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Pack vs herd vs lone individuals

from Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe

Yesterday Mike Vanderboegh re-printed a classic that I’d missed first time around even though it riffs on a classic of my own — asking that ever-pertinent question, “When is it time?”

Mike uses the sorry example of the Weimar German Reichsbanner to show how even the prepared can tragically fail to act when the day comes. The Reichsbanner were a military group sworn to protect the Weimar Republic against an anticipated Nazi coup. But when Hitler rose to power they did … nothing.

They were waiting for a signal from a leader. And for various reasons, they waited. And waited.


This got me thinking about the differences in packs vs herds vs lone individuals.

In my personal observation (and it’s surprising how little has been written about this), herds panic and stampede at any signal from any member. The weakest, most low-status member could scent a predator (or imagine one) and if that weakling took off, the whole herd would mindlessly follow.

Packs (again in my personal observation) are equally prone to mindless following, but the signal usually has to come from an alpha.

As Mike describes it, the Reichsbanner was clearly a pack, but in the end had no alphas.


Some of Mike’s readers believe that when that time comes Three Percenters — “Threepers,” that bold minority that will oppose tyranny with their lives — will be individualistic enough to act without awaiting an alpha.

I hope so, but I doubt it. The very fact that people identify as Threepers indicates pack identity. (Not a bad pack, mind you. I hope that in that moment I’d also be a worthy Threeper, though until the day comes, who knows?)


And frankly, as plenty of others have pointed out, the moment it’s “too late to work within the system” may be the time to “shoot the bastards.” It isn’t happening, and I expect most of us are glad of that.

When occasionally some loner does decide to express his opinion of Authoritah by delivering lead (like the creepy cop killer currently on the loose in Pennsylvania), we rightly shudder away from him, seeing him not as a harbinger or a signaler, but as a dangerous (not only to cops but to freedom) loon.

So the problem for reasonable people — who are likely to err on the side of reasonableness when that time comes — is not only to recognize the moment but to know that other reasonable souls have also recognized it and acted on it.

That’s hard. Very, very hard.

And it’s just as hard whether the ultimate need is for shooting or (better) for non-violent, but adamant resistance to unjust authority.


One observation of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment is that, even when conditions were horrible, the rare individual who dared to stand up in opposition was scorned as a troublemaker. The other “prisoners” didn’t join his rebellion even when they were being treated monstrously.

Basically you had a predatory pack (those students chosen to play guards), cowing a herd (those students chosen to play prisoners). And — typically — both scorned the lone individual, whose agitation everybody else considered to be anti-survival.

Neither packs nor herds trust loners. And loners tend not to trust each other.


To the extent that Threepers are true lone individuals, I fear they’ll wait to act until it’s too late, not supporting or even recognizing each other when the first of them begin to strike back. To the extent that Threepers function as a pack, I fear they won’t strike back at all unless some leader gives the signal.


Again, this is nothing against Three Percenters or Mike’s concept. On the contrary, I admire Mike hugely and believe he’s right about the small but vital number who’ll eventually rise against tyranny. I would be honored to be one of them. I admire Mike for his concept, his fire, and his drive to go on through great suffering and against great odds.

I think the image and identity of the Three Percenter is one of the most valuable things to come along in years. It’s right up there with cells of one as a vital freedomista concept.

I merely fear, given what I know of herds and packs and lone individuals, that then that time comes we’ll either all be waiting for a signal from a leader or we’ll still be looking at each other in suspicion, fearing to be that one lone guy (hero? or loon?) who stands and dies — or even worse, makes a fool of himself — alone.