Criminals Are Not "Pushed" Into Looting, Arson, and Violence

A reality check on media reports.

Posted Sep 04, 2020

During the political back-and-forth of the past weeks, some news outlets have explained violence in terms of outside pressures being brought to bear on otherwise peaceful protestors. Certain commentators have blamed both Trump and Biden supporters for inflaming tensions to the point that people are driven to extremes to make their statements. They have asserted that protestors advocating for reforms have been influenced, pressured, and exhorted to the point that they become violent. 

Some news reports have stated that President Trump supplied “ammunition” to his supporters, stoking outrage and violence. Another assertion is that supporters of Vice President Biden have encouraged violence by failing to be outspoken in condemning violence as a means of redressing social injustice.

Underlying such statements is a premise that people commit crimes because they are suggestible to outside pressures, become swept up in the moment, or are egged on to act in a manner that is out of character, expressing their intensely held opinions in extreme ways—looting, burning, or attacking their adversaries.    

Media reports affirm that most protestors are peaceful and orderly. Only a minority engage in violence. Criminals are active whenever large crowds gather on the streets, even when there are massive celebrations, such as for an athletic team’s championship. If chaos exists, or there is an opportunity to take advantage, criminals strike. This has been true during natural disasters, such as the massive looting that occurred during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when no one was inflaming or pressuring anyone to engage in violence.

Criminals are not victims of pressure by other people, nor are they dependent on them for ideas. A torrent of ideas flows through the criminal’s mind, and he acts on those that are most exciting and feasible. Having plenty of ideas of his own, he is open to what others propose if they appeal to him. 

He is constantly in search of action. He is not led astray or persuaded, but is an eager participant, given the opportunity. Just as many responsible people are suggestible to the newest fashion or craze, so the criminal is suggestible to opportunities to engage in conduct that he finds exciting, and that will give him a buildup.

The fewer the deterrents, the more likely a criminal is to strike. If he thinks he can commit a crime in front of the police and get away with it, or even attack the police, it is all the more exciting.

A person’s suggestibility depends on what he wants. Criminals can generate their own ideas and actions. They are not dependent on others. No one needs to hand a criminal “ammunition” or provide a reason for him to engage in violence. If he calculates that he can loot, burn, and attack and get away with it, he eagerly joins the fray. 

Protestors truly committed to advancing a cause know that criminal conduct harms innocent people and distracts from the reforms they are trying to advance. It is not within their character to commit crimes.