Protests, riots, ‘mass panics’, football crowds, everyday crowds…



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Protests, riots, ‘mass panics’, football crowds, everyday crowds…

  • Protests, riots, ‘mass panics’, football crowds, everyday crowds…

  • Everyone has an opinion

  • Experience?

  • Or is it dominant (negative) ‘common-sense’ images and representations…?

  • In films, literature, clichés…



Crowds are characterized by:

  • Crowds are characterized by:

  • Heightened emotionality

  • Reduced intelligence and critical judgement

  • People ‘swept up’, ‘carried away’ or ‘infected’ by crowd psychology

  • Lack of self-control: Irrational, indiscriminate, mindless violence

  • Madness – people do ‘crazy’ things, act ‘out of character’



An example of the crowd in literature: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

  • An example of the crowd in literature: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

  • The mob were ‘whipped up’ by Mark Anthony’s speech

  • They murdered Cinna the Poet simply because his name was the same as that of one of the conspirators!



Early ‘scientific’ accounts of the crowd reproduce this ‘common sense’:

  • Early ‘scientific’ accounts of the crowd reproduce this ‘common sense’:

  • Crowds are primitive

  • Crowds are over-emotional

  • Crowds are ‘instinctive’

  • Crowds are irrational

  • People in crowds lose themselves and lose control



The argument:

  • The argument:

  • These common sense understandings and early scientific accounts are profoundly ideological – a distorted representation of reality that serves the interests of existing social relations

  • Specifically:

  • The supposed 'madness' of the crowd is better understood as the power of collective identities that the crowd embodies

  • The emotionality of the crowd is often the understandable joy associated with this crowd power



The origins of crowd science

  • The origins of crowd science

  • The food riots

  • A social identity account

  • The St Pauls riot

  • Empowerment at the No M11 Link Road Campaign

  • The madness versus the power of the crowd: insider and outsider perspectives



Arose in late 19th century Europe – particularly France

  • Arose in late 19th century Europe – particularly France

  • It was a response to ‘social problems’ of urbanization and unrest (Nye, 1975)



Urbanization

    • Urbanization
    • Industrialization meant factories, mills
    • Workers came from the villages to live in the cities
    • The city became populated by the ‘anonymous’ ‘masses’
    • Industrialization also meant workers’ organization and strikes…


Unrest

    • Unrest
    • French revolutions 1789, 1830, 1848
  • The architecture of Paris is a monument to fear of the crowd (Van Ginneken, 1992).

  • After 1848, the streets were redesigned.

  • Narrow, easily barricaded streets were pulled down

  • Replaced by long, straight, open boulevards



  • The Paris Commune, 1871

  • Realisation of the European elites’ worst fears

  • Communards were:

    • armed
    • socialist in ideas
    • proletarian in composition
    • ruthless against their enemies


‘Problems’ of urbanization and unrest:

  • ‘Problems’ of urbanization and unrest:

  • ‘The crowd’ represented a threat to ‘civilization’ (i.e. the existing social order)



One of the first questions that ‘crowd scientists’ addressed was legal:

  • One of the first questions that ‘crowd scientists’ addressed was legal:

    • Is the individual to be held legally responsible for what s/he does in the crowd?
    • or is s/he ‘swept up’ in the mob mentality and not fully responsible for her violent actions?


Scipio Sighele (1891)

  • Scipio Sighele (1891)

  • Crowds are largely comprised of people who are criminal by ‘nature’

  • Hence these individuals could be held personally responsible for their illegal actions when part of crowds.

  • Gabriel Tarde (1901)

  • By mere proximity people become ‘a crowd’

  • Hence subject to uncritical imitation and irrational behaviour





‘The crowd’: A populist work

  • ‘The crowd’: A populist work

  • Consists in large part of synthesis and plagiarism

  • It represents in systematic form the concerns of the wider establishment:

    • What do crowds do to the rational individual?
    • How can the power of crowds be opposed or harnessed?


‘…by the mere fact that he forms part of an organized crowd, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization. Isolated, he may be a cultivated individual; in a crowd, he is a barbarian – that is, a creature acting by instinct. He possesses the spontaneity, the violence, the ferocity, and also the enthusiasm and heroism of primitive beings, whom he further tends to resemble by the facility with which he allows himself to be impressed by words and images … and to commit acts contrary to his most obvious interests and his best-known habits. An individual in a crowd is a grain of sand amid other grains of sand, which the wind stirs up at will.’

  • ‘…by the mere fact that he forms part of an organized crowd, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization. Isolated, he may be a cultivated individual; in a crowd, he is a barbarian – that is, a creature acting by instinct. He possesses the spontaneity, the violence, the ferocity, and also the enthusiasm and heroism of primitive beings, whom he further tends to resemble by the facility with which he allows himself to be impressed by words and images … and to commit acts contrary to his most obvious interests and his best-known habits. An individual in a crowd is a grain of sand amid other grains of sand, which the wind stirs up at will.’

  • (Le Bon, 1895, pp. 32-33)



Three key concepts

  • Three key concepts

  • Submergence

  • Suggestibility

  • Contagion



Despite its influence and impact, evidence shows that Le Bon’s account is incorrect in both its assumptions and its predictions.

  • Despite its influence and impact, evidence shows that Le Bon’s account is incorrect in both its assumptions and its predictions.

  • Later: why there is such a strong attachment amongst certain sections of society to such incorrect but pathologizing models of the crowd



E.P. Thompson (1971) : Analysis of around 700 English food riots (1750-1820).

  • E.P. Thompson (1971) : Analysis of around 700 English food riots (1750-1820).

  • Immediate appearance:

  • ‘Instinctual’ explosions, born out of desperation, expressing a ‘basic need’?

  • Primitive, uncontrolled behaviours?

  •  



Born out of sheer desperation?

  • Born out of sheer desperation?

  • Riots didn’t happen at times of greatest shortage

  • Riots happened when millers or merchants were seen to have transgressed popular notions of how food should be distributed:

    • hoarding food when it should be sold
    • transporting food when it should be sold locally
    • profiteering when food should be sold cheaply


2. Primitive and uncontrolled behaviour?

  • 2. Primitive and uncontrolled behaviour?

  • Seizure of food was typically not indiscriminate

  • Food riots are more punishment than theft:

    • grain was seized
    • sold at a ‘popular’ price
    • the money and often the grain sacks were handed back to the merchants!
  •  



"mixed crowds of ordinary people gather angrily before the shops of a miller, a merchant or a baker. They complain about prices, seize the food on hand cart it off to the market square, sell it to all comers (so long as they belong to the community) at a price they declare to be just, turn over the cash to the owner of the grain or bread, and go home saying they have done justice, as the authorities themselves should have done justice"

  • "mixed crowds of ordinary people gather angrily before the shops of a miller, a merchant or a baker. They complain about prices, seize the food on hand cart it off to the market square, sell it to all comers (so long as they belong to the community) at a price they declare to be just, turn over the cash to the owner of the grain or bread, and go home saying they have done justice, as the authorities themselves should have done justice"

  • Tilly, C., Tilly, L. & Tilly, R. (1975) The rebellious century: 1830 - 1930. London: Dent.

  •  



Crowd behaviour was restrained, selective, disciplined and patterned rather than being out of control.

  • Crowd behaviour was restrained, selective, disciplined and patterned rather than being out of control.

  • Why? How?

  •  

  • Thompson (1971): all crowd action in 18th c. is based on a legitimizing notion shared by crowd participants – a belief that they were all defending (traditional) rights

    • Legitimized direct action


1. Violence?

  • 1. Violence?

  • Most crowds are not violent

  • Where there is violence, there are patterns, limits and selectivity in even in the most passionate of events: violence isn’t indiscriminate

  • Different riots often have different patterns & targets based on their specific legitimizing notions:

      • Food riots targeted merchants
      • Urban rioters targeted police


2. Context

  • 2. Context

  • Crowd conflict needs to be understood in relation to its social context

    • proximal context (there are two groups)
    • distal context (history of relations)
  • Violence is linked to incidents that are significant for understandings of group relationships

  • Without reference to context, crowd violence appears to be a meaningless outburst



We have personal identities and multiple social identities

  • We have personal identities and multiple social identities

  • Crowd behaviour reflects not a loss of identity and hence rationality and control, but a shift from personal to social identity, and hence to social-identity based self-control

  • Shared social identity defines who joins in, who is influential, and what they do (norms)



Case study 2: The St Pauls (Bristol) riot (1980)

  • Case study 2: The St Pauls (Bristol) riot (1980)

  • The first of the big urban riots of the 1980s.

  • The event which was suggested to have set it off was a police raid on a local café in the St Pauls district of Bristol

  • Importance of the café to the local community

  • There were several incidents of violence between police and a crowd outside the café

  • Police and their vehicle struck with hale of bricks



Police were forced to flee.

  • Police were forced to flee.

  • Some police were trapped in the cafe

  • Police returned with reinforcements

  • More and more people joined in attacking them

  • Police vehicle set alight

  • Running battles

  • Eventually, the

  • police had to leave

  • the area entirely,

  • ‘in disarray’.



After the police had left

  • After the police had left

  • The crowd took charge of traffic control, stopping suspected police cars entering the area.

  • Certain property came under attack and there was some looting.



Of 60 police, 22 injured, 27 minor injuries

  • Of 60 police, 22 injured, 27 minor injuries

  • 21 police vehicles damaged



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wdyo16VMhIQ

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wdyo16VMhIQ



Shared social identity of participants:

  • Shared social identity of participants:

  • ‘Members of the St Pauls community’.

  • Defined in terms of:

  • Locality

  • ‘the ability to lead a free life’(vs poverty)

  • the antagonistic relationship with police.

  • The pattern of (limits to) behaviour in the riot reflected this shared social identity.



Geographical limits

  • Geographical limits

    • The rioting remained within St Pauls. The crowd directed traffic flow


2. Who joined in?

  • 2. Who joined in?

    • Only those who shared the identity took part in the rioting and were influenced by other crowd participants
    • Who was the most influential?
    • Prototypes for the social category at that time: older Rastas


3. Targets of attack

  • 3. Targets of attack

  • Collective targets versus individual targets: what generalized?

    • People:
      • Only the police (and journalists).
      • Passers by moved safely through the crowd
      • Fire service were helped in phase 1


Property

    • Property
      • banks, the benefits office, the rent office and the post office were attacked: ‘these were not just symbols but the very agents of their continued powerlessness’
      • Expensive shops owned by ‘outsiders’ and chains were attacked and looted
      • Homes and small locally owned shops were actively protected in phase 2 when looting took place
      • Disapproval when someone threw a missile at a bus


This analysis shows how social identity shapes and limits crowd behaviour

  • This analysis shows how social identity shapes and limits crowd behaviour

  • It tells a different story than the crowd science notions of submergence, contagion and madness

  • BUT it doesn’t address the psychological outcomes of this crowd event

  • Psychological outcomes:

  • Participants felt pride, joy, confidence after the event, i.e. power and emotion

  • The final case study will use the latest thinking in crowd psychology to explain these outcomes as a transformation in social identity towards empowerment



Case study 3:

  • Case study 3:

  • Empowerment at the No M11 link road campaign (1993)

  • This crowd wanted to prevent a motorway being built through their ‘village green’.

  • In those days, the debate used to stop at the end of the public enquiry. But this crowd continued the argument, through practice.

  • The people who gathered to protest were initially quite fragmented – they were ‘protesters’ on the one hand and ‘local residents’ on the other.

  • Their shared relationship to the roadbuilding and their shared exclusion from the site of that building, which was surrounded by fences, brought them together and made them feel as one.

  • It created an expectation of support for action against the road.

  • This is about what happened next…







The police and security guards were overwhelmed and outnumbered,

  • The police and security guards were overwhelmed and outnumbered,

  • Soon all the fences were down.

  • The site was no longer a building site but a free space, ‘common land’.



Psychological outcomes:

  • Psychological outcomes:

  • Empowerment and joy

  • Reactions: excitement and joy

  • People talked about empowerment.

  • They couldn’t stop smiling.

  • They felt a greater confidence in the ability of the campaign to act upon the world rather than accept the world they were given.





But from the outside, to those who seek to protect or gain from the status quo, it looks different: chaos, violence, disorder.

  • But from the outside, to those who seek to protect or gain from the status quo, it looks different: chaos, violence, disorder.

  • They don’t recognize that there is a logic, which determines the limits of crowd behaviour, which is based on participants’ shared social identity

  • This is why they refer to the madness, the delusions, and the irrational emotionality of the crowd.



The distorted perception comes from the social location of the critical observer – outside the crowd.

  • The distorted perception comes from the social location of the critical observer – outside the crowd.

  • But the fear it expresses is based on a political reality .



The ideological view of the crowd as a mad, dangerous and irrational entity arose in the nineteenth century to make sense of a situation in which the existing order was under threat.

  • The ideological view of the crowd as a mad, dangerous and irrational entity arose in the nineteenth century to make sense of a situation in which the existing order was under threat.

  • Though most crowds are not revolutionary, crowds are nevertheless historically the form through which subordinate classes bring about social change...

  • It is therefore inevitable, perhaps, that those who seek to defend existing social relations will recognize in the crowd their potential nemesis.



The power and emotion of the crowd:

  • The power and emotion of the crowd:

  • Conclusion

  • The very reason that people are committed to and and so emotional in crowds is because of the ability of crowds to extend our ability to enact (objectify) ourselves

  • The psychological crowd ‘is precisely the adaptive mechanism that frees human beings from the restrictions of, and allows them to be more than just, individual persons’ (Turner, 1987, p. 67)




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