A Minute for Society

The Tyranny of a Mean-Spirited Group


Moral Subordination, and the Hidden Culture of Aggression/Suffering

  by Paul D. Blanco

One of the inherent problems in a democracy is a “tyranny of the majority”. To avoid 

problems where minorities or minority interests could be oppressed through the actions of 

government, the founders created separation of powers between the legislative and executive 

branches with judicial oversight, constitutional limits on the powers of Congress and the Bill of 


To address the same concerns for the general public for violations not covered under 

criminal statutes there are civil statutes, or Torts, like slander, defamation of character and 

intentional infliction of emotional distress. Based on case studies performed by social scientists, 

people targeted with aggression not covered under criminal statutes can’t defend themselves 

and people of all ages face severe consequences as a result.

Konrad Lorenz’s book On Aggression, first published in 1966 in English, is considered a 

classic point of reference for investigations of behavioral patterns. He observed how animals 

and birds in their native habitat would form into groups to attack one of their own species.  

He attributed that aggression to a Darwinian struggle for survival and believed humans have the 

same innate impulses but that we’re able to bring them under rational control. If you believe this 

Nobel Prize winner, (medicine and physiology) we are operating on the assumption that the 

strong survive and forging alliances increases our chances of surviving.

According to Wikipedia there are two main classifications of aggression; direct (seek and 

destroy) and indirect (sneak and destroy). We learn from a young age that you can get in 

trouble for hitting, so the sneaky, indirect approach can be an effective alternative. It’s also hard

to pin down because, as cultural anthropologist Noa Davenport notes, “People can include 

occasional kindness and politeness to disguise what they’re doing”. 

In a modern, civilized society, most of us don’t have access to open conflict so much of our 

aggression is driven underground into rumors, innuendo, gossip, backbiting and exclusion 

(Rachel Simmons). The other kind of aggression, the kind that doesn’t leave any physical 

evidence, is marked by deception, secrecy and denial, leading many to call it a hidden culture of 


In her book, Civilized Oppression, Jean Harvey says, “Most forms of oppression are 

recognizable as the evil they are but Civilized Oppression (using moral subordination to 

marginalize someone) without the use of the law or physical violence, is not”.  

It’s a curious thing, in the United States we have such a clear framework for the punishment 

of physical abuse, yet with all the academic attention paid to it, emotional or psychological 

abuse is conspicuously absent from judicial or legislative policy. Laws designed to protect the 

weak from the strong should reflect scientific understanding and in this case they don’t.  

Despite representing a serious problem for people of all ages in all walks of life, the sneaky, 

indirect approach to aggression doesn’t have a universally accepted term or definition.

It has been called Civilized Oppression, Mobbing (Heinz Leymann), Gang Stalking, (Kenneth 

Westhues) group bullying, moral subordination and Bullycide.  

A common theme in their work is a group holding one person with no power up to ridicule, 

humiliation and shame, often causing severe social, psychological, and occupational 

consequences and then doing whatever is necessary to make it appear that no malice was 

intended. The entire social phenomenon seems to be based on one misrepresentation; ‘It 

wasn’t my intention to harm him/her’.

In the groups that form, bad behavior of the group validates the bad behavior 

of the members. (Irving Janis, Groupthink) The group directs unethical and hostile behavior at 

people who can’t defend themselves (Heinz Leymann). Wanting to identify with the ‘in group’ 

and fearing retaliation if they don’t, everyone goes along. This is how the ‘tyranny of a mean -

spirited group’ works to bring intolerable psychological pain down on innocent people and create 

an existential threat in their life. 

Sociologist Dr. Kenneth Westhues makes the most alarming and controversial claims.  

He says, “Mobbing observed in the workplace has found its way into communities and 

can be linked to the dramatic increases in mass shootings. Mobbing/Gang Stalking is currently 

being systematically ignored by our elected officials, law enforcement, and the media.”

Someone said, “Don’t dwell on problems, work towards solutions”, so here goes:

First, there needs to be a new 12-Step meeting called MobAnon. When you have a hidden 

culture of aggression, you get a hidden culture of suffering. People targeted by mean-spirited 

groups become isolated socially and traumatized emotionally because they suffer a tremendous 

injustice and all the research indicates that they can’t do anything to stop it. In the same way 

AA, Alanon and Alateen have helped people live with the problems of alcoholism, mobbing 

victims need a place where they can share their stories together and to support each other.

Second, there need to be three new Torts, or civil wrongs; Covert Group Harassment, Covert 

Group Oppression, and Covert Group Conspiracy to Commit Murder. This would help protect 

innocent people, give a damaging social phenomenon a name, and acknowledge the decisive 

role that groups of people and Groupthink have in the process. 

Last, anyone who says that mental illness is responsible for gun violence, suicide and other

social problems is missing the point. Accusations of mental illness can be a way of blaming the 

victim by creating the impression that they suffered their fate through some fault of their own 

and not the fault of Gang Stalkers or Civilized Oppression etc. Humans forming into

a mean-spirited group and attacking an individual in an indirect, covert, non-violent way, which 

they do with a sense of impunity, is responsible for the mental illness which is responsible for 

the social problems. 

“Individual rights are not subject to a popular vote. The function of rights is to protect 

minorities from oppression by majorities and the smallest minority on earth is the individual.”

-Ayn Rand 

A Minute For Society