Quotations about:
    mob


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From the happy expression on their faces you might have supposed that they welcomed the war. I have met with men who loved stamps, and stones, and snakes, but I could not imagine any man loving war.

Margot Asquith
Margot Asquith (1864-1945) British socialite, author, wit [Emma Margaret Asquith, Countess Oxford and Asquith; Margot Oxford; née Tennant]
Autobiography, Vol. 2, 3 Aug 1914 (1922)
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Of the cheering crowds outside 10 Downing Street on 3 Aug 1914, the night before the British Government (with her husband as Prime Minister) declared war against Germany.
 
Added on 12-Sep-22 | Last updated 12-Sep-22
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The principle of Toryism is mistrust of the people, qualified by fear; the principle of Liberalism is trust in the people, qualified by prudence.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone (1809-1898) English Liberal politician, Prime Minister (1868-74, 1880-85, 1886, 1892-94)
Inscription on bust, National Liberal Club, London
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This quotation, or versions of it, are certainly associated to Gladstone, but with enough variants to make concrete attribution difficult. Sometimes given with "Conservatism" substituted for "Toryism." Sometimes quoted in the opposite order. Some renditions use "tempered" rather than "qualified" for one or the other clause, e.g.,:

Liberalism is trust of the people, tempered by prudence; Conservatism, distrust of the people, tempered by fear.

The principle of Liberalism is trust in the people, qualified by prudence. The principle of Conservatism is mistrust of the people qualified by fear.

One party is influenced by trust of the people tempered by prudence, the other by distrust of the people tempered by fear.

The phrase has been attributed to speeches given in Oxford and Chester and in disparate dates from 1866, to 1872, to 1877. It is altogether likely he used different variations at multiple times. Two uses where I could find decent citations:

I think that the principle of the Conservative Party is jealousy of liberty and of the people, only qualified by fear; but I think the principle of the Liberal Party is trust in the people, only qualified by prudence.
[Speech, Opening of the Palmerston Club, Oxford (Dec 1878)]

[His policy of] trust in the people, tempered by prudence, and averse to violent and hasty change.
[Manifesto to the Electors of South-West Lancashire (1866)]

 
Added on 30-Aug-22 | Last updated 30-Aug-22
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Free yourself from common foolishness. This requires a special sort of sanity. Common foolishness is authorized by custom, and some people who resisted the ignorance of individuals were unable to resist that of the multitude.

[Librarse de las necedades comunes. Es cordura bien especial. Están muy validas por lo introducido, y algunos, que no se rindieron a la ignorancia particular, no supieron escaparse de la común.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 209 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1992)]
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(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translations:

Keep yourself free from common Follies. This is a special stroke of policy. They are of special power because they are general, so that many who would not be led away by any individual folly cannot escape the universal failing.
[tr. Jacobs (1892)]

To keep free from the popular inanities, marks especially good sense. They are highly esteemed because so well introduced, and many a man who could not be trapped by some particular stupidity could not except the general.
[tr. Fischer (1937)]

 
Added on 21-Jun-22 | Last updated 21-Jun-22
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Thinking is difficult, therefore let the herd pronounce judgment!

Carl Jung (1875-1961) Swiss psychologist
Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, ch. 2 (1959) [tr. Hull]
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The motto of the "relatively unconscious man" who "clings to the commonplace, the obvious, the probable, the collectively valid." Reprinted in the The Collected Works of C.G. Jung - Civilization in Transition, vol. 10, ¶ 653.

Probable source of the frequently-attributed (but unfound) "Thinking is difficult. That's why most people judge."
 
Added on 26-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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There’s something in all of us that wants to drift toward a mob, where we can all say the same thing without having to think about it, because everybody is all alike except people that we can hate or persecute. Every time we use words, we’re either fighting against this tendency or giving in to it. When we fight against it, we’re taking the side of genuine and permanent human civilization.

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) Canadian literary critic and literary theorist
The Educated Imagination, Talk 6 “The Vocation of Eloquence” (1963)
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There can be no free speech in a mob: free speech is one thing a mob can’t stand.

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) Canadian literary critic and literary theorist
The Educated Imagination, Talk 6 “The Vocation of Eloquence” (1963)
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It is in vain to Say that Democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious or less avaricious than Aristocracy or Monarchy. It is not true in Fact and no where appears in history. Those Passions are the same in all Men under all forms of Simple Government, and when unchecked, produce the same Effects of Fraud Violence and Cruelty. When clear Prospects are opened before Vanity, Pride, Avarice or Ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate Phylosophers and the most conscientious Moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves, Nations and large Bodies of Men, never.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to John Taylor (17 Dec 1814)
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Added on 19-Oct-21 | Last updated 19-Oct-21
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The true democratic principle, that none shall have power over the people, is taken to mean that none shall be able to restrain or to elude its power. The true democratic principle, that the people shall not be made to do what it does not like, is taken to mean that it shall never be required to tolerate what it does not like. The true democratic principle, that every man’s free will shall be as unfettered as possible, is taken to mean that the free will of the collective people shall be fettered in nothing.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
“Review of Sir Erskine May’s Democracy in Europe,” The Quarterly Review (Jan 1878)
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It always demands a far greater degree of courage for an individual to oppose an organized movement than to let himself be carried along with the stream — individual courage, that is, a variety of courage that is dying out in these times of progressive organization and mechanization. During the war practically the only courage I ran across was mass courage, the courage that comes of being one of a herd, and anyone who examines this phenomenon more closely will find it to be compounded of some very strange elements: a great deal of vanity, a great deal of fear — yes, fear of staying behind, fear of being sneered at fear of independent action, and fear, above all, of taking up a stand against the mass enthusiasm of one’s fellows.

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, biographer
Beware of Pity (1939)
 
Added on 9-Sep-21 | Last updated 9-Sep-21
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ORESTES: A terrible thing is the mob, whenever it has villains to lead it.
PYLADES: But with honest leaders its counsels are always honest.

[Ὀρέστης: δεινὸν οἱ πολλοί, κακούργους ὅταν ἔχωσι προστάτας.
Πυλάδης: ἀλλ᾽ ὅταν χρηστοὺς λάβωσι, χρηστὰ βουλεύουσ᾽ ἀεί.]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Orestes, ll. 772-773 [Orestes] (408 BC) [tr. Coleridge (1938)]
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Original Greek. Alt. trans.:

ORESTES: Ah, my friend! When mobs have rotten leaders they are likely to do all sorts of nasty things.
PYLADES: It's a very different story when their leaders are wise, though ....
[tr. Theodoridis (2010)]

ORESTES: The mob is frightening when their leaders are criminal.
PYLADES: But when they have good one, their decisions are good.
[tr. Luschnig (2013)]

ORESTES:
The mob is nasty, when it has leaders
bent on doing wrong.
PYLADES:
          But when it’s controlled
by decent men, the decisions they make
are always good.
[tr. Johnston (2020), ll. 938-940]

The masses are terrible whenever they have scoundrels as leaders.
[tr. @sententiq (2020)]
 
Added on 2-Nov-20 | Last updated 2-Nov-20
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A mixture of gullibility and cynicism had been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became an everyday phenomenon of masses. In an ever-changing, incomprehensible, world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything is possible and that nothing was true. The mixture in itself was remarkable enough, because it spelled the end of the illusion that gullibility was a weakness of unsuspecting primitive souls and cynicism the vice of superior and refined minds.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 3, ch. 11 “The Totalitarian Movement,” sec. 2 (1951)
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Was none who would be foremost
To lead such dire attack;
But those behind cried “Forward!”
And those before cried “Back!”

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“Horatius,” st. 50, Lays of Ancient Rome (1842)
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Added on 12-Mar-20 | Last updated 12-Mar-20
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If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.

Claude McKay (1889-1948) Jamaican-American writer, poet, journalist
“If We Must Die,” The Liberator (Jul 1919)
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Added on 8-Jan-20 | Last updated 8-Jan-20
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When I put a question to him about socialism in agriculture, he explained with glee how he had incited the poorer peasants against the richer ones, “and they soon hanged them from the nearest tree — ha! ha! ha!” His guffaw at the thought of those massacred made my blood run cold.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Unpopular Essays, “Eminent Men I Have Known” (1950)


Referring to an 1920 interview in Moscow with V. Lenin.
 
Added on 16-May-17 | Last updated 16-May-17
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It is common to assume that human progress affects everyone — that even the dullest man, in these bright days, knows more than any man of, say, the Eighteenth Century, and is far more civilized. This assumption is quite erroneous. The men of the educated minority, no doubt, know more than their predecessors, and some of them, perhaps, it may be said that they are more civilized — though I should not like to be put to giving names — but the great masses of men, even in this inspired republic, are precisely where the mob was at the dawn of history. They are ignorant, they are dishonest, they are cowardly, they are ignoble. They know little if anything that is worth knowing, and there is not the slightest sign of a natural desire among them to increase their knowledge.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Homo Neandertalensis,” Baltimore Evening Sun (29 Jun 1925)
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As democracy is perfected, the office [of the President] represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Bayard vs. Lionheart,” The Baltimore Evening Sun (26 Jul 1920)


Variant: "As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron."

Verification and discussion of this quotation here, here, and here.
 
Added on 3-May-17 | Last updated 3-May-17
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Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person. This state of affairs explains why in such circumstances our attempts to know what “the people” really think are in vain and why, under these circumstances, this question is so irrelevant for the person who is thinking and acting responsibly.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) German Lutheran pastor, theologian, martyr
“On Stupidity” (1942)
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Added on 30-Mar-17 | Last updated 30-Mar-17
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[W]hen we renounce the self and become part of a compact whole, we not only renounce personal advantage but are also rid of personal responsibility. There is no telling to what extremes of cruelty and ruthlessness a man will go when he is freed from the fears, hesitations, doubts and the vague stirrings of decency that go with individual judgement. When we lose our individual independence in the corporateness of a mass movement, we find a new freedom — freedom to hate, bully, lie, torture, murder and betray without shame and remorse. Herein undoubtedly lies part of the attractiveness of a mass movement.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951)
 
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Glorious men are the scorn of wise men, the admiration of fools, the idols of parasites, and the slaves of their own vaunts.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Vain-Glory,” Essays, No. 54 (1625)
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I do not say that Democracy has been more pernicious, on the whole, and in the long run, than Monarchy or Aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as Aristocracy or Monarchy. But while it lasts it is more bloody than either. […] Remember Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes exhausts and murders itself. There never was a Democracy Yet, that did not commit suicide.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to John Taylor (17 Dec 1814)
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Added on 7-Sep-16 | Last updated 19-Oct-21
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For behavior, men learn it, as they take diseases, one of another.

Emerson - for behavior - wist_info quote

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Solitude and Society,” Atlantic Monthly (Dec 1857)


Paraphrase of Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part 2, Act 5, sc. 1: "It is certain that either wife bearing or ignorant carriage is caught, as men take diseases, one of another: therefore let men take heed of their company." Sometimes misattributed to Francis Bacon.
 
Added on 24-May-16 | Last updated 24-May-16
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I know your race. It is made up of sheep. It is governed by minorities, seldom or never by majorities. It suppresses its feelings and its beliefs and follows the handful that makes the most noise. Sometimes the noisy handful is right, sometimes wrong; but no matter, the crowd follows it. The vast majority of the race, whether savage or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink from inflicting pain, but in the presence of the aggressive and pitiless minority they don’t dare to assert themselves. Think of it! One kind-hearted creature spies upon another, and sees to it that he loyally helps in iniquities which revolt both of them. Speaking as an expert, I know that ninety-nine out of a hundred of your race were strongly against the killing of witches when that foolishness was first agitated by a handful of pious lunatics in the long ago. And I know that even to-day, after ages of transmitted prejudice and silly teaching, only one person in twenty puts any real heart into the harrying of a witch. And yet apparently everybody hates witches and wants them killed. Some day a handful will rise up on the other side and make the most noise — perhaps even a single daring man with a big voice and a determined front will do it — and in a week all the sheep will wheel and follow him, and witch-hunting will come to a sudden end.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Mysterious Stranger, ch. 9 (1916)
 
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Popular reason does not always know how to act right, nor does it always act right when it knows.

Fisher Ames (1758-1808) American politician, orator
“No Revolutionist,” The Palladium (Nov 1801)
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When I was a fighting man, the kettle-drum they beat,
The people scattered gold-dust before my horse’s feet;
But now I am a great king, the people hound my track
With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.

Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) American author
“The Phoenix on the Sword” (1932)
 
Added on 25-Apr-16 | Last updated 25-Apr-16
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When ye build yer triumphal arch to yer conquerin’ hero, Hinnisssey, build it out of bricks so the people will have somethin’ convanient to throw at him as he passes through.

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) American humorist and journalist
“Fame”
 
Added on 11-Sep-15 | Last updated 11-Sep-15
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The intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Jingo (1997)
 
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To serve the Public faithfully, and at the same time please it entirely, is impracticable.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (Oct 1758)
 
Added on 17-Jul-15 | Last updated 17-Jul-15
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Our liberty cannot be taken away unless the people are themselves accomplices.

Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751) English politician, government official, political philosopher [Lord Bolingbroke]
A Dissertation upon Parties (1735)
 
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It is said public opinion will not bear it. Really? Public opinion, I am sorry to say, will bear a great deal of nonsense. There is scarce any absurdity so gross, whether in religion, politics, science, or manners, which it will not bear.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1827)


Also in "Success," Society and Solitude (1870).
 
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When the million applaud you, seriously ask yourself what harm you have done; when they censure you, what good!

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words, #183 (1821 ed.)
 
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Strength of numbers is the delight of the timid. The valiant in spirit glory in fighting alone.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
In Young India (17 Jun 1926)
 
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It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority. For there is a reserve of latent power in the masses which, if it is called into play, the minority can seldom resist.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
“The History of Freedom in Antiquity,” Speech, Bridgenorth Institute (28 Feb 1877)
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Everything is un-American that tends either to government by a plutocracy, or government by a mob. To divide along the lines of section or caste or creed is un-American. All privilege based on wealth, and all enmity to honest men merely because they are wealthy, are un-American — both of them equally so. Americanism means the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and hardihood — the virtues that made America. The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Letter to S. Stanwood Menken (10 Jan 1917)
 
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The people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions, and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things — bread and circuses!

[Nam qui dabat olim imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, panem et circenses.]

Juvenal (c.55-127) Roman satirist [Decimus Junius Juvinalis]
Satires, Satire 10, l. 78-79


Alt. trans.: "The people long for only two things: bread and circuses."
 
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Courage (in a soldier) is maintained by a certain anger; anger is a little blind and likes to strike out. And from this follows a thousand abuses, a thousand evils and misfortunes that are impossible to predict in an army during war.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
 
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The animosities of sovereigns are temporary, and may be allayed; but those which seize the whole body of people, and of a people too, dictate their own measures, produce calamities of long duration.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to C. W. F. Dumas (6 May 1786)
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Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The True Believer, Part 3, sec. 65, (1951)
 
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Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, ch. 26 (1884)
 
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Once killing starts, it is difficult to draw the line.

Tacitus (c.56-c.120) Roman historian, orator, politician [Publius or Gaius Cornelius Tacitus]
Histories, Book I, ch. 39 (AD 100-110)
 
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Consult your conscience, rather than popular opinion.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 146 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
 
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No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

[Żaden płatek śniegu nie czuje się odpowiedzialny za lawinę.]

Stanislaw Lec (1909-1966) Polish aphorist, poet, satirist
More Unkempt Thoughts [Myśli nieuczesane nowe] (1964) [tr. Gałązka (1969)]
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Alternate translation: "Each snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty."

More discussion of this quotation here: No Snowflake in an Avalanche Ever Feels Responsible – Quote Investigator.
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 27-Apr-22
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When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion — the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
Fantasy & Science Fiction (in answer to Clarke’s First Law) (1977)


See Clarke.
 
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