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Opinions of Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Columnist: Benjy Andoh Sergius

Mob justice: Facts & forces behind the scene

I've been silent about mob justice for long. I've read a lot of articles about it in which the writers modified it as "mob injustice".

Whatever it is, something strange pricked my veins today when I tried to, as usual, get more insight about this habit haunting us these recent days.

I talked to my own brother who has broad knowledge about science and psychology as well as general issues. Excuse me to switch to the other side before his insightful lecture.

Earlier, I explored the "Contagion Theory" formulated by Gustave Le Bon. According to Le Bon, crowds exert a hypnotic influence over their members. Shielded by their anonymity, large numbers of people abandon personal responsibility and surrender to the contagious emotions of the crowd.

A crowd thus assumes a life of its own, stirring up emotions and driving people toward irrational, even violent action (LeBon 1895). Le Bon's Theory, although one of the earliest explanations of crowd behavior, is still accepted by many people outside of sociology.

However, critics argue that the "collective mind" has not been documented by systematic studies. Furthermore, although collective behaviour may involve strong emotions, such feelings are not necessarily irrational. Turner and Killian (1957) argue convincingly that the "contagion" never actually occurs and participants in collective behaviour do not lose their ability to think rationally.

Then the "Convergence Theory" took me on a different journey. Whereas the Contagion Theory states that crowds cause people to act in a certain way, Convergence theory states that people who want to act in a certain way come together to form crowds.

Developed by Floyd Allport (1924) and later expanded upon by Neil Miller and John Dollard (1941) as "Learning Theory," the central argument of all convergence theories is that collective behaviour reveals the otherwise hidden tendencies of the individuals who take part in the episode. It asserts that people with similar attributes find other like-minded persons with whom they can release these underlying tendencies.

People sometimes do things in a crowd that they would not have the courage to do alone because crowds can diffuse responsibility but the behaviour itself is claimed to originate within the individuals. Crowds, in addition, can intensify a sentiment simply by creating a critical mass of like-minded people.

Well, those are their theories and there are a lot aside these. But let us cross-check the unseen forces behind mob justice and forget whatever crime committed by the miserable victims. To me, mob justice is nothing new especially in Ghana and all over the world. It's unfortunate that measures were not taken at the initial stages.

Not all who engage in these barbaric acts are brave or wicked people. Wait. Don't condemn me now. Many are just cowards who are afraid of their own shadows.

The perception that the perpetrators of this act sometimes do so out of anger due to past incidence like robbery and others doesn't hold much. And if it does, why do we have laws? Or the laws are no more superior enough? And don't tell me our law enforcement agencies are weak. I won't buy that as an excuse for a group of literates or licensed illiterates who lynched someone who might, after all, be innocent.

Now the question; why do we often hear mob justice than individual justice? Why is it always a mob or a group of people? Here's where the forces behind the scene reside.

When two or more people (group) are taking an action, either positive or negative, there's a powerful force called SYNERGY.
Synergy is a state in which two or more things work together in a particularly fruitful way that produces an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects.

Scientifically, I'll say the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements. Imagine. "the total effect of synergy is greater than the sum of the individual elements"

Now let's break this down. The fact is we are simply animals in clothes. Yes. Just that we're tamed by society, family, ourselves etc. But no matter what, the fact that we're animals can't be erased.


What happens during mob justice is very simple. It takes only one or two who are aggressive to ignite it. This is where the synergy force becomes active.

Assuming an angry person calls on others to come out and lynch a suspected person. What actually happens here is, anyone who comes out and not careful will tap into the energy of the angry brave one calling for such action.

This is what we call a synergy force and it's so powerful that even cowards can turn brave in a minute. And once synergy force is in action, everything is possible. Mostly, people act without knowing what they're doing. It doesn't mean they're insane but we're talking about synergy force here.
Many after the action under the influence of synergy force regret it.

If you want to stop synergy force, the sure way is to prevent people from forming groups.
Have you ever thought of how ants are able to build anthills taller than you? It's simply because they're always together and synergy force is automatically present.

Once, I overheard a woman saying "how could they kill someone like that. Are they not humans". I wasn't in the position to answer.
But we're animals. Yes we're and synergy force is capable of triggering the covered animalistic character in us.

Let's face the facts and realities of life's issues. Thanks to Fred, my elder brother for the insight.