Posts Tagged ‘Violence’

How long until someone’s killed at a Trump rally?

March 17, 2016

Josh Marshall is right.  Sooner or later somebody probably will be killed or seriously hurt at a Donald Trump rally.

People act very differently in crowd or mob situations than they do on their own. There are various theories as to just why this is the case – again, there’s a whole social science and group psychology literature about it.  But crowd/mob situations are profoundly dis-inhibiting events. People sometimes do things they themselves not only regret but almost literally can’t believe they did.  [snip]

Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Campaign Rally in Vandalia, OhioIn crowd settings, with what can now only be called Trump’s almost nonstop incitement to eject or beat “thug” protestors, jostling and shoving, ramped up emotions, things can escalate very rapidly.

And let’s be honest, it can happen on both sides.  A hypothetical: a Trump supporter shoves a black protestor, the protestor punches back, others join in.  We don’t need to equate the two sides, which I do not, to see that there is a lot of anger and animus on each side.  This kind of atmosphere can unleash it.

What we have seen over the last two weeks isn’t just an escalation of chaos and low level violence but a progressive normalization of unacceptable behavior – more racist verbal attacks, more violence.  This is in turn clearly attracting more people who want trouble – on both sides.  [snip]

The climate Trump is creating at his events is one that not only dis-inhibits people who normally act within acceptable societal norms. He is drawing in, like moths to a flame, those who most want to act out on their animosities, drives and beliefs.  It is the kind of climate where someone will eventually get killed.

I don’t see much likelihood of a riot breaking out at a Trump rally.  The more likely scenario is that somebody, maybe somebody with a weak heart, dies while being “roughed up”, and mob violence breaks out elsewhere.


Is the US due for a new wave of violent upheaval?

October 3, 2015

Click to enlarge.

Source: Human cycles: History as science by Laura Spinney for Nature.

Hat tip to Jayman.

Violence, violent rhetoric and Dr. King

January 17, 2011

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we honor today, was the target of violence and violent rhetoric.  In 1956, his home was bombed.  He told of his reaction in Stride Toward Freedom.

kingml.testamentI could not go to sleep. While I lay in that quiet front bedroom, with a distant street lamp throwing a reassuring glow through the curtained window, I began to think of the viciousness of people who would bomb my home. I could feel the anger rising when I realized that my wife and baby could have been killed. I thought about the city commissioners and all the statements that they had made about me and the Negro generally. I was once more on the verge of corroding anger. And once more I caught myself and said: “You must not allow yourself to become bitter.”

I tried to put myself in the place of the police commissioners. I said to myself these are not bad men. They are misguided.

I would not have had the strength to do what Dr. King did.

Advocates of peace and reconciliation are sometimes described as weak and naive.  But after all, it was Dr. King’s nonviolent struggle, not the guns of the Black Panthers, that ended segregation by law in the United States.  It was Dr. King, not Malcolm X, who faced down police and Klansmen, who triumphed over governors and presidents.

Dr. King is the only 20th century American whose birthday is a national holiday.  And it is a true holiday.  We Americans, and not just black Americans, really do honor his memory.  But it is easier to honor him than follow his example.


Is the USA really getting more violent?

January 12, 2011

Is American society really getting more violent?  Or is it that we aging middle-class Americans simply feel more threatened?

Vicarious violence is increasing.  Violent imagery is increasing.  And it seems as if real violence also is increasing.  But is it?

I’m reading What Hath God Wrought, a history of the United States from 1812 to 1848.  The dominant political figure of that era was Andrew Jackson, who was proud of killing people in duels.  When he stepped down after a second term as President, he said his main regret was not having hanged John C. Calhoun or shot Henry Clay.  Foreign visitors remarked on the violent quality of American life.  Barroom brawlers had special thumb rings designed for gouging out eyes.

Violent persecution of Catholics exceeded anything done to Muslims today.  Tarring and feathering of Catholic clergy was common.  A mob burned down an Ursuline convent in Boston because, among other things, it was too close to “sacred ground” – Bunker Hill.  Mormons, Universalists and other minority sects also were targets of mob violence.

Preston Brooks caning Charles Sumner on the Senate floor

In 1856, South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks attacked Senator Charles Sumner when he was seated at his Senate desk, and beat him so severely with his cane that it took Sumner three years to recover.  The only consequence Brooks suffered was to have a city in Florida and a county in Georgia named for him, and to receive free canes as gifts.

The Ku Klux Klan, which arose after the Civil War, was a terrorist organization in the strict sense of that term.  The Klan whipped, burned and killed at will; its victims were mostly but not exclusively African-Americans who wanted or were suspected of wanting equal rights.  The Klan is marginal today, but it was an important political force down into the 1920s, not just in the South but in the Midwest as well.  Lynchings were common for more than a century.  As recently as the 1960s, there were parts of the country in which white people could kill black people with impunity.

North Carolina lynching, 1916

Jack Mendelsohn’s The Martyrs is a history of the civil rights movement of the 1960s in the form of mini-biographies of 16 people who “gave their lives for racial justice.”  One was William Moore, a naive idealist, who decided to walk from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Jackson, Miss., wearing a sandwich board saying “End Segregation in America, Eat at Joe’s, Both Black and White” and “Equal Rights for All, Mississippi or Bust.”  Given the climate of those times, it was predictable that he would be killed, and he was.  Nothing like this would happen today.

During the period 1963-1968, John F. Kennedy, Medgar Evars, Malcolm X, George Lincoln Rockwell, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were all assassinated.  The period 1978-81 saw the killings of John Lennon, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, and Rep. Leo Ryan (who had gone to Guyana to investigate the Rev. Jim Jones’ People’s Temple), while President Ronald Reagan was shot and nearly killed.  Nothing like this has happened in the past four or six years.

I have a memory of a kind of composite TV news show of the late 1960s and early 1970s.  It began with footage of Vietnam, usually of U.S. troops jumping out of a helicopter or running down a road; then to student protest demonstrations; and then a night shot of the latest city in flames while black people rioted in the streets.  There is nothing like any of this today.

Attack on railroad strikers in East St. Louis, 1886

We do not today have the kind of violent strikes that took place in coal mines, steel mills and railroads from 1870s through the 1930s – union workers destroying property and trying to bar strikebreakers, company police shooting into crowds of strikers.

The movie Gangs of New York may be an exaggeration, but throughout the 19th century, there were sections of big cities where the organized gangs were more powerful than the police.  In the 1920s, Al Capone and other gangsters were celebrities who operated with impunity.  There is nothing like this today.  Nor is there any modern-day equivalent of Billy the Kid or John Dillinger.

Compared to our 19th century and early 20th century forebears, middle-class Americans of today are tame and mild-mannered.

Why, then, does it feel as if violence is on the increase?  Is it because there is so much more violence in our news and entertainment media?  Or is it that we middle-class Americans feel more vulnerable because we are more passive and less capable of defending ourselves than Americans of earlier generations?