Abolish the Police!

Legislation by Mob is Deadly

Unless you have been holed up in a lockdown from infectious and virulent mass media, you are likely aware of the outbreak of riots… er, protests, throughout many major cities in the U.S. over the past week in response to the senseless murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis rogue cop. This act has been met with horror by citizens across the country as collectively we express empathy for Floyd and his family. Early peaceful demonstrations and vigils sought to bring awareness of what is perceived as the disregard for African American lives by law enforcement. Due to political opportunists, this cause has been swiftly upended by violent mobs conveying still other messages that are as savage and disjointed as their blatant acts of unimpeded anarchy.

The cries of early demonstrators were clear, as they were equitably seeking “Justice for George.” Justice they got as the Minneapolis police department rightly fired his killer - Derek Chauvin – along with the President calling for an expedited investigation by the FBI and the Department of Justice. Thankfully, the appeals for Chauvin’s arrest and indictment for murder were also met relatively swiftly.

Despite the action taken by law enforcement to bring Floyd’s murderer to justice, civil protests have morphed into riots with demands for more action. With tensions high and fists raised, there has been much inflammatory rhetoric as we have all seen signs splashed with inane messages such as “Defund the Police,” “Abolish the Police,” and more macabre “Eat the Rich.”  Calls for sobriety and reason have been drowned out by menacing chants, the sound of store alarms, screams of hapless victims, explosions and gunfire.

Although surreal, there is nothing new about the civil unrest and mob behavior unfolding before our very eyes. As long as there have been civilizations, there have been mobs. About 2,000 years ago, a mob of occupied Roman citizens in Judea demanded the execution of an innocent man, many of whom had welcomed into town with great fanfare just a few days before. Ginned up by agitators who were jealous of this new kind of philosopher, the vicious mob had no sensibility or compassion when the Judean governor, Pontius Pilate, entreated that he be released in lieu of a murderer – savagely, the mob demanded he be crucified.

The French Revolution (1789-1799) was similarly marked by mob violence. Even when politicians, clergymen, and royalty capitulated to the mob’s demands, they were savagely attacked, beheaded, and torn into pieces. Sheer lunacy and madness reigned supreme at the storming of the Bastille, the food riots, the Day of the Daggers, the de-Christianization campaign, and the storming of the Tuileries (to literally name but a few of the raucous anarchist crusades performed in the name of “liberty”).[1]

In view of the events in recent and distant past, we might prudently ask, “What makes a mob so violent and crazed?” French polymath Gustave Le Bon sought to answer this as early as 1895 in his seminal work, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind.[2] His findings were alarming and insightful: in a word he concluded that crowds were not the sum (or average) of their individual intelligences. Instead, less intelligent, bestial properties emerge in the context of crowds, as individuals commit acts in the collective they would never even consider as individuals, such as the sawing off of heads with a pocket knife (French Revolution), and the beating of a woman with a two-by-four (Rochester, New York).  Le Bon offered several reasons for these banal, emergent properties:

The first is that the individual forming part of a crowd acquires, solely from numerical considerations, a sentiment of invincible power which allows him to yield to instincts which, had he been alone, he would perforce have kept under restraint. He will be the less disposed to check himself from the consideration that, a crowd being anonymous, and in consequence irresponsible, the sentiment of responsibility which always controls individuals disappears entirely.

Thus the power of numbers, certain anonymity, and no fear of consequences, makes the most sophisticated individual act most banal as they succumb to a “collective mind which makes them feel, think, and act in a manner quite different . . .” from what they might do in isolation. More scarily:

There are certain ideas and feelings which do not come into being, or do not transform themselves into acts except in the case of individuals forming a crowd. The psychological crowd is a provisional being formed of heterogeneous elements, which for a moment are combined, exactly as the cells which constitute a living body form by their reunion a new being which displays characteristics very different from those possessed by each of the cells singly.

For any of us bewildered by the anarchistic new cries of defunding or “abolishing the police,” we can make some sense of this insane refrain when we take Le Bon’s crowd model into account. In the context of a local Town Hall, or within any Houses of Congress, likely such an idea would never gain traction – not from an individual or even a committee, because on its face and in the presence of reasonable individuals, it is absurd. Le Bon warns, “The claims of the masses are becoming more and more sharply defined, and amount to nothing less than a determination to utterly destroy society as it now exists.” Scarily, we now see too many feckless leaders capitulating to the masses’ demands for defunding and “reorganizing” police departments. As they symbolically “take the knee” they would do well to look at history and learn what mob violence does to society in the long run: nothing but damage and pain.


[1] Coulter, A. (2011, June). Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America. Crown Forum.

[2] Le Bon, G. (1895). The crowd: A study of the popular mind. T. Fisher Unwin.

Emily has had a lifelong appreciation for science, teaching, and research. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno with a BS degree in molecular biology and a minor in cognitive psychology. As an undergraduate, she conducted summer research in immunology, microbiology, behavioral and cognitive psychology, scanning tunneling microscopy and genetics; she also published research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, and co-authored a chapter on scanning tunneling microscopy. She is currently completing a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology at University of Cincinnati and a Certificate in Apologetics with the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Emily has had the joy of teaching high school chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, anatomy & physiology, and pre-engineering classes over the last thirteen years. As a former Darwinian evolutionist, Emily enjoys stating the case for intellectual agency, considering the arguments posited by the intelligent design movement as much more credible than those proffered by Darwinists.

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