Mob mentality refers to the behavioral tendency of people (or other social animals) to act in unison with the group of which they are a part. (Brainz) It is used to describe social behavior when it is characterized through ignoble consensus, and directed to achieve a purpose that is usually hurtful in nature
An early example comes from Robert Graves’s book I Claudius. Depictions of chaos illustrated how early Roman society was in disarray after the death of Marcellus and people started riots on the streets, while demanding a renewal of the Republic. (Graves) It was then shown on a larger scale by Western Civilization Beyond Borders (fifth edition) as the crusades of 1096 were started by Europe’s religious hierarchy when they sent “an army of Christian knights from Europe to liberate the Holy Land from the Muslim infidel.” Blanketing their violence under the pretexts of a “holy” cloak—these “signed by the cross” warriors killed many in the name of God. (Noble)
Supremacists, street gangs, activist groups, community private sector groups, and even public sectors of civil service have been shown to participate in mob mentality. The L.A. riots were an more recent example of how mob mentality violence—led to more mob violence as; a small group of uniformed police officers (acting on violent tendencies) created conditions for an even bigger mob of citizens to carry destructive energy on the streets of Los Angeles.
Mob mentality in the area of racial and ethnic group relations can be seen when dominating groups in society oppress other less privileged groups, out of fear that they will lose control of the system of divided prosperity they established. Their need for social, economic, or political power drives them to create imbalances in society which ultimately lead to human suffering and lack of opportunity.
It can be difficult to understand why normal appearing people would take part in mob behavior. Perhaps a good explanation to this comes in the area of peer pressure and the need to conform to social expectations. In an article by Education Horizons about the Columbine tragedy Deborah Meier explains “a lack of awareness or intentional indifference to kids being tormented by other kids.” Attempting to understand the conditions before the massacre a report by the Washington post describes “pre-massacre Columbine as filled with social vinegar.” “The high school was dominated by a “cult of the athlete. “In this environment of favored jocks—who wore white hats to set themselves apart—consistently bullied, hazed, and sexually harassed their classmates while receiving preferential treatment from school authorities.” (Gary K. Clabaugh)
Aside from the fact that bullying in that school proved to be rampant, unchecked, and tolerated by administration, the two young men involved were wrong in killing others even though their roles as social outcasts made them targets for abuse.
Social stigma plays a major role in bullying others. The disapproval of personal characteristics or beliefs which are viewed as being contrast to cultural norms, can lead to hatred against people. Mr. Erving Goffman said stigma to be “the process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity.” (Goffman)When stereotyping leads to labeling, an individual can have changes in self perception. This can have concurrent and further damaging effects on a person—but, perhaps that is exactly what the bullying behavior is intended to achieve.
In conclusion, mob mentality has negative impact on perpetrators and society; it creates conditions of forward momentum of destructive energy that consumes all in its path. Fueled by abstruse conflicts in the collective conscious—and usually vented in anarchy; it does little more than contribute to patterns of social regression in an already failing system that we struggle with today.
Brainz. “What is mob mentality.” Brainz.org (2009-2010): 1.
Gary K. Clabaugh, Ed. D. & Alison A. Clabaugh, Ph.D. “Bad Apples or Sour Pickles? Fundamental Attribution Error and the Columbine Massacre.” Education Horizons Vol. 83, no.2 (2005): 1.
Goffman, Ervin. “Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity.” Wikipedia (1990): 1.
Graves, Robert. I Claudius. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.
Noble. Western Civilization Beyond Boundaries. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co, 2008.