Welcome to this week’s Urban Survival Newsletter, brought to you by my monthly print newsletter, The Lamplighter Report and the Social Chaos Survival Guide, a book by my friend, Jeff Anderson, that goes in depth into how to survive riots. It’s great information to have in this day of flash mobs, flash riots, and general anti-social behavior by large groups of people.
So far, the “Occupy” events around the country have been relatively benign. Don’t get me wrong—they’ve been horrible for local businesses, a pain in the butt for sanitation workers, irritating for law enforcement, and expensive for cities, but they haven’t been anything like what we saw in the Middle East earlier this year.
I’m going to go deeper into some of the advanced psychology and manipulation practices that are being used by the people organizing the “Occupy” events in the November Lamplighter Report, but it’s a big enough topic that I want to discuss it here as well.
People might be dying in their cars in random accidents on their way to or from the protests or dying of drug overdoses after leaving the protests, but none have died AT the protests that I know of so far. (Lest you think that the overdose comment is an unfounded low blow, there are over 100 “Occupy” events across the country and the Occupy Wall Street medical tent claims to treat about a dozen overdoses per day…mostly alcohol and some heroin.)
This week, things got a little more interesting. Until this week, for the most part, the biggest “violence” has been when sanitation workers have tried to clean up the places where the protesters have been squatting.
After having spent a few days at a few different Occupy events, I can say that there’s no way to put all of the protesters into a single group or to say that the protesters are categorically good or bad. It’s much more complicated than that. There are “End the Fed” people who I agree with protesting next to revolutionary communists who I wish would go to a country that’s already communist and leave ours alone. To complicate things more, the revolutionaries and communists have figured out that they can get more people to protest with them if they suck them in with Libertarian views.
Protesters in Oakland upped the ante this week, mostly doing vandalism and throwing rocks, glass, and paint cans at law enforcement…all the while blaming the police for their actions. The end result is that one protester, who’s status I won’t mention out of respect to his 203,000 “brothers”, got a skull fracture because of getting hit in the head with what the protesters claim was a tear gas canister but that could have just as been something thrown by the protesters.
After more than a month of putting up with the smells, sounds, and expense of the “Occupy” events around the country, cities are getting tired of it and starting to be more active in arresting protesters who are breaking the law. This is causing an increase in arrests, but very little real violence.
Even so, the media is LOVING this. They’re throwing around words like “riots”, “mobs”, “clash with police”, and “violence erupts.” In Atlanta, news crews couldn’t get enough of one protester who walked around with a loaded AK-47. He thought it was his duty to be ready to protect the protesters from police.
But this brings a serious question to mind…how do you protect yourself in a true riot or mob situation? Mob mentality and riotous behavior have been around for thousands of years and, although it’s chaotic, it also has predictable aspects to it that we can use to keep ourselves safe. One of the most direct ways to do so is to look at and disect mob behavior. Here’s a quick example that I shared last Christmas and want to share again:
In this video, we have some great examples of mob behavior. I wouldn’t really call this a “riot” but it is a good example of a minor breakdown in civil order. I’ve set the video to start 40 seconds in…it’s 44 seconds of “boring and peaceful.” But a few seconds after that, you see someone reach in from the left hand side and take a box before they’re supposed to. What happens next is that EVERYONE starts grabbing at boxes. And this is important.
In a riot/mob/breakdown in civil order, there are some key components:
An agitator: Someone who’s increasing the intensity of emotions in the crowd. In this case, both the WalMart employee is agitating the crowd AND the crowd is agitating itself with pushing, facial expressions, and talking. With the “Occupy” crowds, it’s usually some of the more intense participants.
An instigator: This is the person who takes the first non-civil action. It could be breaking a window, knocking over a barricade, damaging police property, hitting police, throwing something at police, shooting a weapon, picking out an “outsider” to attack, or any other “kinetic” action that affects visual/physical anti-social change on the environment around him.
A trigger: If the crowd isn’t sufficiently worked up, the instigator will be a loner and looked at as an oddball by the crowd. If the crowd IS sufficiently worked up, the actions of the instigator will trigger a common response by the parts of the crowd that are most worked up. It’s important to note that the trigger won’t do much unless it’s attached to a bomb. In the case of mobs, that bomb is primal tension, pain, and/or rage. In Tunisia, Egypt, and Algeria this spring, people were worked up because of a lack of affordable food. We don’t have that with the “Occupy” movement at this time.
Aggressive follower: These are the people who won’t start the trouble, but are looking for any opportunity to cause trouble once they think they have immunity for their actions by being part of a mass of people who are breaking the law. This is the anti-social version of 5-10 cars stacking up and speeding on the interstate in the hopes of not getting stopped. Another example is a group of pedestrians refusing to cross an empty street when they have a red light…but when a single person starts walking, the crowd quickly follows.
Sheep/Lemmings: These are the people who, once they see the instigator and aggressive followers breaking the rules/laws, will jump in because “everyone else was doing it.” This is when the unacceptable quickly becomes seen as acceptable and people who are ordinarily squared away get caught up in the moment. People who normally obey authority figures suddenly ignore them with reckless abandon.
One example of this is an intense outdoor concert I was at. There was LOTS of alcohol, a couple mosh pits, stage diving and crowd surfing, fights, loud bass, screaming guitars, intense singing, etc. It was fun in the way that being on the edge of a little danger can be fun—it gets the adrenaline going. Two aspects of this concert weren’t so fun and are applicable to this conversation.
First, a girl was crowd surfing…having fun and the crowd was being respectful with how they were passing her around. Then, when she was about 10 feet away from me, a turd-punk who might have been 18 started violating her. Some other people saw it but nobody did anything. I pushed through the crowd, grabbed his arm and twisted it violently and was getting ready to strike him. At that minute, one of the biggest humans I’ve ever seen grabbed my hand, shook his head at me, grabbed the punk, and threw him through the air like a kid’s rag doll. The kid NEVER would have done something like that in a crowd at a mall or a football game. It was only because he thought he had cover for his actions that he acted so anti-socially. The other point to note is that I was lucky that the big guy agreed with my actions and wasn’t a friend of the punk, coming to his aid. The fact is that you never know who’s alone and who’s got friends in a mob.
Second, awhile later I was at the front of the concert with the crowd behind me and a 4 foot tall wooden “fence” in front of me. As the main band came on stage, the crowd started surging forward…but there wasn’t anywhere to go and people on the front row were getting crushed—screaming and passing out crushed. I had my arms outstretched against the fence to give my body some room and the force of the crowd broke the wood in my hands and slammed me against the fence. People were getting pulled over the fence by security and I eventually went over the fence to get some air too.
The thing to keep in mind about these two instances is that they were from a FUN event. People paid to go to dance, hear bands they liked, and get a little crazy. It wasn’t a “protest”, “occupation”, or “riot.” They happened at a concert. The punk-turd-kid was an anomaly and the surging crowd wasn’t malicious…but the results are the same if you happen to be on the wrong end of mob behavior, regardless of what the general intent of the crowd is. A crowd of friends trying to escape a fire in a church can trample you just as quickly as a mob gone crazy.
This next video gets a little more ridiculous, with a headbutt 20 seconds in by a guy in a striped shirt and pushing/pulling that escalates to punching after 30 more seconds:
So, we’ve seen how Americans treat each other when luxury items are up for grabs. How does it look when survival is really on the line?
This next video is a PERFECT example why decentralized solutions, in the form of individual preparedness is the only effective way to survive disasters.
And one more food riot. This one in Somalia when merchants suddenly stopped taking the country’s official currency. Residents holding Somali Shilins that had value the day before were just stuck not being able to buy food for their families. Could this be what things look like here if the dollar collapses?
How do you avoid getting caught up in riots and mobs of people trying to get food after a disaster? One of the core fundamentals is to do everything you can now to make sure that you never have to become a refugee and depend on governments or aid organizations to provide food, water, shelter, and protection. In short, you want to have the ability to hunker down wherever you happen to be and Survive In Place when disaster strikes. This will give you the luxury of being able to choose to time your escape to a retreat location, or ride out the disaster right where you are when it happens.
And if you do get caught up on the wrong side of a mob/riot?
First, BREATHE. Take a series of 3-5 or more deep breaths…belly breaths where your gut extends and your diaphragm gets to expand fully to get as much oxygen in your body as possible. It will calm you down, keep your vision wide, and help you make better decisions.
Second, to the extent that you can, join the crowd. I’m not saying to hurt people, but join in their yelling and pumping your fist in the air as you move out of the crowd. It’s similar to what you’d do if you got thrown from a boat in a rapid river—swim with and perpendicular to the current, because a single person going against it doesn’t have a chance.
Third, look for natural seams in the crowd that you can slip through. If you have to push, push with the back of your hand/arm rather than the palm of your hand (it’s seen as being less offensive). If you’ve got someone with you, grab onto them tightly and say something like, “We’ve got a bathroom emergency” or “We need to find medical!” to buy some grace as you’re pushing through the crowd.
Fourth, stay on your feet and keep moving. Don’t roll up in a ball on the ground or try to stop…again, it’s like fighting a raging river. If you’re with other people that you don’t want to get separated from, hold on hard and tight. If possible, have both people hold on to each other.
If this is a topic that concerns you…whether it’s because of the thought of being caught in a hostile crowd, being near a flash mob gone violent, or being caught in a mob of panicked people after a fire, explosion, etc., one great resource that I want to suggest is Jeff Anderson’s “Social Chaos Survival Guide.” I helped review and refine it back when he came out with it, and the book even comes with a lengthy audio interview that Jeff and I did together on some meaty survival topics. Jeff’s a good guy. I just had lunch with him, his wife, and son a few weeks ago and I’m meeting up with them again in a few weeks. You won’t hear me say that about too many people. To learn more, go to: surviveinplace.com/survivesocialchaos
Do you have any experiences with mobs, riots, etc.? How about with the “Occupy” events? If you’ve been to them, what different groups did you see represented? (I’ve been to a few and it’s amazing how drastically the makeup of the crowd changes from city to city, hour to hour, and day to day.) If you have, please share your thoughts by commenting below:
Until next week, God Bless & stay safe.