Pitchforks and torches are making a comeback lately. Whenever the least bit of controversy occurs in our society, particularly involving conservatives or Christians, the #outrage culture picks up their phones instead of their pitchforks and tweets some hatred. Demonstrations might occur in flash-mob form, with droves of protestors appearing (and sometimes being paid to appear) to voice their disapproval of some conservative or Christian who has insulted them or dared to run for office. What’s interesting about this is that the folks who undertake this kind of intimidation scare-tactic are not only inherently hypocritical, but are living up to the true nature of “democracy,” which is mob rule. Those who eschew this type of behavior may or may not know that they are supporting a “republic”, which is the kind of government we are supposed to have.
Emotion and deep-seated hatred causes facts to be ignored, and undermines the rule of law. We now know the “hands up, don’t shoot” mantra to be built upon the lie that Michael Brown had his hands up when Officer Darren Wilson shot him. But the truth doesn’t matter to the #outrage crowd. They even said so. The story is more important than the truth, because, for those cashing in on the #outrage, it means money. And for those who are truly outraged, it doesn’t matter whether it was true in this one case, the perception is that it is true in most cases. Folks like George Soros and Al Sharpton are happy to make money off of others’ discontent with the “injustice” of the “system.” The White Privilege narrative tells the story that the system is rigged to hurt anyone not “privileged.” Because of actual, real-life, relatively recent institutionalized discrimination against non-white individuals in this country, this is a powerful story whether it is currently true or not. It taps right into feelings of resentment, anger, and thirst for justice. It mobilizes the masses. And the masses forget the importance of the rule of law, if they ever knew it at all. A juror in the infamous Trayvon Martin case came forward and stated that there was not enough evidence to convict George Zimmerman but she wished the rules were different so that the evidence presented would be enough (someone who kills someone should be charged!). She demonstrated with this statement that she understood courtroom procedures–it is probably the case that one can’t be a juror without learning something about what it takes to convict a person. But no one ever taught her the fundamental importance of the standards of evidence that exist, to prevent innocent people from going to prison. Neither does she apparently know the difference between justified killing and murder. Without any concept of actual justice, it was more important to her that her version of “justice” was served.
Democracies are by definition mob rule, or the mob deciding what “justice” is instead of the rule of law. There is an excellent video that contrasts democracies with republics and other forms of government.
So taking the example from the video, imagine you’re in a town and a man is accused of a crime (we might even call him George Zimmerman, or Pizza Shop Owners, or Christian Bakers). In a democracy, a mob can chase him out of town or hang him on a tree. This kind of lynch-mob justice is ironically exactly the sort of injustice relatively fresh in the minds of our society, yet we are now promoting it as some kind of retribution for past wrongs. The response to perceived injustice is to terrorize innocent people sitting in restaurants, who are only connected to the perceived injustice by the color of their skin. And then the intimidators actually claim to be happy when they make others uncomfortable, because they feel that this is retribution. When a Christian shop owner says they will not make a cake or a pizza for a gay wedding, you would have thought they had stomped a puppy to death in the town square. The #outrage culture goes as far as to threaten to burn their shop down (and this was suggested by an educator!). Indeed, threats to burn down the “establishment” were realized by mobs in Ferguson. Then they had the audacity to demand that shop owners return to their city and rebuild. Really, thugs, really? And as to my use of the word ‘thug’–even that sparks #outrage. People have demanded in Facebook debates that I not use the word as it is “offensive.” What is a “thug”? The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that it is “a violent person, especially a criminal.” Yeah, I’m thinking that this is an apt description for those who decide to burn down a town because they did not get the outcome they wanted out of a court case. It also describes those who burn down a town because they did not get the sports outcome they wanted. It has nothing to do with race. But people might feel like it does, because statistically speaking, African American individuals commit more crimes per percentage population than do non-African American individuals. This unfortunate truth could be for a number of reasons, none of which we’ll get into in this article. The point is that facts are ignored in favor of emotion. And that is the very definition of “democracy” — whatever the mob wants at this particular time, they get.
By contrast to democracy, our Founding Fathers gave us a Republic, which is the rule of law. From the video, you might have seen the Sheriff come in and tell the mob that is about to run the accused man out of town to wait–he deserves a trial. During this trial evidence against him is brought forth, and if it is sufficient to prove that he broke a law, he will get a punishment that fits his crime. This system protects people from injustice, yet it is described by the #outrage crowd as unjust, itself. They claim the system incarcerates some people at higher rates than others for the same crime (and in some cases, they are right). They claim the system allows discrimination against some. Even if this is the case, though, their solution is mob rule. They gather in large demonstrations and burn things down. They threaten to attack individuals who disagree. Their responses are fundamentally opposed to the very thing they want: justice. If they want to change the law, then civil discourse is paramount. Without it, they will just be replacing perceived injustice with more injustice. Martin Luther King understood this. He hosted peaceful demonstrations to raise awareness of the discrimination inherent in the system. Civil disobedience is not the same thing as #outrage. Civil disobedience involves simply breaking the unjust law, without harm to anyone in the process. It is one of the most powerful tools of protest, and one that the #outrage crowd seems to have forgotten as they spew hatred on Twitter and scare children dining in restaurants.
Not all mobs, riots, and Twitter outrage/hatred is political, but that which is political is far more dangerous. Mobs and riots that form as a result of a sports team losing or winning something do not have any connection to politics at all. Those mobs are pure, unintelligent emotion, and are every bit as dangerous in the moment as the physical mobs that form because of perceived injustice. Likewise, Twitter outrage and hatred might be spurned by anything or anyone, including some video game nutjobs that either do or don’t hate women. But these mobs, riots, #outrage, and hatred are not every bit as dangerous in the long run as that which is politically motivated. The very fabric of our society depends upon the willingness of the population to obey the law. That’s right, willingness. It is a choice. It is always a choice. No one, not the government, not the police, not even your mom, can force you to obey. You must decide. More and more people are making a conscious decision not to be civil, but to hate each other and justify that hatred not in an ephemeral burst of emotion because of a sports game but in a deep-seated sense of injustice and perceived need for retribution. This is dangerous. This has the potential to topple our civility and turn us into a Walking Dead episode.
Education about the foundation of our Republic and the free market are essential for continuing on in peace. We must teach our children (as it might be too late for the current #outrage crowd) that the free market is a place where the government protects people’s rights to “shop” for good ideas, and that good ideas are the ones that make the most money, and bad ideas fail. Bad ideas might be to not bake a cake for a gay wedding…and soon, you’ve lost your business. Your shop wasn’t burnt down, you didn’t receive death threats, but no one wants to buy a cake from you because they think you’re a horrible person. We must teach our kids that our Republic is a place where people have free will to choose to obey the law, and choose to suffer the consequences if they do not. In some cases, civil disobedience may be needed to mobilize public support to change an unjust law. But this does not include burning down a town, or hanging anyone on a tree. We must teach them that in this country, we have a right to make wrong choices. Individuals have a right to teach their kids hatred and evil…but then they must suffer the consequences for this, whether it is being shunned, or eventually being arrested for acting on their hatred. We have a right to free speech, which means that we can say the most unpopular things imaginable, as long as it doesn’t incite violence against anyone.
The Constitution was written to protect the unpopular from angry mobs. It was written to institute a Republic, not a Democracy. Only if we turn to its principles will we save our society from the #outrage, and return ourselves to civil discourse through which real progress can be made.