Friday, April 11, 2008

Here's to the mob

"The mob is a much underrated political phenomenon. In London last weekend it reduced the Olympic torch parade to a Keystone Cops farrago. Then in Paris it extinguished the flame altogether, and in San Francisco it forced the proceedings to vanish into an early grave…

"The mob helped kill the poll tax, felled the Berlin Wall and brought Yeltsin to power in Russia. It toppled dictators in Serbia and Ukraine, and may yet do so in Kenya and Zimbabwe. A crowd running amok in the streets of a capital somehow outguns opinion polls and election victories in the minds of rulers. When those in palaces of power peer round their curtains and see the howling throng, their knees go weak and some primitive instinct communicates defeat." —Simon Jenkins


ianvisits said...

The idea that the electorate is a mob has been around ever since the time of Tiberius in Rome when he turned against the Senate and summoned up populist feelings in the masses and used them to overturn the more staid opinions of the politicians.

Populist politicians have manipulated the mob ever since - and indeed today we live in a world dominated by the mob mentality as the tabloid newspapers whip their readerships into a frenzy over some indignity or other.

I have sometimes thought it would be interesting if a newspaper was to publish a headline along the lines of "Outrage at...." - that they substantiate their claim that there is indeed public outrage by conducting a professional opinion poll. I suspect that the outrage doesn't exist, until after the newspaper is published.

Then the mob reacts - and pediatricians get their windows broken.

Michael said...

The mob may have been on the side of truth and justice in these examples but its just as often on the side of ignorance and persecution. The mob has played its part in as many (more?) pogroms and witch-hunts as it has pro-human rights demonstrations. Its a force for right and wrong depending on who, as the comment above suggests, is holding the carrot/stick.