I was once covering a union strike at Lockheed for the company.
My only job was to video tape any illegal actions by the strikers.
If they didn’t break the law, no problem. If the did, it would be documented.
At first, the strikers thought we were a TV crew and made pleasant conversation with us. Then, someone from management came over to give us some additional instructions.
As soon as that happened, the strikers turned angry and surrounded us. One guy in particular – a very BIG and red-faced guy, started shouting at us, wouldn’t let me get a word in side-ways, and moved forward to me with a raised baseball bat.
I tried to tell him we weren’t there to entrap them – just to make sure everyone obeyed the law so nobody got in trouble and nobody got hurt.
But he just shouted me down, wouldn’t let me talk, wouldn’t listen to anything I said, and kept advancing. That’s when my crew pulled me away before things got out of hand.
And from that, I learned a lesson that has served me well: You can’t reason with a man brandishing a baseball bat.
This fellow wasn’t interested in reason. He didn’t care about what made sense, or even about preventing trouble or keeping his people safe.
He was angry, plain and simple. He needed a target – a surrogate for the group he was mad at, and I was it.
But, he did have a function for his group of strikers. He protected them. He protected them from any and all threats from management, and they could get behind him and stand behind him – “Stand back and stand by.”
It is guys like him to enabled unions to form in the 1930s. They were the ones powerful enough and unafraid enough to confront management and drive them back – to keep the rank and file committed and motivated.
So, good can come from that when the guy with the bat is fighting for justice and fairness and equity. But when that guy is fighting for injustice, unfairness, and inequity, like the Brown Shirts in early Nazi Germany, then they are the ones disrupting law and order for their own purposes against what is best for the nation as a whole.
Did Germany become a great world power? It truly did! Did the they make Germany Great Again? Absolutely? Did they compensate for all the wrongs done to them by the treaty at Versailles? Absolutely. All goo so far.
But they did it by blaming a huge segment of their nation as being the cause of their troubles, rather than blaming the real causes, including their own war-like nature that was part of the trigger for WWI.
And beyond that, they not only compensated, but over-compensated. They used Blitzkrieg – literally, “Lighting War,” to roll over their perceived enemies before they could even respond.
They never gave those enemies a chance to respond. They weren’t interested in negotiation or compromise. They weren’t interested in debating the relative value of their ideas vs. those of other nations. All they wanted was a target upon which to express their anger so they could feel strong, and not perceive themselves any longer as victims.
Just like my guy with the bat.
And so, when a group is being wronged, those kinds of people are heroes as they protect the group and stand up against tyranny.
But when those guys overcompensate and attack others who are not the enemy, declare, “My way or the highway,” demeaning them, disrespecting them, and even refusing to let those others speak to defend themselves, much less share their ideas for peaceful progress – well, then that might-have-been hero becomes a villain, a trouble maker, a rabble rouser, a loose cannon.
He is no longer interested in what is best for his group, much less the others he is targeting. He is only interested in his own power, in the sound of his own voice, in bashing heads, in marveling at the blood on his hands.
Some people enjoy being mean, whether it be because of their upbringing, their genetic code, or just the luck of the draw. But for whatever reason, they enjoy being mean, being the center of attention, hearing themselves speak and on one else, interrupting, disrupting, creating chaos, lying with reckless abandon, blaming others for their own faults, refusing to abide by agreed upon rules, refusing to take responsibility, and on and on.
In short, they are bullies. They only feel “up” when putting someone else down. They need the spotlight, they need to be in control and so they shout down anyone else so the light remains on them, trying to get enough illumination to counter the darkness in their hearts.
One could say disruption is a tactic. And it is an effective one. But to what purpose?
If you have good ideas to share, disruption is the last thing you’d want. If you believe your ideas are stronger than the other guy, you’d relish the opportunity to prove it. If you believe in fairness, respect, honoring ground rules, finding common ground, uniting factions, fostering peace to support the pursuit of happiness, then you don’t disrupt.
But when are mean-spirited, don’t believe in the strength of your ideas or, worse, have none, and want all attention on you, and absolutely power to do as you please, then disruption is your game.