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Mob craze...


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#1 Boerseun

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 07:25 AM

I see in the news that there was a mob craze in the Xinjiang region in China.

A whole lot of Uighur Muslims are said to have invaded the streets and get physical with anything that looked or smelt like anything Han. More than 140 people are dead, and according to the report I read, it's not entirely clear as if the confrontations are over.

But that's not my prime mover for this thread. I've seen first-hand how people can go crazy when caught up in the groundswell of an angry mob. Average people that you have spoken to mere minutes ago turn into vicious killers, and they are so swept up in the moment that they testify later that they had no control over themselves - all they remember is the euphoria of letting go of your most base cultural inhibitions with the crowd, and let loose on whatever irks you at that moment.

I've seen it, but I've never been in it.

I can understand the adaptive value such a mob-craze scenario might have in group-selection terms, when the entire tribe goes ballistic in defense or attack - the tribe able to do this best will obviously be selected for. But it surely is a bit counterproductive today. If our propensity towards such crowd behaviour is genetic, there's not much we can do about it on the short term, I guess. But it's immensely interesting to compare humans in crowds (at the football play-offs, for instance) with chimp societies, and how they can all turn batshit at the drop of a hat... and it is interesting to speculate on the culpability of anyone in such a crowd, when it results in murder and mayhem (as in China today). Is the individual responsible?

So what are the elements of such crowd behaviour? Where's the on/off switch that makes the individual become part of the craze? Why would you now turn into a mindless zombie killer, but in another crowd (say, in a queue at the bank), you docilely await your turn without turning into a killer?

Are we really any better than thinly-haired monkeys?

Have any of you guys been caught up in such a craze? What did it feel like?

#2 InfiniteNow

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 09:30 AM

Are we really any better than thinly-haired monkeys?

Not really, no. In fact, sometimes and in some circumstances I'd argue that we're worse.


Have any of you guys been caught up in such a craze? What did it feel like?

Two words: Rock -- Concert.

#3 lemit

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 10:31 AM

Have any of you guys been caught up in such a craze? What did it feel like?


In the Sixties, in the Civil Rights Movement and the Antiwar Movement.

The emotions then were probably like the emotions in China now. There was a sense of personal committment to the common goal. In the Antiwar Movement there were some people who were there because they were cowards and for some reason thought they could put themselves on the line at home without using courage. It didn't work any better here than it would have in war. They were wild eyed people going one way while the rest of us were wild eyed people going the other way.

But I was one of the ones cheering the burning buildings and devastation in the service of what I thought was a greater good. It wasn't until later, on retrospection, that I became a coward.

Now, of course, I recount my feelings about that era the way I recount my feelings about last week's toast.

--lemit

#4 pamela

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 05:56 PM

Have any of you guys been caught up in such a craze? What did it feel like?

Two words: Rock -- Concert.

I am reminded of my days immersed in hardcore punk. The mosh pit was indeed a rather crazed mob like form of dance with aggression.One minute you could just be chatting and swilling a brew and then the next, a wave of overwhelming aggression would overtake your senses and you would thrust yourself in wave of the pit. Moving, hitting, punching, swirling.....probably hard to imagine this as being fun, however, it would allow you to be the most base of animal and the adrenaline surge was unbelievable. Now granted most chicks, don't opt for this sort of thing, but i gotta tell you, it really allows you to see the animalistic nature in us. When caution, intellect and rationale are tossed to the wayside, it is easily conceivable that even the most docile of us, can find ourselves in the midst of a mob.

#5 Cedars

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 06:33 PM

I see in the news that there was a mob craze in the Xinjiang region in China.

A whole lot of Uighur Muslims are said to have invaded the streets and get physical with anything that looked or smelt like anything Han.

I can understand the adaptive value such a mob-craze scenario might have in group-selection terms, when the entire tribe goes ballistic in defense or attack - the tribe able to do this best will obviously be selected for. But it surely is a bit counterproductive today. If our propensity towards such crowd behaviour is genetic, there's not much we can do about it on the short term, I guess. But it's immensely interesting to compare humans in crowds (at the football play-offs, for instance) with chimp societies, and how they can all turn batshit at the drop of a hat... and it is interesting to speculate on the culpability of anyone in such a crowd, when it results in murder and mayhem (as in China today). Is the individual responsible?

So what are the elements of such crowd behaviour? Where's the on/off switch that makes the individual become part of the craze? Why would you now turn into a mindless zombie killer, but in another crowd (say, in a queue at the bank), you docilely await your turn without turning into a killer?


The mobs at soccer games are the same personalities that were putting tires over bound people and lighting them on fire in South Africa. They are also the same people who will join you on a mountain climb or skydive out of an airplane. Risk takers and the adrenaline.

Now compare the example, Uighur Muslims and Hans. First, I know little about it other than China (with its restricted press) says Uighur Muslims took to the streets, china tried to supress this and some people are dead and the protest/violence continued into the next day. Who is the mob here? The Hans who restrict religion, freedom, assign living quarters, restrict movement, etc with "when it results in murder and mayhem (as in China today)". How many Uighur Muslims were murdered before the dog bit the hand that fed it?

Who was the mob during the Peoples revolution and when did they stop being the mob?

#6 Moontanman

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 09:43 PM

I have to say I have been exposed to the Mob mentality several times in my life and I was repelled by it. Every time I've had the opportunity to be a part of a mob type thing I have been compelled to go the other way. I am uncomfortable going with the crowd and always choose to go my own way....

#7 Boerseun

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 10:42 PM

I wonder...

Mobs, like the British soccer hooligans or Individuals ganging up in what was peaceful protest marches, turning it into a destruction frenzy where cars are rolled over and set alight, shop windows broken, people assaulted and killed etc, do they share a common psychological profile? Like Moontan said, he was repulsed by the mob - myself, I would never find myself in that position because being my own misanthropic self, I'd never be in a mob to begin with. So I don't know. Is everybody capable of turning into a killer mob-zombie?

And if everybody is capable of it, and you end up killing someone in such a craze, are you culpable for murder? Would such a mob-craze have any bearing on your guilt? Did you have control over yourself? It certainly does not look as if those mob-crazed people have any idea of what they're doing, nor of the consequences.

What's your take on culpability under such conditions?