. The effect: People in the Middle East who believe in Allah saw the movie and began to protest. The protest (influenced and manipulated by some or not) turned into a mob and then a riot. At least four United States embassy people have been reported killed (so far). This shows that the riot mentality can take place in person, via television or radio, and via the internet, as well.
As you prepare to vote in the election on November 8th… I urge you to search your mind, your heart, your soul. I urge you to explore within yourself … Have I been caught up on a wave of mob mentality? Have I been vulnerable in some way unconsciously to allowing myself to be carried onto such a wave? Have I suspended my own thinking? My own true feelings? My own best instincts? If so, how did that happen? If so, how do I get myself off that wave and find a grounded place from which to re-explore? How do I discover what it was in me that caused me to let go of myself and join the wave? What do I need to heal in order to prevent that in the future?
As you and we move toward the election, and a very important election it is … Whatever information you gather in the outer world, commit to find the truth. But most important of all … heal within yourself the place where you could be caught up on a wave of mob mentality, completely disconnected from truth. Completely disconnected from who you really are.
*I have full and generous permission from my friend to tell her story in its essence, in the service of helping us not be part of the mob mentality during this election process … or any time.
NOTE: Please pass this on to others you know and to places that support consciousness and truth. This is crucial for our wellbeing individually, as a society, and as a world.
© Judith Barr, 2012, 2016