Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Mob Rule

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Mob Rule

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Mob rule


An editorial from the Prince George Citizen, published June 24:

Emperors of ancient Rome lived in fear of the mobile vulgus - the fickle mob of plebeians. Plebeians, the working-class citizens of Rome, had little influence individually but, as a group, could shake the foundations of the mightiest empire of its time.

The proliferation of social media has allowed this decade to become the decade of the mobile vulgus. Now groups can spread their message and gather forces quicker than ever, without the help of conventional media outlets which are often government controlled under oppressive regimes.

The Arab Spring, Occupy movement, Turkish protests and Brazilian protests are just examples of how this ability to disseminate messages and organize has allowed large, powerful mobs to influence government policy -and even force regime changes.

However, the Arab Spring also demonstrates the problems caused by mob rule.

In Egypt, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, the mob has divided. Half of the people who occupied Tahrir Square did so to overturn the government and bring about a secular, modern democracy. The other half did so to turn Egypt into an Islamic state ruled by Sharia Law. Ultimately, Egypt's future may be decided by which group can field the biggest mob and shout the loudest.

And in Turkey and Brazil, governments made concessions on the policies which sparked the initial protests, but the protests didn't end. The nominal issues - development in Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul and rising bus fares in Brazil - were only the last straws.

The real cause for the protests was a deeper, unfocused anger about the current state of affairs in the country. Such mobs can't be appeased because they don't really know what they want in concrete terms.

And even if the mob's cause is just, the violence they cause can explode like a Molotov cocktail -spreading fire and broken glass everywhere.

Ancient Greek philosopher called this kind of mob rule ochlocracy -the twisted Mr. Hyde to democracy's calm, stable Dr. Jekyll.

In an ochlocracy, governments are intimidated by the jeering crowds, or the mob simply takes the law into its own hands. …

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