Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
I stumbled into a “protest” today near the Schenely Park bridge. There was an okay-sized crowd, but there was an even better looking police force, almost like a Roman phalanx. I made my way to the front lines of the crowd to take some pictures. The crowd—led at point by a couple of anarchists or something—was slowly inching forward towards the phalanx, then two clouds of smoke erupted and the crowd flew like a flock of penguins away from the front line.
Some thoughts about the sociology and psychology of the crowd: It seemed to me like today’s protest (the one on the bridge near Schenley Park) was homogeneous in the sense that it was almost all college students who just wanted to look at and take pictures of the police, maybe make a few ironic jokes about the anarchists (chanting: “Out of the streets, into the showers”), and maybe wanted to see some action. It seemed like the people there were just playing the role of crowd, without actually giving any thought to anything related to the G-20. Today’s crowd also seemed to exhibit some signs of hysteria and madness, which could be seen when it approached the armed phalanx, and especially when it ran from smoke and horses.
My theory is that people have a picture in their minds about what a crowd should look like, and what a crowd should do. This is entirely due to the media and what we see when we look at history. When we form a crowd and someone curses globalization, we will curse globalization too ,unless we are in a tea party, then we would curse Obama and health care. But the two sides are in a sense the same, humans are after all very communicative and pack animals.
What are people protesting anyway?: It seems like some people are protesting CEOs, some are protesting globalization, some are doing countries they don’t like, others advocating animal rights (!), but most people seem to be protesting “stuff.” I find anarchists the funniest.
Some thoughts about anarchism: Anarchists protest government, or at least big (which can mean relatively small) government. There are also many different types of anarchists. Ayn Rand wrote that an ideal society would have no taxes, have a laissez-faire economy, and members of society would pay out of pocket for services like schools and police. Imagine paying for police services individually. Rand thinks (thought) it’s human nature that the rich would be able to pay for police protection, while the poor would not. Other anarchists just don’t like government. What seems ironic to me is that when anarchists riot, they get a taste of anarchism.
The G-20 is still going on tomorrow. In the mean time: Workers of the world…!
(this post is for extra credit)