Wednesday 7 December 2022

The wisdom of crowds ... and mobs?

For a while now I have been of the view that some on the 'left' (which I take to embrace the more radical 'greens') are gingerly feeling their way towards trying to legitimise violence in favour of their causes.  They are a bit nervous about this, of course, not least because they are all nice middle- and upper-middle class people who personally rather shrink from violence, much as some of them drool over those rougher types like the Sinn Fein leadership and radical Islamists who couldn't give a monkeys. 

A couple of days ago, this curious piece appeared in the Grauniad, by one Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews:  

China’s Covid policy didn’t have to end in riot and protest. This is why it did

It concludes with this odd remark. 

China’s protests show us that, far from being mindless, crowds and collective protest are highly sophisticated and give us insight into the underlying society. Particularly from those who do not normally have voice, “riots are the voice of the unheard”

Now we can certainly agree that some Chinese protestors are quite creative in how they articulate anti-government sentiments via things like holding blank sheets of paper, or inventing instantly evocative pop-up memes and shibboleths that temporarily evade the sluggish but overpowering CPC censors.  Can be sophisticated enough, for sure.

But "crowds ... far from being mindless ... are highly sophisticated" ?  Well, we've probably all enjoyed being part of a good-humoured crowd at a sporting fixture.  But it's not very comfortable to look into the "mind" of many a crowd outside the soccer stadium afterwards, still less that of many a mob.  We don't even need to cite lynch mobs.  Earlier in the article, Prof Reicher wants us to reject David Cameron's view of the 2011 "riots" as being mere criminality.  Well, matey, the opportunistic looting sprees of the day after Tottenham most certainly were just that, much as some lefties hoped they heralded the Revolution.

I really wonder where this dalliance with violence is going.  Wherever it is, I very much doubt it will be to the long-term political gratification of the radical left-green - even if personally they get their rocks off on it as a nasty form of catharsis and juvenile spite.



Don Cox said...

The left believe (at least in principle) in revolution and thinks it's more effective (and more fun) than steady progress. Yet, in Britain the aims of the Chartists were achieved step by step without a revolution. The socialist aims of the Attlee government were achieved without any bloodshed.

Rioting mobs are always destructive, not constructive.

Peaceful demonstrations are fine, except that there are usually some people who try to capture a demonstration and turn it into a riot, preferably with some looting.


John in Cheshire said...

These commies who write this rubbish would crap their pants if confronted by a real and angry man.

Actions have consequences and physical contact with an enemy hurts. A lot.

These low grade individuals have probably never felt any physical pain.

dearieme said...

I say again: I regret selling my rifle.

Anonymous said...

Well they are being actively encouraged by our police. I do hope that the two end up facing each other in a dark alley. I do not know which of them would get the biggest fright.

djm said...

See also

The Wisdom of Crowds

Old Git Carlisle said...

I expect we will see them out in Whitehaven now Gove has had the guts to approve the pit. Will King Charles come to the opening ??

Lord T said...

Let those wimps on the left bring it on. After all isn't the concern right wing extremism. While they are putting their make up on the right, which is actually left of centre now will be kicking her in her balls.

The wisdom of crowds was true but no longer. It relied on a reasonably well educated and reasonable well informed crowd. That doesn't happen today.

Sobers said...

Of course 'riots are the voice of the unheard' when its people who the Left agree with. If they don't then they are 'insurrectionists'.

Jeremy Poynton said...

"For a while now I have been of the view that some on the 'left' (which I take to embrace the more radical 'greens') are gingerly feeling their way towards trying to legitimise violence in favour of their causes."

Happened some years back in the USA, Nick...

E-K said...

The left always have legitimised violence - having been on the end of it several times as a riot squad copper.

It is justified (in their minds) when the democratic vote goes the 'wrong' way.

The worst of it is that a democratically elected politician such as Mrs T is the one that's called 'divisive' by the BBC.

She wasn't divisive. The rioters and strikers were the ones being divisive.

When conservatives lose the vote they just suck it up and get on with their jobs. The BBC calls left wing election wins 'unification' I surmise - because there is no violence and no striking. But the BBC ALWAYS bangs on about the illegitimate and latent conservative violence - bottled up in the form of 'faaar right' fringe groups ready to start setting off IEDs outside mosques - the Tory back bench is also called 'faaar right', you see.

So we are accused of the most heinous violence even though we don't do violence at all and it is meat to most BBC police dramas and real Scotland Yard bulletins nowadays.

Bill Quango MP said...

Interesting thought from Dominic Sandbrook’s book on the UK 1970-1974.
( A book that has so many themes relevant to today it is damned close to being ‘History Repeats’ or at the very least ‘ it echoes.’)

The children of the radical strikers. The social anarchists. The kaftan hippy generation. The friends of the earth and the
post industrial labour force and the very heavily unionised workplaces, voted in their droves for Mrs Thatcher.

Three times.

jim said...

Well, Mr Reicher is a minor scribbler and on a few committees that don't matter. He's right about the Chinese, they have to be smart to evade the meanies. HMG likes to dabble in group psychology - with no useful result. As for upcoming violence - I don't know - but Mr Sunak is making noises - probably meaningless - about strikes. Otherwise, where is this 'left wing violence'. I don't see any.

I suppose HMG's worst nightmare is an ambulance and nurses strike coupled with support from the train drivers, XR and that oil lot. Chuck in the tanker drivers and there's not much left. I suggest Mr Sunak keeps his gob shut and keeps advisers from Ms Braverman's darker side well out of it. The groundwork has not been laid to paint these folk as a re-run of Scargill's mates - and they're not. The crowds are not on Sunak's side and Ms Braverman endears herself to no one. So pay up and look big. Remember Scargill's downfall had been planned for a long time by people with brains.

Tottenham, HMG was well behind the curve letting the Met put up a minor numpty who didn't say sorry when the Met had plainly lied about the shooting. Complete lack of visibility of the situation on the ground. So sure enough the mob took over. A failure from the Home Office down, no guts, no grip, totally Theresa'd.

As for blocking motorways and streets, make it plain the venue for protest is College Green and environs, paint and annoy there as much as you like and nowhere else. What they have been doing not violence but piss taking on the back of 'duty of care' - which is annoying.

Anomalous Cowshed said...

BQ - not old enough to remember the early seventies, but later on, there was certainly a fair amount of good old regular violence around. This got mirrored on the telly box, The Professionals, Sweeney, and Minder plus Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. It wasn't a proper episode until Terry or Oz had a proper punch up.

All ITV. The Wogan-era "Auntie Beeb" didn't really want to play that game, unless #hard-hitting #gritty #realistic #drama. ITV output was, ah, distinctly working class, as opposed to the middle class BBC. Assume "working class" is code for "unionised, nationalised employee".

The threat to the British State, internally, is the Unions, allied to the external Soviet Union. Voter turnout in GEs over the period is high.

Privatise the firms, then the Unions power over the State is minimised. Then the Soviet Unions collapse. The primary beefs of the Unions, wages and conditions, are taken up by the State, via the HSE and eventually, the NMW.

Voter turnout falls off a cliff. Most of the violence vanishes. ITV make Morse.

Societal violence arose due to voter frustration at governments inability to act, due to the State's prevailing consensus view of the economic/political market structures.

Given that the State now acts as a Union at scale, via the NMW & HSE, plus others, then voter frustration will rise, leading to higher turnouts and more violence. The State/establishment are basically the Labour Movement writ large - which is not revolutionary, as it's the status quo. The Right are left taking on the role of revolutionaries.

Labour & the Conservatives are slowly swapping roles.

E-K said...

Neither Mick Lynch nor Eddie Dempsey are Arthur Scargills. They are far more articulate, nuanced and formidable and neither loses their temper.

I don't think the rail strikes are right but I'm in no position to support the Tories who have failed on just about every manifesto pledge.

How can they criticise a paramedic for demanding a pay rise when they've just index linked dole ? How can they criticise a postie asking for more money when a boat-bloke lives a life on the taxpayer sheltered from the cold reality of the economy ?

The issues are much bigger than the railways or public services. I read of $80 trillion of money missing in the global economy. This will be the result of the banksters' continual recycling of personal credit which has propped up the West for the past twenty years or so.

The strike-causing inflation is a manifestation of this missing money and the Sunak approach to Covid was an utter disaster (though I know he was not alone in the world and that Macron forced us down that route.)

dustybloke said...

I suppose it depends who does the reporting. During the BLM riots I watched a CNN reporter describing them as being “mostly peaceful”. The fact that he did this with a straight face while standing in front of burning buildings and next to burning car displayed the mental agility required by Lefty thinking.
If there is civil unrest by the Left they won’t think of it as violence that’s for sure.

DJK said...

E-K is right. This is not a rerun of the Thatcher years. When the government is prepared to bail out the banksters in full, and give inflation matching rises to pensioners and the workshy, then it's only fair that they should give public sector workers a better deal.

The posties are a particularly deserving case. Royal Mail want to replace salaried postal workers with gig economy "self-employed contractors", i.e. students and the newly arrived driving their own transport. Yes, I know that Royal Mail is technically a private company, but that is really a political fiction. They still have a statutory monopoly and are effectively publicly regulated.

Matt said...

I assume people understand the concept of inflation and the impact of it?

Everyone would like more money. The bulk of those would like more cash for doing the same (or even less). That's a given but how is it funded?

To pay for any of it (either public or private sector) means someone has to bear the cost. That will be (most likely) consumers via higher & higher prices or share holders who will get less from their holding (note this is not the "rich" - it's just about everyone in the private sector with a pension).

So people have to pay more to cover rising prices (or increase pension contributions to cover shortfall) and they want more money in recompense for this.

Rinse & repeat until we go bust.

Only way to make this work is for the country to get more productive - we have have higher wages because we produce more. But of course, working harder or more flexibly for more money is a "no no".