Making Sense of January 6th: What We Know About Why Mobs Emerge

I just posted this on the Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions blog. I’m including the first couple of paragraphs below. Here’s the link to the complete post.

On January 6,2021, I watched with millions of other Americans as Trump supporters stormed and vandalized the Capitol. As I navigated between social media and cable news, I heard reporters on the ground repeatedly comment about seemingly different factions of the mob. They observed that while some of the MAGA mob roamed the halls, snapping selfies of themselves with statues holding Trump flags and sitting in the chairs of high-ranking elected officials, others seemed intent on escalating the violence. Some mob members swept the building with bats and zip ties, calling out for the “traitors” Vice President Mike Pence and House Leader Nancy Peolsi. Outside others erected a gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool.   

How are we to make sense of the extreme behavior we witnessed on January 6th?

Social scientists, particularly those who study collective behavior and social movements, have a lot of insight into why individuals might participate in extremist movements and engage in collective behavior. In this post, I will discuss frustration as one potential explanatory variable for the violence we witnessed….

The feature image was taken by TapTheForwardAssist and is available on WikiCommons.

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Protests and Pressure: Why is Trump Responding to the Black Lives Matter Movement Now?

This first appeared on the Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions blog.

Today, Donald Trump is scheduled to sign an executive order on police reform. According to senior White House officials, the order will create a database to track police officers with histories of misconduct and use federal monies to incentivize police departments to meet higher standards on the use of force. The order will not address concerns regarding systemic racism in law enforcement, nor will it initiate an effort to re-imagine public safety to include a reinvestment in education, social services, and more equitable law enforcement practices. The focus, according to White House officials, is to bring communities together, not to demonize police.

While Trump’s positioning himself as a “law and order president” will remain intact, arguably, this is a seismic shift from his position two weeks ago when he threatened to use the military to end protests and “dominate the streets.” What accounts for Trump’s sudden about face on the this issue of police reform? Here are three reasons Trump is making a change.

Shifts in Public Opinion

The protests have a great deal of public support. The Upshot, which tracked voter support for the Black Lives Matter movement over a two week period, found that support for the cause had increased by nearly as much as it had over the previous two years.  Likewise, a survey conducted by the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project found that white Americans’ support for police dropped double-digits in a single week (from 72% to 61%) as police targeted peaceful protesters, and, in a CBS News polls, 81% of respondents reported that African Americans face discrimination. Couple these polls with Trump’s on approval ratings, which according to FiveThirtyEight are at 40.8%, Trump’s hard nose position on protest is hard to maintain – especially during an election year.

The Protests Got Political Legs

Disruption to the social, economic or political order can create unrest and the conditions for protest. The pandemic and the governmental response to it created uncertainty and led to the loss of lives, particularly in black communities. As the economy fell apart around Americans and unemployment spiked, the killing of George Floyd by police gave citizens a place to direct their attention and anger – not to mention gave them a problem that they might be able to begin to fix. Certainly, undoing racism is a heady task, and it will take more than fixing law enforcement or the criminal justice system to rectify hundreds of years of oppression. The point here is that addressing racist practices and a racist system seems a much easier task than stopping the march of Covid-19. Most citizens are not virologists or scientists poised to take on the Covid-19 pandemic beyond taking measures to try and prevent its spread through social distance and mask use. They are, however, able to begin to address the pandemic of racism in the U.S. by making themselves heard in the streets and outside of statehouses, by meeting with politicians and police chiefs, and pressuring politicians and candidates to do better before their up for reelection. And, the motivation for fighting against the pandemic of racism is renewed every time a citizen dies at the hand of a police officer.

Protesters have Institutional Support

Although Trump has taken a hard line on these particular protests, plenty of governors, mayors, county officials, police chiefs and religious leaders have publicly supported peaceful and lawful protests. supporters. Even America’s top military advisor, General Milley, apologized for participating in Trump’s photo op outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church since it gave the impression that the U.S. military was involved in domestic politics. Part of the relative outpouring of official support for protests, of course, is strategic. Politicians are hard pressed to condemn protests over racial discrimination when weeks earlier protesters stormed statehouses to force politicians to reopen the economy with little political reaction, and military officials, above all, want to maintain the legitimacy of their institution.

The institutional support for fighting racism, however, is more widespread. The NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, apologized for not listening to players about racism and pledged his support to their right to protest. A&E pulled the plug on its hit show, Live P.D., citing the current climate for the reason for its decision (although arguably there were other reasons as well). The popular show, Cops, was cancelled too – and many other shows, including Paw Patrol and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, have come under fire for valorizing police officers.

The pressure on Trump, in short, is coming from all sides – the streets, the military, other politicians, religious leaders, sports leaders and even television producer – but the message is the same. It is time to start addressing racism in America.

The image is from Wikipedia.

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Galentine’s Day has become a thing – why hasn’t Malentine’s Day? — Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions

On Feb. 13, women will celebrate Galentine’s Day, a holiday trumpeting the joys of female friendships. The holiday can trace its origins to a 2010 episode of “Parks and Rec,” in which the main character, Leslie Knope, decides that the day before Valentine’s Day should be an opportunity to celebrate the platonic love among women, ideally with […]

Galentine’s Day has become a thing – why hasn’t Malentine’s Day? — Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions
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Trump’s Tweets: What Do They Mean for Civil Conversations? — Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions

Arguably, Trump will go down in history for his catch phrases and unconventional political use of Twitter. It is not clear, however, whether historians will be kind to him – or us – when they look back at our political discourse. The good news is that we can control how we engage in tough conversations, and that through this process of engagement we will learn more about ourselves.

via Trump’s Tweets: What Do They Mean for Civil Conversations? — Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions

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The Joe Biden Moment: How Social Movements Can Capitalize on the Problems of Political Parties — Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions

So far, the response has been mixed. Some Democrats have urged the party to come down “hard” on Biden, noting that this is the only way to get him to change his behavior. Others argue downplay Biden as “touchy-feely” and argue that Democrats should be careful and not take the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace “too far.” At the time of this writing, women’s rights groups have largely been silent on Biden’s behavior. However, it would not be surprising if some groups, particularly those lacking strong relationship with the Democratic Party machine, used Biden as a rally point to build their supporter base and fill their coffers in the near future.

via The Joe Biden Moment: How Social Movements Can Capitalize on the Problems of Political Parties — Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions

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Sex and Love in the Digital Age — Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions

The point here is that while America may be caught in a sex recession, there is reason to believe that digital technologies also deepen our connections – and we simply have not observed and named the phenomena yet. In a time where gender and gender relations are in flux, it is reasonable to expect that how we connect and relate to one another is shifting as well.

via Sex and Love in the Digital Age — Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions

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There’s More to Women’s Political Participation than Voting

Check out my post for undergraduates on women’s political participation in the U.S. here on the Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions blog.


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Constructing Narratives about the Political Fortunes of Women in 2018

Check out my post on the Mobilizing Ideas blog.

Mobilizing Ideas

By Deana A. Rohlinger, Ph.D.

Journalists and data junkies alike are gleefully dissecting the gender gap and what it potentially means for the mid-term elections generally and the political fortunes of women specifically. Number-cruncher extraordinaire, FiveThirtyEight, labelled the 2018 midterm election as “potentially record-breaking,” noting that women are poised to gain 100 Congressional seats this year. If they win, there will be 100 women in the House, and 24 in the Senate come January 2019.

D Rohlinger 1

From the Washington Post.

Let’s put this figure into context. According to the Washington Post, there are 1,977 women in power across governorships, congressional seats, and state legislative seats. This means that 2,006 more women would need to win races for them to reach equal representation in political offices. There’s a long way to go before we see anything close to gender parity in American politics.

If we recognize that this yawning gender gap…

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Teacher Strikes: Why Now?

In February 2018, 34,000 West Virginia teachers went on strike and shut down every school in the state. The strike lasted nine days and ended when Governor Jim Justice committed to veto all the anti-union legislation and gave teachers a 5% pay raise. The governor also agreed that teachers could form a health care task force to help manage the costs of benefits. The West Virginia strike was just the beginning. Teachers are striking in Oklahoma and Kentucky – and Arizona teachers may join them on the picket line. On April 11, 2018, Arizona teachers staged a statewide “walk-in” before school demanding higher pay and more funding for public education.

Why are teachers striking now?

There are several reasons. First, the competition for funds is fierce and public school teachers are tired of dealing with the financial pinch in the classroom. That’s right. The wave of strikes is about more than teacher pay. Teachers are pushing back against dilapidated schools, outdated teaching materials, and four-day weeks – all of which are a result of reduced funds flowing into public schools.

Continue reading here.

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