Quotations about   mob

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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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Added on 8-May-17 | Last updated 8-May-17
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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)
Added on 28-Mar-17 | Last updated 28-Mar-17
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Democracy … while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to John Taylor (1814)
Added on 7-Sep-16 | Last updated 7-Sep-16
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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)
Added on 5-May-16 | Last updated 5-May-16
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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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Added on 5-May-16 | Last updated 5-May-16
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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)
Added on 26-Aug-15 | Last updated 26-Aug-15
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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)
Added on 15-Jul-15 | Last updated 15-Jul-15
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If forty million people say a foolish thing it does not become a wise one, but the wise man is foolish to give them the lie.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
A Writer’s Notebook (1949)

An entry in 1901. See Anatole France.
Added on 27-Mar-15 | Last updated 27-Mar-15
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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).
Added on 6-Jan-15 | Last updated 3-Feb-16
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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.)
Added on 4-Aug-14 | Last updated 27-Feb-15
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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)
Added on 19-Jun-14 | Last updated 19-Jun-14
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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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Added on 18-Feb-14 | Last updated 25-Feb-14
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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)
Added on 29-Jan-14 | Last updated 15-Jun-16
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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."
Added on 5-Nov-13 | Last updated 25-Apr-17
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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)]
Added on 22-Jul-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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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)
Added on 25-Aug-11 | Last updated 19-Apr-18
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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)
Added on 10-Jun-10 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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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)
Added on 19-Mar-10 | Last updated 4-May-15
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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)]
Added on 8-Apr-09 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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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.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 24-Sep-15
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Each snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty.

Stanislaw Lec (1909-1966) Polish aphorist, poet, satirist
More Unkempt Thoughts (1968)

Variant: "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Jan-17
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