A Mob Is, After All, A Mob

No doubt you have seen the sickening story of the beating and sexual assault of CBS News reporter Lara Logan by something like 200 Egyptians in Cairo. This is one of those instances where there isn’t any point in talking about what you’d like to do, because what you’d like to do isn’t one of the options. So what follows is a more philosophical reflection.
If conservatism has a single bedrock principle, it is, perhaps, a distrust of mobs. One major strand of modern conservatism was born in a reaction against the horrors of the French Revolution. The conservative suspicion of mobs has been borne out time after time throughout modern history. But in recent years, that suspicion has sometimes been in tension with enthusiasm for popular revolts against despotism–in Iran, most notably, and in Egypt, most recently.
I’m sure I am not the only conservative who has felt ambivalence upon seeing news photographs of burning automobiles, youths throwing Molotov cocktails, broken glass, and so on. Are these anarchists disrupting an international economic summit, or Greek socialists protesting against fiscal sanity, or Venezuelan thugs suppressing their political opponents? Bad! On the other hand, are they Iranian students fighting for freedom, or Egyptians trying to throw off the yoke of oppression? Good!
The fact is that mobs are bad. If you have ever found yourself in the middle of a mob, you know that the conservative instinct is correct. It takes a high degree of civilization to reach the point attained by, for example, the Tea Partiers, who congregate in peaceful demonstrations that not only do not threaten others with whom they come into contact, but also result in streets and parks that are cleaner than when the demonstrators arrived. They are not a mob.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Logan and her family. If there is a silver lining to this horrible incident, it is perhaps a reminder that conservatives, of all people, should be careful to distinguish between legitimate peaceful demonstration and mob violence.

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