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The Stadium-Mob Mentality

Posted on Aug 5, 2010

By David Sirota

One thing you can confidently say about 21st-century America is this: Our icons of seemingly frivolous spectacle often embody deeply significant and disturbing truths. What was Balloon Boy but a deadly serious commentary on national gullibility and misplaced priorities? What was Joe the Plumber but a fun-house reflection of our destructive deification of ignorance? And what was Matt Bellamy last week other than proof that much of our country could care less about its Constitution?

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The instantly famous image of police removing the 29-year-old from Cleveland’s Progressive Field was largely presented by the media as hilarious and justified—and the predictable applause, blog comments, talk-radio calls and Facebook posts embraced that portrayal. Bellamy, the logic went, deserved to be tossed because he was wearing LeBron James’ new Miami Heat jersey in the city that James deserted. And not only was Bellamy wearing the jersey, he dared to flaunt it by pointing at it, prompting boos from fans and physical assault via projectile foodstuffs. In response, police say they ejected Bellamy for his own safety.

Before you chime in with a fist-pumping “good riddance!” remember that Progressive Field is not some private club—the taxpayer subsidies that built the stadium effectively make it a public space, ostensibly subjecting it to the Constitution. Also remember that police officers, as taxpayer-funded instruments of state power, are sworn to uphold that Constitution—and specifically, the First Amendment’s requirement that the state refrain from “abridging the freedom of speech.” And remember, too, that Bellamy’s jersey didn’t run afoul of the few court-authorized exemptions from the First Amendment—it didn’t, say, violate obscenity statutes or endorse violence.

So while Bellamy was undoubtedly being provocative, that’s his constitutional prerogative—one that police were obligated to protect. Instead, they removed him to wild applause, making this event perfectly illustrative of a nation that, for all its pro-Constitution rhetoric, increasingly ignores its founding document.

The First Amendment, after all, doesn’t say you only have the freedom to say things that others approve of (or, in this case, wear jerseys that the hometown crowd likes). Nor does it say that, despite your right to free speech, fellow citizens have an equal right to physically assault you if they don’t like what you are saying. It doesn’t say these things because the framers knew that if government restricts speech on the basis of content, freedom ceases to exist. They also knew that freedom of speech can only survive when government intervenes to defend—rather than silence—speech.


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But in an America that has largely succumbed to the stadium-mob mentality, those are apparently outdated notions—even beyond the ballpark walls. This is a country that didn’t flinch when the Bush government’s spokesperson warned citizens to “watch what they say”—just as we didn’t flinch when the Obama government’s mouthpiece menacingly told Americans to be “exceedingly careful” with their speech. During the 2004 election season, few noticed USA Today’s report that “dozens of people” were “banished from or arrested at Bush political rallies,” many “simply for holding signs or wearing clothing that expressed opposition to the war and administration policies.” In most election campaigns since, just as few citizens seem to care that authorities now confine party convention protestors to “free speech zones”—the implication being that there is no First Amendment outside the police-designated cage.

Simply put, we are a country that no longer expresses the outrage that Bellamy rightly voiced after he was ejected from the game.

“I don’t understand the reason why they kicked us out,” he told reporters. “We paid like everybody (and) they kicked us out for me wearing what I want to wear.”

His anger is warranted. Our silence and cheers speak volumes.

David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books “Hostile Takeover” and “The Uprising.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.


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Peter Knopfler's avatar

By Peter Knopfler, August 8, 2010 at 7:53 am Link to this comment

It`s not always the shirt your wearing but your behaviour in the shirt! If yourattractingb attention by scoffing others by in your face attitude, you obviously went their with that particular shirt to start a conversation. Example “instant idiot, just add water”, but!, To wear the shirt of an illiterate, multi- millionaire, more money than brains,. well that is his choice, using it to irritate others, expect a slap on the head, for being immature. Not a matter of rights in a public place, its courtesy to the public not to make a fool of yourself every chance you get, sit watch the game let others watch in peace, or be removed.Freedom of expression is not freedom to irritate others at a paid event, they to see the game not Bellamy.

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By redwriteman, August 8, 2010 at 3:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Even with everything that has been going on, I was shocked when I heard this.  Maybe I have been going to the wrong sporting events, but it seems, even in these recent constitution shredding times, you get ejected from a stadium for ASSAULTING other spectators, not vice versa.  But then, I only seen those arenas where those doing the assaulting were the minority.  Its as if the Oligarchy is waiting for every opportunity to assert mob mentality, as long as the mob mentality of the time conforms to right-wing idealogy.  Can’t wait for the next terrorist attack by people of darker skin than mine.

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By godistwaddle, August 7, 2010 at 10:09 am Link to this comment

Mrkns don’t really believe in frees speech, nor do they believe in freedom of religion (the mosque near ground zero).  They DO believe in bleating with the flock at the stadium or in the barns dedicated to suicide mission “jesus”™.

Rugged, individualistic Mrkns also love kissing the asses of their capitalistic bosses just to keep on being slaves for wages.

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By carlinnyc, August 7, 2010 at 8:26 am Link to this comment

The police should have removed everyone who objected to Bellamy’s shirt.

Bellamy should sue the city, stadium owners and police.

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By berniem, August 6, 2010 at 4:32 pm Link to this comment

Maybe if more Progressives supported the work of the ACLU they would have the added resources needed to pursue such blatant police state antics before these seemingly inocuous events blossom into something more diabolical.

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By REDHORSE, August 6, 2010 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment

TY WRITER O.T.S.! Enjoyed it.

          Isn’t, the Jerry Springeresk “mob mentality”, exactly what little Sarah P., Rush Limburger Cheese, Rovey Carl, the Koch boy T-Bags and Newty G., all strum like a banjo. Your blood boils when you see them,  because they’re an open lie and insult to your intelligence. They know it, you know it, and they know you know it!! They all have that Cheney/Bush smirk. They’re the professional middle finger of the man-behind-the-man. The only thing they understand, is a political fist in the mouth. You threw two good punches and changed the Congress and White House, but they slipped in ringers. Now they want you to take a dive, and give it all back. Don’t forget your Aesop. They’re runnin’ for a meal, you’re runnin’ for your life, and preservation of the greatest Democracy in the World.

          Who are the Republithug Senators holding our government hostage? That’s what Newt and the “Contract on America” did. We thought Obama and Pelosi would be the lawmen who’d back the “lynch mob” down, restore order, and revalue American fair play, and justice. What happened? The “gold sacks” gang is still robbing the bank. Ol’Doc took a payoff, and Black Boehner and his gang are lookin’ to rob the stagecoach and take all the poor widows savings.

          It’s High Noon, and you feel so very, very alone. This time, the cowboy can’t just ride away. Suit up or shut up. See you in the streets.

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By Tritagonist, August 6, 2010 at 11:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

All at Progressive Field. That’s irony.

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By gerard, August 6, 2010 at 10:03 am Link to this comment

Dan MC:  Precisely the point—that the crowd “got ugly” objecting to someone wearing a T-shirt airing an opinion which he advocated openly.  If the crowd believed in freedom of speech and expression, would they “get ugly”?  So, the crowd is guilty but the innocent man (acting silly or not) gets the police treatment?
  And thanks, Devin Noll!

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By WriterOnTheStorm, August 6, 2010 at 9:43 am Link to this comment

Sirota’s attack on latter day fly-over America disregards history, which provides
ample evidence of the masses as a constant threat to justice, rule of law, and
higher political principals, not to mention science, art, and just about
everything else that can be said to represent the flowering of human endeavor.

Peruse a copy of Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness of Crowds
and you will soon understand that the larger the crowd, the lower the
intelligence of its individual members - regardless of the individual’s I.Q..
Although it is a thumbnosing to free speech, Bellamy’s ousting pales in
comparison to the institutionalized stupidities of conservatives and their tea
party masses. This tendency of large groups to dumb themselves down
probably caused many a sleepless night to the writers of the constitution, who
placed loopholes like the electoral college into the system as fail stops for
crowd madness.

The work of Philip Zimbardo, particularly his Stanford prison experiment, has
established just how sinister group behavior can become under the right
(wrong) circumstances. Zimbardo’s conclusion: it’s just the way we function in
groups; it’s pure biology.

Anyone who’s ever tried to criticize a war that America is winning knows what
I’m talking about. Only when it looks like our derrière is about to receive the
opposition’s boot do we come to our senses and realize (by the way) that we
should never have been there in the first place.

Sirota might recall that when Pontius Pilate offered a passover pardon to a
prisoner of the crowd’s choosing, they did not choose Jesus the “son of god”,
but the bandit Barabbas. Pilate, showing better judgement than the herd, 
washed his hands of the whole mess. Pilate probably understood then what
Zimbardo later demonstrated—it’s just biology.

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By George, August 6, 2010 at 9:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“And what was Matt Bellamy last week other than proof that much of our country could care less about its Constitution?”

C’mon Sirota! You are a professional writer. The expression is COULDN’T care less.

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By felicity, August 6, 2010 at 8:16 am Link to this comment

The incident to which Sirota refers is an indication
of how anxious we Americans have become.  As human
beings, we function to defend against anxiety by
being cruel to others, to make others anxious, which
by some weird convolution of human thinking will make
us less anxious.

It’s hardly a revelation that we have cause to be
anxious - if we don’t get wiped out by a ‘terrorist’
attack, we may lose our job, our home, get fatally
ill without access to medical care - tomorrow.  When
Thoreau said that most men live lives of quiet
desperation, he must have had 21st century America in

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By balkas, August 6, 2010 at 7:24 am Link to this comment

Sirota once again deceives people. He said that americans are gullible. Not so!
They BECAME gullible. This is a fact. That people ARE gullible is a conclusion; with sinister goal.

BECAME gullible imediately elicits the questions: how,why,when [or when-how-why might be even better structure to use]they became dumb, gullible.

And after that another question pops up: by whom they have been rendered semanticly [evaluatively blind]?

Sirota as do all the other MSM warriors for the rich class of people, omits to note that one of our greatest wealth is trusting others and being trusted by others.

He denigrates trust by calling it gullibility. Yeah, put all the blame [blame the victim ruse]on blinded people and not on perps which impose blindness; paticularly on school children.

And thus the onepercenters obtaining never-ending supply of serfs, who’d kill own ‘dumb’ people in order to defend own serfdom.

This is also known as the Greatness of America. tnx

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By larkin, August 6, 2010 at 7:01 am Link to this comment

This reminds me of the “Don’t Taze me!” incident.  An admittedly obnoxious individual challenged the speaker and was repeatedly tazzed before being ejected.  While the national audience laughed and voiced approval,  what was overlooked was the cooling effect that this would have on any dissent.
“I better not voice objection because I might be tazzed.”
This is one small step away from scapegoating elements in a docile and compliant population..

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By Carl Street, August 6, 2010 at 6:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Governments and authorities have ALWAYS done pretty much as they pleased—Constitutions, Bills of Rights, etc. notwithstanding.

In a curious sort of way George Bush was the most honest president this nation ever had because he said “the Constitution is just a goddam piece of paper”.

Based on their actions, all other presidents, and officials must have believed that too—they were just too dishonest and/or cowardly to say it; and you were too dumb to notice.

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By Devon Noll, August 6, 2010 at 6:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

David - Sadly, after 8 years of being forced to keep our protests at home and in the world of virtual reality like this forum, for fear of arrest, harassment, or physical assault, those who understand the meaning of free speech will not put ourselves in jeopardy.  This was and is the result of the Patriot Act, and while Al Quaida did not win any war on the ground, thanks to the cowards who led us, and in many cases still lead us, they have won the battle for the GOP and corporations of silencing Americans who would stand up for the First Amendment and our rights of free speech, public assembly, or religious freedom.  They broke us because our leaders wanted oil more than they wanted us to be a free nation.  And, I am ashamed to say, we let it happen because we trusted our leaders to actually act like men with backbones and not petulant children who wanted to prove something or greedy demagogues who thought they were entitled to destroy this nation on their way to greater wealth.

Our right of free speech is perhaps our most precious right, and all the writing on this blog or any other is not going to re-instate that right until we force Congress to repeal the Patriot Act and all the poison that started with that act!  We do that by stopping the corporate leaders of this nation and their puppet government through general strikes and marches in massive numbers on DC and state capitals.  We put these politicians in fear of their political lives at the polls and in polling leading up to the elections.  We make ourselves heard not in whispers and we do so despite our fear of reprisals from police trained in military tactics or bosses who think that they are Gods.  We are a nation that is over 300 million people, and we cower in our homes because about 535 people in Congress, about 1000 CEOs and Board Chairman, one former Vice President, and Karl Rove want us to do so. 

It is time we stopped being cowards and started be REAL patriots who tell the Tea Party that they and their white supremacy friends will not destroy this nation, the GOP will not return to power, and that the Dems better start acting in the best interests of the American people instead of corporations. 

We stand up for ourselves, or we stop crying about every right we lose - because as was once pointed out: when we sacrificed our liberty for safety, we lost both!

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By Dan Mc, August 6, 2010 at 6:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think the police acted prudently. Sounds like the man was being an ass, and might have gotten a serious beat-down. If that had happened, the police would have been held responsible for protecting him. The crowd could have gotten ugly, out of control. If I had my kids at a ballgame, I’d rather they see someone get escorted from the place than beaten bloody.

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By ardee, August 6, 2010 at 5:44 am Link to this comment

I am appreciative of the satiric comment of FiftyGigs showing plainly that no amount of reasoning can make one understand the meaning of freedom of speech. Wearing of team jerseys and criticism of elected officials? What’s next, allowing all adults to vote?

By the by, who is Mitch?

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By FiftyGigs, August 6, 2010 at 4:31 am Link to this comment


When you deserve respect, you’ll get respect.

Until then, you’re a joke.

When your comrades stop yelling at the President, we’ll stop pointing out what a silly hypocrite you are.

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