The Wisdom of Mobs

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Ben Cohen
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British riot police confront G20 protestors in London. The Royal Bank of Scotland was stormed and trashed while the leaders of the imperialist countries and others arrive to discuss the crisis in world capitalism. by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.

By Ben Cohen

Interesting new research from the U.K implies that overly aggressive crowd control is the best way of exacerbating violence rather than stemming it. Crowds left to their own devices follow a logic of their own, and more often than not, respond intelligently to their surroundings:

"In
many ways, crowds are the solution," says psychologist Stephen Reicher,
who studies group behaviour at the University of St Andrews, UK. Rather
than being prone to irrational behaviour and violence, members of a
crowd undergo a kind of identity shift that drives them to act in the
best interests of themselves and everyone around them. This identity
shift is often strongest in times of danger or threat. "The 'mad mob'
is not an explanation, but a fantasy," says Reicher.