The Herd Will Not Save You

If you enjoy this post, check out more from Linoge over at Walls Of The City. If you’re not already following his site, I highly recommend you add it to your daily gun blog rotation.

Personally, I find this video fascinating:

But not for the obvious reasons.

Oh, sure, it was a masterpiece of advertising, and I love a bit of spontaneity as much as the next guy, but watch it again, only this time pay attention to the crowd and not the players.

I can understand everyone just standing around and watching while the ambulance rolls up and clumsily tries to load… whoever the hell that was. Ambulance-calls are typically indicative that something unfortunate has happened, but “the authorities” are already on-scene and apparently handling the situation (however ineffectively they might be), so what are you left to do but watch?

But around 0:48 into the video, a bicyclist runs into the open door of the ambulance, falls over, and starts bodily assaulting one of the paramedics, who responds, in short, by spin-kicking the cyclist into the side of the ambulance. Flashy and well-choreographed, but how do the onlookers know it is still part of the “drama”? Does anyone think to call the cops, or intervene, on the basis of an apparent beating taking place in front of them? So far as we are shown, no. People look incredulous, concerned, repulsed, scared, but never really do anything.

The hot chick wearing nothing but lingerie riding by on a motorcycle might account for the inactivity of the males, at least, I suppose…

It gets worse… about 1:03 a matte-black suburban roars into the square with an apparent police van in hot pursuit of it and a SWAT van boxing it in, and as the vehicles screech to a halt, men dive out of them and begin to exchange gunfire, complete with fairly gratuitous blood splatter for the fictional victim (visible at 1:14). Ignore, for a second, the rather flagrant violations of pretty much all of the Four Rules when it comes to staging a complete-with-blanks shoot-out in the middle of a crowded European square, and instead focus on the audience.

People flinch. People cower. People look around to see what other people are doing. Hell, one of the button-pushers looks like she wants to hide behind the ridiculously-too-small-to-hide-behind stand for the button. But, so far as I can see in the commercial (which means “so far as TNT wants to show us” since they are the ones who held the editing scissors), no one ran, no one actually sought cover (even those people downrange of the shooters), and there was no mass panic.
Which seems strange to me.

I like to think that if what I believed to be were shots being exchanged right in front of me, I would be, at the very least, kissing concrete or getting the hell out of dodge. But aside from a few steps back, hardly anyone in the commercial moved. Maybe this was all announced in advance, so people knew mostly what to expect… which would rather destroy the “drama” of the situation, much less the surprise of it. Maybe the whole thing – from the players all the way down through the audience – was 100% staged with full awareness of what all would be happening going on… which would be a rather misleading ploy on TNT’s part.

Or maybe the average person’s “flight or fight” response has been successfully suppressed by societal training. In fairness, this whole bit of stagecraft was executed “on an average Flemmish square of an average Flemmish town”, but before we go too far down the rabbit hole of “disarmed Europeans”, do you really think the average American’s response would be a whole lot different? When bad / strange / unusual things start happening around people, I guarantee you one of their first – if not their actual first – reactions is to look around and see what everyone else is doing, and if no one is appreciably reacting in any way, neither will they; on the other hand, mobs are called “mobs” for a reason. We have been conditioned to place our own physical safety beneath our social standing, to the point that we will, apparently, simply stand there and observe a gun fight transpiring not 20 feet from us, with firearms pointed at us, rather than be “embarrassed” at understandably fleeing from the scene.

Yeah. That seems like a beneficial adaptation.

So what would you do in a similar situation? Have you thought about what you would do in a similar situation? How would you know if it was “all part of the show” or something else entirely? How would you know it was not a show-within-a-show, with criminals exploiting your belief that it is “just a show” to pull off something worse? How do you know they will not try something like that now? In any case, to bastardize an old military saying, you do not rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your preparedness.

Me, I would have whacked the crap out of that button – big red buttons exist to be pushed – but I sure as hell would not have been in a position to see the cute little banner being unfurled from the building.

If you enjoyed this post, check out more from Linoge over at Walls Of The City. If you’re not already following his site, I highly recommend you add it to your daily gun blog rotation.


Ben April 18, 2012 at 12:33 am

I tend to pick out and observe convenient concrete structures, steel doors, and brick walls as a sight seeing exercise for my friend “Justin.” Worst case, I hope to be crouched behind the front wheel of a car, putting a brake assembly and engine block between me and incoming.

Doug April 18, 2012 at 12:47 am

Had to be staged, or at least implied that something fake would happen. But to respond to your rather deep blog post, I think that American’s are just as much sheep as the rest of the world. I think people having no knowledge of what was going to happen would’ve paniced at the gunfire, 100 calls to 911 would’ve been made (some by kids as young as 5, because yes, some 5 year olds have cell phones for whatever reason) and things would’ve been in utter chaos.

That commercial was meant to throw as many emotions/thoughts at you as possible. Anger, humor, fear, lust (at least for the men) and curiosity and confusion. They’re trying to promote the different shows they air, but at the same time draw you in and capture the audience to make them remember what channel they need to watch. Marketing is becoming harder and harder because we’re bombarded with ads by the minute from so many angles. In a way, I liked the commercial, but in another way, I hate that someone has to go so far just to draw attention.

MrMaigo April 18, 2012 at 01:17 am

The ripped EMT was the best part. Just saying.

USSMunkfish April 18, 2012 at 01:23 am

After all that.. after all they did the banner was fake!

Vhyrus April 18, 2012 at 03:33 am

I think you may be reading too much into this one, Mike. There was a button that was clearly marked “PUSH TO ADD DRAMA” and there were (probably very visible) cameras setup throughout the square. This all broke loose the moment someone happened to push that conspicuously placed button. That coupled with the sheer over the top nature of the event means it’s not a stretch that the spectators could put 2 and 2 together and realize this was staged.

ENDO-Mike April 18, 2012 at 01:46 pm

I didn’t write the article, Linoge from did. I know what you’re saying, but at the same time these people were not at Disney land… how would they know what’s real and what’s fake if it looks so real. Someone could have pulled out guns and robbed a bank next door and everyone would have been ROFL’ing and clapping and smiling while it went down.

eli April 19, 2012 at 08:50 am

When you carry a hammer, you see nails everywhere? Srsly?

Boyd May 2, 2012 at 10:27 am

Yes, they -could- have, had they had a handy stash of guns to pull out and the motive to rob. The probability of that in this environment seems low. I take this post as a fun thought exercise, and if I had been there I would like to think I would have been somewhat more cautious then the average gawker that TNT was obviously looking for (there goes any chance for “extra” roles at my house ;) . B u t … as an exercise I’d take it a little less seriously.

Ben Branam April 18, 2012 at 07:27 am

I think this video was staged and people there had a pretty good idea that something was going to happen, but people will stand around and watch. There are plenty of videos out there that show people standing and watching while something is going on. Jack Spirko calls it normalcy bias. People just don’t believe what they are seeing is real or can’t be happening to them, so they just watch.

JonMac April 18, 2012 at 01:44 pm

Staged to an extent, sure. But I’ll willing to bet that most of the bystanders were unaware. Google ‘the bystander effect’ to see why people really do act this way in a crisis. I think Mike is right to draw attention to these reactions, though I think it has more to do with human nature than the world as it is today.

ENDO-Mike April 18, 2012 at 01:48 pm

I didn’t write the post, Linoge from did. Yea the “bystander effect” is definitely going on here.

Linoge April 19, 2012 at 08:34 pm

And, thankfully, if you Google “bystander effect” (which is definitely the right phrase to describe what I was driving towards), you will also run across the Kitty Genovese story, which dovetails with this entire post.

That shootout could have been real, and the actor splattered in blood could have been genuine, and these people would have gone with it. Which is kind of scary.

AuricTech April 18, 2012 at 02:45 pm

You mean there are gun-blog readers who don’t read Walls of the City?

Linoge April 19, 2012 at 08:27 pm

Well that is a positively wonderful thing of you to say ;).

Lance April 18, 2012 at 11:06 pm

I think it was pretty obvious that it was staged. I would have has sat back and enjoyed the show.

JonMac April 19, 2012 at 01:35 pm

Yes, clearly the ‘acts’ were staged – the question is to what degree the audience were ‘in on it’, and I would suggest that many of the reactions are genuine.

Linoge April 19, 2012 at 08:28 pm

And that is pretty much my point.

It is entirely possible that TNT brought in a crowd of actors for the square. But, as I said, that would be rather misleading.

It is also entirely possible that an random crowd of folks was warned that SOMETHING was going down here. But that would still be mildly misleading – the implication is that the button was just left out there in the open, and people would randomly stroll up and push it. As such, the crowd would invariably ebb and flow, with “uninformed” folks showing up and suddenly witnessing the events.

So, assuming TNT is honest, and, if not, abiding by nothing more than Occam’s Razor, we have to assume that the people’s reactions in this case are more-or-less genuine. Which, as I said, is interesting to me.

NikonMikon April 19, 2012 at 02:04 am

I would do the LMFAO dance up to the button and push it with my elbow.

it would be like the guy on the left:


Church April 19, 2012 at 04:14 pm

Staged, and wild as hell!

ThatGuy April 19, 2012 at 05:11 pm

I’m not surprised no one cowered and ran away, it’s pretty clear it’s all staged to the crowd.

Linoge April 19, 2012 at 08:29 pm

Hindsight. 20/20. Etc.

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