Please explain “mob rule”, as in “mob rule and street justice”.
Literally, mob rule means rule or control by the mob, a large crowd.
It’s the opposite of the rule of law, law as in law and order.
This is easily understandable, as a tourist guide will tell us, the bigger the crowd, the harder it is for the tourist guide to keep them in control and the likelier it is for someone to go missing or something to go wrong.
In a popular protest, for example, what protesters do is often dictated by the mob, or the largest crowd. In a large crowd, the person who makes the biggest noise is heard and heeded. Those who attempt to reason are often, or rather always, drowned out, which is why mass protests often disintegrate into chaos and violence. At first, people think they’re together to protest against something, say, against the Trump Administration’s slow and ineffective response to the coronavirus pandemic. Before long, however, shop windows are broken and looting ensues.
On a larger scale, if a local government is taken over by a mob, the local city or town will descend into chaos or lawlessness.
Yes, mob rule, by and large, is equivalent to lawlessness.
Colloquially, Americans describe the Mafia or similar street gangs and criminal organizations as the Mob. So, there.
Mob rule, in short, is not the most sophisticated justice system in the world, to say the least. Like it is with the Mob or Mafia, mob rule is a form of street justice, a primitive control system.
All right, here are “mob rule” in recent media:
1. As the story goes, Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone asked him, ”Dr. Franklin, what have we got- a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin supposedly responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” 233 years later America may be losing the republic Franklin and the founders crafted.
A republic form of government is one where elected individuals represent the citizens and exercise power according to the rule of law under the Constitution. In America, those representatives are democratically elected. In a ‘direct democracy,’ the citizens directly deliberate and decide on legislature. When elected officials in a republic abrogate their responsibility, citizens often take matters into their own hands. True democracy is ‘mob rule.’ Based on the recent civil unrest, the U.S. is looking more and more like a true democracy.
Some believe the United States has moved from a republic to an oligarchy. In a study by two political scientists; Martin Gilens, (Princeton), and Benjamin Page, (Northwestern), they concluded the wealthy have a disproportionate amount of influence in politics. Gilens and Page write; “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Gilens and Page are liberals and clearly had a predetermined outcome, but they are correct the wealthy are more engaged in politics than the poor. But no oligarchy can survive mob rule. The numbers just won’t work. So how does America get back to a representative democracy? How does the United States get back to the form of government the founders intended? Three ways:
First, the average citizen must actively engage in their government. They have to do more than vote. They must pay attention to what is happening all the time, not just every two years at election time. That involves attending meetings, getting to know their elected officials, helping candidates, and contributing money. The reason big money has taken over politics is because so few average people are engaged in the process.
Second, the American system of government must be taught to the next generation. Most millennials have little knowledge of our system of government and the genius of the founders. Pew Research, in a March 2020 poll, found two thirds of millennials want the Electoral College eliminated and the president be elected by popular vote. They fail to not understand the EC is a fundamental principle of a representative democracy. Eliminating the Electoral College will result in large states having more and more control. The genius of the Electoral College is it gives power to individual states and not just population centers.
Third, Americans must commit to a democratic republic. The mindset to understand the importance of being involved in a republic is critical. Without wide-spread commitment from individual citizens taking equity in their self-governing system of government, America will not survive.
- Fair and Biased: True democracy is mob rule, MuskogeePhoenix.com, June 26, 2020.
2. The past few months have seen a tremendous wave of social unrest in the United States, and some in Canada. This was spurred by the killing of George Floyd, an act so heinous that even noted racist Donald J. Trump called it a terrible thing. A seemingly endless stream of video evidence of discrimination and violence against not just Black people, but BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour), meant these protests have carried on for months, and even threatened to end the seasons of professional sports leagues.
While the protests have largely been peaceful, there has been violence in some American cities. Additionally, many American protestors have taken to tearing down statues of those who they view as oppressive or racist historical figures. Canadians were confronted with this happening on our own soil when the Coalition for BIPOC Liberation tore down a statue of Sir John A. MacDonald in Montreal.
Reaction to this act in Canada was pretty swift and, sadly predictable. Numerous people have decried the action as “mob rule”. Media types who work for outlets with a penchant for Islamaphobia compared the protestors to the Taliban. What better way to both vilify protestors whose philosophy you don’t agree with, than by using dog-whistle type comparisons to get at Muslims you don’t like as well. Kills two birds with one stone, right?
Even our own inept Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, stated that “actions like this have no place” in Canada. Of course we all know what he truly thinks of indigenous people by the way he brazenly attacked his former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. Even the pro-Liberal Toronto Star criticized him for it. As for what he thinks of people of colour, well….
We must prevent “mob rule”. Doing so is the only way to preserve a safe, healthy and strong society. But doing so requires all of us to take a good hard look at persistent inequalities in our society, work to fix them, and thus give hope to people who currently feel none.
History teaches what the alternative is, and we don’t want to go there.
- Don’t Like Mob Rule? Then Work to Fix Inequality, JustAnOldCountryDoctor.com, August 31, 2020.
3. Donald Trump is not known for his soaring rhetoric, but his speech at Mount Rushmore was one of the rhetorical highlights of his presidency. In addressing the nation as he enters the home stretch of another presidential campaign, the president would do well to recall the words of Abraham Lincoln, one of the four American presidents chiseled into the South Dakota mountaintop -- and the first to be elected on the Republican Party ticket.
In 1838, the 28-eight-year-old Lincoln delivered what would later be considered his first great political speech to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Ill. In it, he warned against the dangers of mob violence. In the cases he discussed, vigilante groups had not waited for justice to be done to lawbreakers, but had savagely murdered the men (most of them black) accused of committing the crimes. Here were two explosive issues, mob violence and race, that together threatened the preservation of our political institutions.
The foundational problem with mob rule, as Lincoln saw it, was that it alienates decent, law-abiding citizens from their government. When “good men, men who love tranquility, who desire to abide by the laws, and enjoy their benefits, who would gladly spill their blood in the defense of their country; seeing their property destroyed, their families insulted; their persons injured; and seeing nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better; become tired of, and disgusted with, a government that offers them no protection,” Lincoln warned.
The United States, he asserted, was far more likely to “die by suicide” than by foreign conquest.
- A Timely Message on Mob Rule From Our 16th President, RealClearPolitics, September 1, 2020.
About the author:
Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.