Simpsons Mob

The Rise of Mob Rule in America

Ever wondered why James Madison & many of his Federalist cohorts were so adamant about founding a republic instead of a democracy? I know many of us are quick to correct our well-intentioned peers when they mistake the latter for the former, but few are aware of exactly why the word “democracy” isn’t printed anywhere in the Constitution.

In Federalist #10, James Madison stated,

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. (Emphasis mine)

To translate Madison, democracies have no check against the mob, against one faction controlling both public discourse and the government itself. This is, in part, why “checks and balances” are an integral part of our Republican form of government. The Constitution installs many of these safeguards to prevent, as Madison referenced, one man, a group of men, or a mob from holding too much power, and abusing it. The mob mentality is antithetical to our system of governance. There’s a reason why the United States was designed as a nation that respected the authority of the individual, rather than the collective.

There is no better example of why James Madison and others feared mob rule, and by extension, democracies, than our current political climate.  Remember when former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich stepped down after the heat he received for having the audacity to donate to California’s Prop 8, four years ago? Or when Condi Rice was so mercilessly attacked by Rutgers students (Read: Rutgers students riled up by Rutgers professors) for her role in the Iraq War, that she eventually pulled out of her scheduled Commencement address? In fact, there are about 17 trillion similar examples on college campuses nationwide. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but you get the picture.

And you know what? This kind of mob-like behavior works. It’s effective. And it’s accelerating in its practice. In both of the cases above, the target of the mob was “defeated” without a board directive or university ruling, respectively. Proponents of this tactic have come to realize that they can enact change, however small, without an official pen-stroke or legislative action. That’s dangerous. An effective mob can threaten the livelihoods and businesses of those with whom they disagree. A few days ago, gun control groups attacked Chipotle for allowing customers with permits to carry firearms in their restaurants. And, yesterday, Chipotle released a statement “asking” customers not to bring guns into their establishments. While the restaurant has every right to make the decisions they think are best for their organization, this act wasn’t spurred by a safety concern or well thought out business decision. It was a response to a mob; a mob which used the hashtag #BurritosNotBullets to attack the chain online. And that’s just one instance. Remember the Chick-Fil-A boycott? It backfired, of course, but it’s a perfect example. A left-leaning mob attacked the restaurant for its CEO’s beliefs on gay marriage, hoping to damage business. This had the opposite effect, but the tactic remains the same. How long until a Christian, Jewish or Muslim business actually goes out of business because a liberal mob decides they don’t agree with the organization’s stance on gay marriage, for example?

I tend to believe that social media perpetuates this type of behavior and thinking. It’s so easy to tweet a hashtag or read the title of an article on Twitter without doing any actual research into the subject in question. It’s easy to stoke the emotions of a virtual, disinterested audience. What results is a virtual mob. Perfect example: Remember the #HasJustineLandedYet debacle from a couple months ago? A PR exec was virtually mauled by Twitter users for tweeting, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding-I’m white.” Justine Sacco lost her job and was attacked, and stalked by people all over the globe for a single tweet. Was is a “mockable” tweet? Sure. While she probably deserved a bit of mockery, the response was blown way out of proportion.

Let me add here, that, while we’ve seen this behavior more prominently displayed among leftists and the so-called “tolerance brigade,” we on the right are not immune to this type of behavior. The second we assume we are immune is the second the mob mentality starts to sink in. James Madison and many of our Founders knew that, Federalist or Anti-Federalist, Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, we’re all flawed humans and equally capable of making mistakes. While I believe that the conservative principles honoring individual rights and a reverence for the Constitution do tend to curb the tendency toward mob action (and groupthink as well), the temptation is still there. At the end of the day, regardless of what side we rest on the political spectrum, we’re all still human and all still susceptible to making the mistake of subordinating our individuality to the collective.

I’ll leave you with this. I see two possible remedies to the problem of the mob. First, know that mobs tend to operate according to the Alinsky Rule #1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” The mob has power if you give them power (Sure, pitchfork & torch wielding mobs have power, but that’s a different story). In short, call the mob’s bluff. If the mob’s target is unswayed by their attacks, it (the mob) will either fizzle out, or its members will turn on each other. The latter is far more entertaining to watch.

Furthermore, the antidote to an out-of-control mob mentality are strong individuals. We need strong commencement speakers, CEOs, and politicians to stand their ground while facing down a destructive mob. We also need to ensure that we, as individuals, are both confident in our beliefs and well educated on our princples. Those most in danger of being swayed by the mob are the disinterested and uneducated observers. Educate yourself and remain strong in your beliefs, and you’ll do your part in bringing the mob to its knees.

I’ll leave you with this, from Thomas Jefferson, who, as an aside, actually disagreed with James Madison on quite a bit:

“Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%.”

Mob rule doesn’t just result in resignations and commencement speeches that will never be heard, it’s an attack on both our rights and our fundamental system of government.

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15 Responses

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  1. D
    Jan 23, 2016 - 11:01 PM

    I’m left, truly progressive and what I’m reading about and seeing more and more is scaring the ever loving’ shite out of me in regards to what’s happening the liberal/ruin the left movement. For the record ALL movements in social and political human history go through changes and when changing an existing paradigm things will get messy and sometimes be done wrong, in the end. It is natural. But what’s happening here is BEYOND natural and going into mob rule. I’m now scared of conversing with liberals and I’m a freaking left winger from SF!!!! How’s that for things are out of control. I think people have gone nuts, are too reactive and triggered by anything that veers outside of their mantra of righteous thought and belief systems that they’ll attack anything that moves, seemingly into the direction of what could be a threat. Yikes!!!
    What happened to US?

    But people who are fanatical in any respect, be it religious, political or personal often tend to go towards crazy vs. someone who feels strongly but keeps an open mind. And I think many people have jumped on the liberal/gay marriage band wagon and are ruining the left movement.
    Example of truly left vs. liberal fascist approach: problem A. Left goes to figure out cause of problem A, works to get at the root or create solutions to override root of problem. Liberal nut argues about it and eventually browbeats others into submission and thinking the same way.


  2. Pete
    May 26, 2014 - 04:02 PM

    Congratulations from a conservative on a well done essay. Obviously you will hit a raw nerve for some and receive praise from others because of the content, but the writing itself is very good. I hope that you continue to express your thoughts and beliefs because such conversation is a vital part of a healthy society.

  3. Old Gringo
    May 23, 2014 - 02:31 PM

    Well reasoned and hence, beyond comprehension of the left.
    These people deal in feelings; reason is lost to them.
    The left are emotional children and as with all children, they’re unaware that they ARE.

  4. soyouthinkthatgivesyoupoweroverme
    May 22, 2014 - 04:40 PM

    “I’ll leave you with this. I see two possible remedies to the problem of the mob. First, know that mobs tend to operate according to the Alinsky Rule #1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” The mob has power if you give them power (Sure, pitchfork & torch wielding mobs have power, but that’s a different story). In short, call the mob’s bluff. If the mob’s target is unswayed by their attacks, it (the mob) will either fizzle out, or its members will turn on each other. The latter is far more entertaining to watch.”

    I believe once the mob gets used to having power, it will start to exercise it in other areas. Maybe even attempt to affect government using the tactics. What happens when the protest and get a dictator out of power. What happens when the next guy tells them no. I’m afraid of what happens when the mob loses it’s power.

  5. MountainMama
    May 22, 2014 - 07:53 AM

    Let me get this straight.

    It’s free speech when conservatives boycott businesses like Disneyland for the their support of gay rights, or other businesses that don’t have “enough” Christmas in their winter ads. It’s free speech when they protest outside of clinics where pregnancy terminations are performed. And when they choose to demonstrate their support for businesses like Hobby Lobby or Chick-Fil-A, they’re just being supportive.

    But it’s “mob rule” when liberals protest against those with whom we disagree, or choose to boycott or support businesses based on their policies or practices.

    I think your logic is fundamentally flawed. The right to free speech and peaceful assembly does not include the necessity that anyone listen to you, or comply with your wishes. On the other hand, if businesses choose to modify their practices based on feedback from the public, well, that isn’t mob rule – that’s good business.

    • Tim
      May 22, 2014 - 06:33 PM

      It doesn’t sound like you read the whole article before reacting to it…

    • Ed
      May 22, 2014 - 07:13 PM

      The right to free speech is without question. I personally think that people who bend to “mob rule” don’t deserve to be in business or on speaking tours or whatever they do. I happen to hope Donald Sterling wins if he should file a suit against the NBA. This is America and I can be a racist if I want to and talk it up if I want to. Free speech doesn’t just cover speech or opinion that isn’t offensive. The Supreme Court has made very clear what isn’t covered by free speech and offensive speech (in most cases) isn’t part of the ruling. As for the whimps who bend to mob rule, for me, it works the other way. I’ll not do business with them ever again.

    • Mitch Hall
      May 23, 2014 - 05:53 PM

      The difference is that leftist organizations and media are increasingly targeting *individuals* for their beliefs, and punishing them for what they think. Political organizations have always exercised their free speech rights to boycott certain companies or organizations for their ideological policies. The examples above (Brendan Eich, Dan Cathy, Justine Sacco, Condi Rice) are not organizations themselves, and although Eich and Cathy are heads of organizations, they used their own money to donate to their causes (And Eich’s was only $1000, for crying out loud). Neither of them had any discriminatory practices or policies against gays in their company or anything like that–essentially they were innocent of anything except they had the wrong opinions. Abortion clinics, on the other hand, have a distinct ideological agenda that fuels their practices of taking the lives of innocent, unborn children. Correct me if I’m wrong, but boycotting that is a lot different than boycotting an entire organization because one employee doesn’t agree with gay marriage.

      As for the conservative boycott of Disneyland you speak of, that boycott was executed by Christian and religious groups; it was not a concerted effort by conservative organizations, with the complicity of the media, to destroy Disneyland’s business or existence. The left, on the other hand, launches organized attacks against people with differing opinions, and targets their businesses to get them to shut up and stop their political activity. You might classify that as free speech, but that looks a lot more like bullying to me.

    • faculty wife
      May 23, 2014 - 09:37 PM

      My husband worked at the most liberal university in the US for about 12 years. We were there during the period in which that group of women organized for the purpose of “women’s rights” took power. Slow decline, slowly and then very rapidly as they took control of more and more jobs, the previous system of agreed upon academic ethics was abandoned. Finally, one woman danced naked in class–a Masters Class in organizational systems theory. When asked by the department chair what should be done the academic dean said, “pass her on through we need the money”. When the newly hired representative of the LGBT community was hired as president one of her first acts was to fire from the stage at a “community wide event”. She announced his resignation from the program that he had designed, he and only he had the credentials to get it accredited. She announced his resignation as part of her “my for the future of this campus” statement. Unfortunately, she had never mentioned it to the white straight male before hand. Later, her lawyers justified her action ” she doesn’t have enough previous experience–she just had to do shock and awe to get everyone to respect her”. More than 30 women left within two years–90% of the faculty and staff left. When other faculty reported fraud to the WA state dept. of education, the women there, who were supposed to be in charge, refused to investigate.

      On, and on, and on. For years the new president’s hired guns stalked and followed that man and his family because he refused “To stay on and make her look good”. He never worked again without being hounded by the group of WA state women I have grown to calling “the dirty girls of Seattle”. The most liberal, the most liberated, the most wealthy and powerful women in this country. Surprise, surprise they do act like tyrants.

      Just thought you should know Mountainmama–the most liberal of women can be herded to an obedient and destructive force for evil.

    • LJ
      May 17, 2016 - 07:53 PM

      Mob rule is very old indeed, well before the United States came into the picture. Politics for this is the latter. The very wealthiest were afraid of the “mob rule”. The lower classes to get together and right for themselves. The wealthiest also had armies, and the “mob” not so much.
      These struggles are old with new terms of use. If you haven’t checked out Plutocracy the documentary film, it’s time well spent.

  6. Thomas Henman Jr.
    May 22, 2014 - 07:44 AM

    IF one thinks about it any form of elected government is actually mob rule. That is the government may impose the wishes of others upon all if some majority over 50% wish it. The only check is if the government follows rules previously established and even then it can often change the rules. So what is one to do what a majority wish to abuse their power or take from a minority as currently exists in our country?

  7. Holding Nothing
    May 22, 2014 - 12:31 AM

    2 things: 1) The understanding of democracy in the 18th century or so was fairly different than that developed later. What James Madison and Thomas Jefferson criticize is direct democracy, which Madison calls pure democracy. The logistical issues and general problem of nothing established in a constitution or general principles to protect the minority are legitimate concerns, which is why when I use the term democracy, I preface it with either representative or constitutional. Or you could say republican democracy or democratic republic. Problem is that, like the term liberal, terms’ meanings and implications change with history. Liberal used to be something much more like what conservative is understood as today, from what I know.

    2)What he criticizes and defines as pure democracy seems like neither direct democracy nor ochlocracy, literally rule by mob, but a very small commune or such. With such a small group of people, I’d even call it a microcosm of aristocracy or the like.



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