Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Velvet Mob

For some reason a characteristic I share with a few friends is the tendency to befriend outcasts. Whether it was Leonard Doddington in elementary school or Anthony Galubo in middle school they were the kids the other kids made fun of. I sincerely hope they both grew up to be happy and their tormentors also finally felt some sense of remorse.

That tendency has fueled my interest in and sensitivity to bullying and mobbing among the elites. I think that the concept of mobbing is not an absolute -- it must exist along a continuum. I think I have see mobbing tendencies -- not the type that drive someone to resign or suicide -- on my own faculty and there is an excellent description of what I would call velvet mobbing in the Introduction to Bill Millers' book, Humiliation.

So what are the signs of nascent mobbing?

1. Social groups that exclude others AND talk about those excluded.

2. Open statements in faculty meetings that ridicule, demean, or marginalize someone not there.

3. Emails to someone criticizing him or her that are copied openly or blindly to a larger group.

4. Different standards for decanal reactions to misbehavior depending on whether the person is well liked or on the outside.

If you are on the job, any job, and see this, there is a budding mob.


eric said...

One day -- after I have tenure (assuming I slip through that crack) -- I hope to do a sociological study of the legal professoriate, along the lines of Pierre Bourdieu's study of the French academy, Homo Academicus. If and when I get to that project, I will be sure to devote a chapter to the phenomenon of faculty mobbing (or, as I sometimes like to call it, Heathers in Regalia).

Anonymous said...

How else are you supposed to weed out weak or undesirable characteristics in a legal community, while at the same time protecting or raising your status in the group? Survival of the fittest at its best (or worse depending on your views of how people in an ideal world would interact).