2,000 years ago, the mob had a choice. They could free one of two prisoners, a notorious criminal and murderer, named Barabbas, or a peaceful preacher, named Jesus. Who do you think the mob chose to set free? The mob got it wrong. The mob chose violence over peace.
As mob-rule is ravaging some of the major cities, it’s hard not to think about the tragic and deadly historic examples of mob rule.
In 1692, the town of Salem, Massachusetts was torn apart by mob rule fueled by false accusations of witchcraft. Guilt or innocence was not determined with tangible evidence, but through a test. The mob threw the accused into a lake. If the person drowned, that proved she was not a witch. If she did not drown that proved she was a witch, and was executed. An accusation of witchcraft became a death sentence. 25 innocent people were executed by mob rule for being witches in Salem. The mob got it wrong. The mob had to create the crime they fought against.
The 1789 French Revolution was a mob-led revolt against the social injustice and abuses of the French Monarchs. It ended with the Reign of Terror where the mob executed over 15,000 innocent French citizens. The leader of the mob, Robespierre tortured and killed thousands more fellow French citizens in the Bastille than the King they were revolting against ever did. The mob became what they claimed they were against. The mob brought more injustice than the injustice they claimed to be fighting.
The 1918 Bolshevik revolution in Russia, the mob overthrew the tyrannical Czar rule, only to replace it with their own tyrannical rule which resulted in the Great Terror where over 1 million innocent Russian citizens were either executed or imprisoned. The mob was solely about gaining power, not justice, and the mob abused the power they attained.
One of the few Revolutions where the idealistic revolutionaries did not devolve and morphed into that which they were revolting against was the American Revolution in 1776. George Washington, who led the Continental Army to victory over the British Empire, could have inserted himself as the King of the American States. Instead, he chose to run for President in the first election, and he voluntarily stepped down after two terms. The person who could have parlayed his military victory into dictatorial rule chose instead to endorse and abide by a system where the leaders govern only by the consent of the governed. And today, the mob is tearing down statues of this man who chose not build a statue to himself but could have. The mob once again gets it wrong.
Today, the mob has taken over some of our major cities. These are not peaceful protests. These are occupations. The media characterizes what the mob is doing as “mostly peaceful” which means not peaceful. There is no such thing as “mostly peaceful”. You’re either peaceful or you’re not. You could characterize Charles Manson’s life as “mostly peaceful”. He didn’t commit murder most days of his life.
Mob rule in our streets claims to be fighting against injustice and racism by taking over cities, burning buildings, and enacting their own version of justice. There is no due process when this mob is meting out its justice. They decide who’s guilty, and they punish them how they see fit. Mob justice is the furthest thing from justice. It is vengeance pure and simple against those accused of racism.
The accusation of racism, like the accusation of witchcraft, is hard to defend against. The burden of proof is on the accused, not on the accusers. You are not innocent until proven guilty when accused of racism. You are guilty until proven innocent which means, like the witches in Salem, you are guilty. No due process. No chance to defend yourself.
The book “White Fragility” which has become required reading in many public schools spells this out clearly. White people are told they are inherently racist and evil, and they have one of two choices, admit to being racist and evil, or deny it. But if they deny the accusation and defend their character, their defense will be taken as a sign of “white fragility” which is proof that they are in fact racist and evil, they just can’t see it. Based on that logic, all white people are guilty simply for being white.
Taking the law into their own hands is the most dangerous part of mob rule. It is the mechanism of injustice, and a threat to all people regardless of who does it. Greg and Travis McMichael took the law into their own hands when they killed Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia this past February. These two men decided to be judge, juror and executioner. Derek Chauvin took the law into his own hands when he killed George Floyd. This one man went outside the procedures of our judicial system, and enacted his own form of justice.
The mob which has taken over our cities and streets are taking the law into their own hands. The past two months, the mob has killed over 20 people, injured hundreds, burned thousands of businesses to the ground, and caused billions of dollars of damage in the name of justice. These acts are the equivalent to those of the McMichael’s and Derek Chauvin. They too believed they were acting on the side of justice. By taking the law into their own hands and instituting their own form of justice, the mob, in a backward way, legitimize that which they claim to be fighting by embracing the mechanism of injustice.
We must decide. We either live in a civil society, or we don’t. We either believe in the rule of law and due process, or we don’t. Mob rule can never part of a civil society. Mob rule will never abide by the rule of law. The mob rule will always be an existential threat to our country. Looting stores, burning buildings, setting cars on fire is not justice, and can never be mistaken for justice. An act of injustice will never bring justice. Combatting injustice with more injustice simply brings more injustice. The only way to fight injustice is to embrace the rule of law, uphold our judicial system, be faithful to due process, not try to circumvent or destroy it. When we chose the mob, we are choosing Barabbas.