My grandmother used to love tall tales. One she told was about an unbelievably hot day in Florida in the days before cars had air conditioning. She said that it got so hot that people were stopping their cars, sprinting to a bridge and diving into the river below and drowning.
There is no way that could be a true story. But, we’ve all seen the effects of mob mentality enough to almost believe that it happened.
What is it about human nature that drives sensible people to do stupid things when they are in a mob?
When we buy our calendars we already know that there will be a Friday the day after Thanksgiving. And there will be stores that are open for business before that day arrives. We can buy Christmas presents anytime we choose.
Still, every year on Black Friday frantic shoppers by the thousands will charge into stores and trample and crush other shoppers before daybreak.
Somewhere in the world some team will win the World Cup Soccer Tournament every year. And fans, who as individuals are rational and caring citizens, will start fires and shoot guns into the air in celebration along with all the other residents of entire cities.
Mardi Gras. Enough said.
In the spring of 2010 a young man in Griffin taped a music video. About 200 people came to watch. So did some gang members. People started firing guns all over the place. Police found .40 caliber shells. They recovered shotgun shells. They found casings from at least two other guns.
A little girl was shot in the foot. When the crowd dispersed the young musician lay dead on the asphalt with six bullet wounds.
Police arrested a young college student with no record. Three witnesses said he straddled the musician after he fell onto the pavement and shot him in the head. Other evidence corroborated their testimony.
The defendant told police that he had been shot twice and that he just fired into the crowd as he ran away. As if that justified his actions. He said he brought his gun to the videotaping because he might need it for protection.
None of that makes any sense. Last week the jury didn’t buy it. A young man with a previously clean record is now a convicted murderer serving a life sentence.
Another young man is dead for no reason whatsoever.
The comedian Flip Wilson used to quip. “The devil made me do it.”
Well, many times the devil is in the mob.