Amazing Basketball Fight: A Pack not a Mob/Gang/Herd

I saw the big amazing basketball fight on TV last night at Godzilla Sushi in SF. If you can’t see a full big screen version, at very least, see the online video. Then read this commentary. Truly Amazing stuff.

Fan discipline is incredibly poor. Emotions running very high. Once a player is in a fight his teammates HAVE to come help (they are team). So the teams both get up off the benches when each one has a member in that initial fight. But the teams know the fight is stupid and calm down and sit down. Artest goes and lies down to calm down at which point BANG a fan throws a bottle at him. Artest gets up goes after him. At this point the frans decide to side with their own and attack Artest. Artests team mates now need to pull him out and it all keeps escalating.

Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying “A pack not a herd“. But this situation illustrates exactly the complexity of his cause.

Herds fail when the allow their members to be preyed upon e.g the Europeans who stand by while allowing a lone gunman to kill people in Sweden, the Germans handing the Jews over to the Nazi authorities, the European states attemtping appeasement of Hitler and Mussolini, and the international community for failing to stop genocides all over the world.

But, in fairness to the pacfists all over the world, World War I and the Cuban Missile Crisis both appear like examples of the risks of the alternative. The death and devastation of World War I was the result of a dynamic very similar to the basketball game. The failing Austro-Hungarian empire needed to assert its authority over the Serbians. A network of alliances then forced the Germans to preemptively attack France and WWI began. The Cuban Missile crisis had a similar quality as the logic of warfare and alliances trumped systemic common sense to put the world at risk of nuclear war.

So we have this apparently conflict between the risks of herding pacifism and the risks of predatory alliances and teams. But this conflict is only apparent and actually a result of failing alliance/team discipline. The solution is for the members of the pack/alliance/team to have enough sense of their systemic health so that they punish members who put them at risk of being drawn in to unhealthy confrontations and conflagurations. The real risk is cultural failure.

If the Piston fan who threw the bottle at Artest really and viscerally understood that the rest of Detroit would hate him for his unsportsmanlike conduct. Then it probably wouldn’t have occured to him to do what he did. If the fans around him also shared that understanding then the man would have been viewed more like a lone gunman who needed to be taken out and less as a representative of the Piston fans whose honor needed protection.

In the case of WWI, the Congress of Vienna balance of power system set up by Metternich after the Napoleonic wars lacked the fluidity to prevent allies from doing stupid things. But more importantly, it lacked any framework for parties rapidly to communicate their power intentions and to communicate with each other what any given anticipated action would force others to do. In short, the Congress of Vienna did not leave its members with a way to understand what system health was and it also lacked a way for parties to simulate before acting. Today we have a United Nations and modern media environment that for all their faults allows parties to play out the results of their actions in theory before they put them into practice. For example, these institutions allowed the US to telegraph its intention to invade Iraq long before it actually did so and gave everyone else the opportunity to articulate how they would handle it if the US went through with the plan. The lack of surprise and the testing of ideas dramatically increased the safety of everyone.


One Response to Amazing Basketball Fight: A Pack not a Mob/Gang/Herd

  1. alex, is it better for the general state of the world if a herd causes random violence or if it is the victim of random violence?

    this is the essential element of pacifism. i believe it is better in the end to be attacked randomly than to attack randomly.

    it is the attacking which is the blight on the world. the being attacked is a symptom of the world’s sickness.

    i am incredibly disappointed in your inability to understand how to make the world a better place.

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