"The mob is man voluntarily descending to the nature of the beast. It’s actions are insane like its whole constitution.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Somewhere between Simi Valley, California and Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, the United States of America got caught in a time-warping vortex transporting it to the crossroads where medieval days of yore meet the old west, a place where lynch mob mentality outweighs the rules of civilized society.
As I write this, the cause célèbre is Steven Avery and the Netflix documentary, Making A Murderer. Mobs of people are lining up with torches ready to exact justice on the case’s prosecutor, Ken Kratz, who they believe railroaded an innocent man into prison… again.
With Kratz, or heck, as they did with the cops in Ferguson and Baltimore for that matter, the mob already has it’s noose firmly in hand. There’s something unsettling about how society has devolved into a real-life version of 1931’s Frankenstein or the old Pace picante sauce commercial where a cowboy, upon hearing his picante sauce came from New York City, calmly, yet firmly, declares, “get a rope.”
With the Avery case, its another rage-fueled reaction where the fires of emotion are feverishly stoked by a one-sided “documentary” void of ALL the facts of the case. If mobs want to wield the pitchforks then at least base the decision to do so on reality, not a filmmaker’s version of reality. My own profession doesn’t help. What happened in Ferguson is due in no small part to the work of irresponsible network journalists peddling a predetermined narrative and a ratings-obsessed, reality-TV mindset in which the search for truth isn’t really paramount.
Social media is worse. Twitter? It’s the biggest mob of all. It fuels a ravenous appetite for knee-jerk justice. We don’t need facts. We don’t need order. We’ve heard the accusations and YOU’RE GUILTY. We’re now judges, juries, AND executioners.
You’d think we’d have learned something in the last 2000 years. We haven’t. Sometime around 33 A.D., Jesus Christ saw the mob mentality for what it was, a mindset rooted in narcissism and self-righteousness, then dispatched a group of hypocrites who wanted to stone an adulteress with his now famous words, “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”
Not much has changed.
There’s no patience for the process. No waiting for all of the facts, and you can forget calm discourse. Even the 19th-century novelist George Eliot, a woman by the way, got it. In 1862, in the novel Romola, she wrote, “All things except reason and order are possible with a mob.”
Well come on, why do we need reason and order? We’ve got a bag of rocks, a Twitter account, and… a rope.