Collective responsibility

Just read this on BoingBoing, and was nauseated, horrified.

“He was bum-rushed by 200 people,” co-worker Jimmy Overby, 43, told the Daily News. “They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me.”

Also, inspired, in an angry sort of way:

The nose of a mob is its imagination. By this, at any time, it can be quietly led. – Poe

Poe is not the only person who refers to mobs as an individual. Nobody is confused if I refer to ‘the mob’ as an entity. So, if mob behaviour leads to damage, injury or death, why not change and try the mob as a single individual?

i.e. If John Farkhwitt  is caught on camera, jostling for position at the edge of a mob which tears the doors off a Walmart and crushes a hapless door-guy to death, then he can be charged with manslaughter, and so can everyone else present!

This might seem harsh, but only if it were retroactive: If Mr Farkhwitt knows that becoming part of a mob makes him liable for the actions of people he may never meet, on the far side of the throng, maybe he wouldn’t be so keen to jostle for position in the first place.

Obviously this needs a little fine-tuning; we don’t want to impact freedom of association, or the right to peaceful protest.

If you disagree with this idea, please try to suggest an alternative: If the guilty party in this story is the crowd, and not just the individuals in it who passed over the shop assistant, how else could they be held accountable as a group, for killing a man? If you don’t think the group are to blame, who is and why?

2 thoughts on “Collective responsibility

  1. The problem with collective responsibility is that any practical implementation would have serious, serious issues.

    Also, your argument has a bit of a gap; in one paragraph, you argue that the mob is an individual in its own right, but in the next you suggest punishing its individual members. If you want to treat a mob as an entity in itself, then presumably it should be punished as a whole. (How, that’s another question.)

  2. Problems acknowledged: My ‘ideas’ posts here are generally fraught with problems, as I have often only given them enough thought and care to get as far as posting something, no more.

    My intent in punishing individuals wasn’t to punish the group though, it was to discourage mobs from forming in the first place. If you see some idiots doing something potentially dangerous, this would be an incentive to distance yourself from them, lest you be tagged as one of them, regardless of your own behaviour.

    Laws around this would have to be terribly careful in how they define a mob though, and a high standard of evidence would be necessary to confirm the existence of a legitimate mob, and to tie an individual to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *