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
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.”