Sorting through the crowd

I’ve always been wary of crowds.
My mother used to drag me to protests that her church was participating in, and, as a small child,  I never understood how everyone knew to shout at the same time. Le Bon discusses the law of the mental unity of crowds, and addresses that people who join in crowds may discard their ideals and individual points of view in order to become one with the crowd.
I think we see this mentality quite often portrayed negatively in the media. Organized protests can gain media support or attention, but as Blanco states, the news has a short attention span, and to make something “newsworthy” takes more effort than just organizing a group of people together.
In the case of the protests I have attended as a child, there was always some local news station there. They seemed disappointed with the boring talking that occurred, but the cameramen would light up when shouting started. Even today ,when watching the news, it’s always about the unruliness that occurs, and when it’s not, the reporters seem surprised at a movement’s ability to hold a peaceful protest.

Many organizers of social movements obviously know that drama makes for good news. For example, Peta recently filed a lawsuit claiming orca whales are protected by the 13th amendment because they were being treated as slaves. Is this an outrageous claim? Probably. Does each individual involved with Peta think this lawsuit was a good idea? Probably not, but, as stated in Le Bon’s piece, a collective mind works differently than an individual’s mind. The person acting in a group no longer needs to use his own mind though, because the crowd will guide him, although it is tough to figure out who is guiding the crowd. The case was thrown out, but I nonetheless heard about it because it was “newsworthy.”

The idea of group-think is something I find fascinating. Is the image a social organization wishes to portray the same motivation the crowd supporting them has for gathering together? The answer should be yes, but when individuals cease to exist and instead form one hive mind, I do not think the group always has the SMO’s best interests in mind.
I agree with Le Bon mainly on his last point, that a crowd may, more often than not, be heroic. In certain circumstances, a crowd is able to maintain its composure, and peacefully gather in order to garner attention for a movement, without pulling a major publicity stunt (although the protest itself probably counts), and I think these are the best examples of social movement in action.
When a police officer is pepper spraying people, and the crowd does nothing, it is not an act of cowardice, but of heroism. Doing nothing can speak volumes more than putting up a fight.

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One thought on “Sorting through the crowd

  1. Pingback: Week 3 Blog Summary: (Classical Theories), Resource Mobilization, Political Process AKA Dumb Angry Mobs | Networked Social Movements

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