Monday, September 4, 2017

1957, desegregation, "mob rule," crimes, and mysteries


First there is this from The Writer's Almanac: 

It was on this day in 1957 that Arkansas governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard to bar nine black students from entering Central High School in Little RockIn response, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne Division to make sure they could enroll. A few days later, Eisenhower made a prime-time, live televised speech to the nation in which he said, "Mob rule cannot be allowed to override the decisions of our courts."


And there is this personal postscript:

Mobs almost always commit crimes, and the cause of the "mob rule" against which President Eisenhower was taking action was a disease of the public mind that had been infecting society for a very long time. Unfortunately, the infectious disease persists. 

However, with the 1957 example above excepted (a moment in history I remember well), I think ruthless actions -- yes, even crimes-- against others are sometimes necessary. So, good friends, the mystery resides in this question:

When if ever are crimes and "mob rule" desirable as necessary evils in a society? Can you cite past or present examples? 
 


8 comments:

  1. Mobs are always bad because they are immune to responsibility. As Kierkegaard said, "the crowd has no hands," meaning that no individual in the crowd would ever act on his own as he feels free to as part of the crowd. Hence, the riot act, and the necessity of enforcing it from time to time.

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    1. Frank, yes, and a problem may be in my use of the word "mob." Still, it seems to be true that sometimes the oppressed few as allies must rise up against the oppressive many, and there are cases wherein the ends justifies the means. Metaphor as example: when are otherwise passive children justified in banding together to put down by force a brutal bully?

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  2. I agree with Frank. I can think of no example when mob rule proved to be beneficial. Mob rule brings out the worst in human behavior, and I, for one, can't justify or whitewash that.

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    1. Fred, I understand your point. There are, I think, issues worth pondering. My use of the phrase "mob rule" relies upon the Eisenhower quote, and I'm concerned about the loaded implications of that phrase. When people in power see the good order and discipline of society (and their power) being threatened, the threats are often characterized as coming from "mobs" or other similarly negatively labeled groups. It seems to me, though, that the label rather than the action is the problem. I can imagine scenarios in which groups of people must take extreme measures against people in power. Going further, majority rule in a society is not always a good thing; for example, just because a majority believes something to be right, that does not make it right (e.g., the majority of people for a long time seemed to have been against giving women and African-Americans the right to vote; the majority of Germans were not opposed to Nazis being in power prior to and during WW2). Perhaps if the word "mob" is not involved, we can agree that individuals and groups must sometimes take actions, even forceful actions, against prevailing powers. Agreed?

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    2. R.T.--sorry but I'm confused. What is your definition of mob rule if you mean something other than the common dictionary definition? I see it as something other than insurgency, popular uprisings, revolution, etc.

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    3. Fred, I apologize for sloppy thinking. The definition of "mob rule" -- didn't know the dictionary had one -- becomes the problem; perhaps I should have been clearer by suggesting -- as you do -- insurgencies, uprisings, revolutions, etc. Forgive my careless use of language and syntax. My Swiss-cheese brain betrays my better intentions.

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    4. R.T.--no problem. I have no absolute judgement about surgencies, uprisings, revolutions, etc. I think each one has to be judged on its own merits.

      And, that doesn't take into consideration another point: the aftermath.

      The French Revolution for example:

      First: was it justified?

      Second: should the Reign of Terror that followed be taken into account when judging it?

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    5. Fred, your knowledge of these (and so many other) matters much exceeds mine, but I continue to learn in small bits.

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