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Shaming the Mob

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Jasper: What have we become?
Dr. Hibbert: We've given the word "mob" a bad name.

The mob is out in force, toting Torches and Pitchforks and demanding blood. All that stands between them and their target is our hero. The hero gives a speech, and the mob is ashamed. Dejected, they turn and leave.

This sometimes works on a Powder Keg Crowd as well, but only if done before the violence breaks out. Once the riot starts, nobody's listening.

Occasionally this doesn't work. The mob stops in their tracks, hears out the speech...and then keeps right on with what they were doing. When it works, almost guaranteed to be an instance of Verbal Judo. Compare Talking the Monster to Death. Sometimes rather than the hero giving the speech, it's a Character Witness or Zombie Advocate. If the speech is only meant to delay the mob rioting until The Cavalry arrives, the character is Holding the Floor. If a character points out the extreme danger of what they are doing, or if they demand that someone else do it, and the character shoves it back on them, and they stop, it's Who Will Bell the Cat?. The inversion is Shamed by a Mob. Overlaps with either a Rousing Speech or "The Reason You Suck" Speech.


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    Comic Books 
  • In Avengers: The Children's Crusade, Wiccan and Speed do this to the X-Men and Avengers simultaneously when they come for The Scarlet Witch. They ask just what both mobs wanna do with her when they get their hands on her, and how they work with not just people who were Brainwashed and Crazy, but ex-villains with body counts, so them not forgiving Wanda really is unfair. Everyone goes home.
  • After an EMP knocks out Gotham's electricity in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, the city turns into a war zone of fire, looting, and gangs. Retired Commissioner Gordon and Batman talk the mobs into turning from looting to firefighting.
  • Comic Cavalcade: Wonder Woman is able to make most of Randy Holcome's lynch mob feel ashamed of themselves after forcing him to admit to murdering his father in front of them, but this only happens after they've got a noose around their sheriff and Etta Candy's necks.
  • Attempted in Courtney Crumrin and the Fire Thief's Tale, when a mob of townsfolk corner and plan to kill a group of Gypsies who they (correctly) believe to be werewolves. Knowing that the Gypsies aren't dangerous, a woman from the town tries to shame them out of it, asking them how they'd feel if they shot a child and found out the Gypsies were ordinary people after all. It doesn't quite work, though no Gypsies die.
  • Phil Sheldon does this in Marvels, realizing that he lives in a universe where the average citizens are a bunch of Ungrateful Bastards. That said, it only works when Phil overcomes his fear of a little mutant girl (although he wasn't part of a mob at the time, he previously was part of one where he threw a brick at Iceman's head. Cyclops keeps Iceman from retaliating by telling him that his attackers "aren't worth it," which doesn't shame the mob but shakes Phil up).
  • Nemesis the Warlock: Subverted. This fails miserably when Purity and other "alien lovers" are about to be executed by a mob of Torquemada's followers and she takes a moral stand.
    Purity: Why are you all so evil? Don't you think it is wrong to kill aliens just because they're not the same as you?
    Terminators: [in unison] No.
  • Sonic and Sally attempt this with an audience swayed by Mina Mongoose's "Anti-NICOLE" protest songs in Sonic #221, by explaining who was really in control of her actions, what she was doing when she was a Fake Defector, and pointing out that she was the one who saved most of their butts during the invasion. It doesn't stick.
  • In issue 210 of The Uncanny X-Men, Kitty Pryde, Colossus (in human form), and Magik find a mob about to beat a depowered Nightcrawler. Judging that using their powers would only make things worse, Kitty proceeds to shame the crowd, one at a time, until they leave. ("He scared my kids!" "YOU scare ME! Should I beat you senseless?")
  • In Y: The Last Man, since all the men have died the US Government has become dominated by Democrats, who elect women more frequently. A mob of shotgun-toting Republican Wives try to storm the White House to demand their husbands' political offices but are talked down by the President (Who is, herself, Republican).

    Films — Animated 
  • Victor Frankenstein tells off a mob looking for his monster in the beginning of Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein by pointing out how ridiculous the concept of the monster is. The chipmunks do this to another mob in the finale after the monster is revealed to be a Gentle Giant.
  • Papa Mousekewitz does this in An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island to bring a mob back to their senses after they were tricked into turning against an Indian mouse tribe by three corrupted factory owners.
  • In the Dead Space: Downfall movie, a bunch of Unitologists are insisting that they be allowed to worship the recently-excavated Marker, and are near-rioting when the ship's security forces tell them "no". They're ultimately stopped by a much more level-headed Unitologist engineer who gets in front of them, tells them to stop acting like crazy cultists, be adults, and go do the jobs they are contracted to do; there will be plenty of opportunity for Marker-worshipping later when it's properly delivered to the Unitologist leadership back on Earth. It works: there's some grumbling, but the Unitologists disperse and go back to their jobs.
  • Horton Hears a Who! (2008): Horton tries a rousing speech to explain to the mob why he is so devoted to protecting a speck on a clover that contains a microscopic community on it. At the end, even the Sour Kangaroo notes that the speech is moving, but immediately orders Horton bound and caged anyway.
  • Awesome one in ParaNorman by none other than Norman's sister.
  • Artie delivers such a speech in Shrek the Third. The speech turns inspirational, with a hilarious ending:
    Artie: If there's something you want to do, or someone you really want to be, then the only one standing in your you.
    Rumplestiltskin: Me?
    Member of the Mob: Get him!


  • A possible crossover with Real Life from Rev Hammer's album Freeborn John, based upon the life of "Freeborn" John Lilburne. From the very moving song Battle of Brentford:
    Nehemiah Wharton- Parliament soldier: My own regiment the Redcoats of Colonel Holles suffered the heaviest losses. We began to fall back to the town of Brentford sir, and when Brookes regiment saw our faces and our losses, well, they began to retreat also. Ah! who could blame them?
    Captain Lilburne, well, he rode after us all, he grabbed our colours sir and bid all those with weak hearts to march back to London, but calling on those with the spirits of men and the gallantry of soldiers to follow him back to Brentford.
    We turned and followed him as a man sir, for five or six hours without powder, match or bullet we disputed the town.
  • In The Protomen, Protoman actually calls out a crowd on being too passive, asking if there's no one among their ranks who is brave enough to make a stand. The crowd remains silent, counting on Megaman to fight him.
    • Also qualifies as a Tear Jerker, because Protoman desperately wants them to prove him wrong and rise up against Wily. They don't.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In The Bible:
    • Several times in the Book of Exodus, God Himself has to show up to stop the cranky and tired Israelites from rioting. Unfortunately they only listen for a bit before going to back to griping, even after God consistently helps them.
    • Jesus stopped a stoning by challenging the mob: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Nobody did.
      • Leading to the old joke that ends with the rock being thrown and the punchline "Moooom, stop coming to see me at work!"
    • In the book of Acts, a clerk of the city of Ephesus stops a rioting mob of silvermakers by pointing out that if they have a grievance against the Christians for "stealing" their business (by no longer worshiping Diana, the patron goddess of Ephesus, and thus not buying statues of her), there's the courts for that, and they run the risk of attracting the ire of the authorities if they keep up this nonsense.
    • In the Book of Judges, Gideon tears down the altar of Baal and a mob of Baal-worshipers shows up to execute him. Gideon's father defuses the situation by pointing out that, if Baal was really a god, he would be quite capable of dealing with Gideon on his own.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street: From Seasons 3-16, the adults would dismiss Big Bird's best friend Mr. Snuffleupagus as an imaginary friend whenever they miss their chance at getting to meet him, despite the fact they never notice him pass. Big Bird would normally protest at this, but in the Season 16 premiere, when he got dismissed when he told them Snuffy couldn't come to watch the sunrise with them, this causes the normally friendly perma-six-year-old bird to become so fed up with it that he proceeds to call out the adults for not believing him, asking them if they know the difference between what's real and what's imaginary, and that he can talk to Snuffy on the phone and hear him clearly and he even knows peoples' relatives are real despite not meeting them in person. The speech was so moving, three of the adults — Gordon, Maria, and Linda respectively — know he's telling the truth and choose to side with Big Bird for the season.

  • Thomas More, a play written in the 1590s, has its title character persuade a xenophobic mob to put down their weapons by appealing to their sense of justice and promising that none of them will be executed. William Shakespeare wrote that speech (but not most of the rest of the play). They do surrender, and get executed.
  • In Knickerbocker Holiday, when it seems that Brom is finally about to be hanged and has run out of the sort of tricky suggestions that have prevented him from being hanged in the first act, he tells the council that they should be acting on their own authority like they used to rather than take orders from a dictator who has people executed if they don't. The council then rebels against Stuyvesant and refuses to hang Brom. Stuyvesant then moves to order his lieutenant to open fire on the crowd, but the narrator intervenes.
  • In The Saint Of Bleecker Street, Michele faces down a hostile crowd in the second act with an impassioned aria in which he argues they have no right to judge him because he, unlike they, is proud to be Italian. He doesn't persuade them.
    Don Marco: You are wrong, Michele. They are good people. You're a bitter man, Michele, and a bitter man is a false judge.


    Real Life 
  • On October 5, 1789, Queen Marie-Antoinette mounts a window balcony and curtsies to the angry mob that had converged on Versailles. At first stunned and silenced, they begin shouting, "Long live the queen!"
  • One of many stories about Joshua Norton, first and only Emperor of the United States, says that he broke up a mob of anti-Chinese rioters by standing in their way, head down, reciting the Lord's Prayer. They left without incident.
  • George Washington:
    • He managed to discourage the Newburgh conspiracy, consisting of officers of the Continental Army that sought to start a military coup against Congressnote , by making a heartfelt speech to them. Many of the conspirators were brought to tears by Washington's speech. It wasn't Washington's words that first pulled it off. Though that was when some began to cry, he first managed to shame them by putting on his spectacles. The man had presence.
      Washington: Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.
    • Another Washington story from the Hudson Valley during the Revolution takes place at St. Philip's Church in the Highlands, located in Garrison, downriver from where Washington's headquarters were, in Newburgh, during the years after Yorktown but before the British had withdrawn all their troops from New York. Many of St. Philip's congregants had been Tories during the warnote  and an angry mob was duly convened to march on it with Torches and Pitchforks. They were stunned to see Washington himself in the vestibule when they arrived. One ventured to ask what he was doing there, and the general replied "This, sir, is my church" whereupon the mob dissipated. When the current church was built in the 1850s, a stained glass window depicting Washington was installed in the front as a show of gratitude. In another version of the story, Washington reminded the crowd that the Revolution had not been started to burn churches.
  • During the Australian Aboriginal "Freedom Ride" of 1965, in one small town there was a mob of angry white men who threw things at the Aboriginal freedom riders...until one local Aboriginal woman called out some of their names and revealed they had been sleeping with the local Aboriginal girls. She did this in front of their wives. The men had no choice but to am-scray.
  • When Napoleon returned to France, a group of soldiers were sent to kill him. When they got to him, he said something to the effect of "If you would shoot your Emperor, then do it." They, of course, didn't. Not only did he talk his way out of being shot, he talked them into deserting and joining his army. After that, the King of France sent out an army of his own to take down Napoleon, and Napoleon did it again. After that, Napoleon sent a message to Louis saying something along the lines of "My dear cousin, please stop sending soldiers to apprehend me, I have more than enough troops already."
  • Julius Caesar famously quelled a mutiny of his troops by addressing the rioters as "Quirites" ("Civilians"). According to one theory, this was supposed to be a form of shaming them, as Caesar had always referred to his soldiers as his comrades or his brothers/soldiers in arms. Referring to them as Quirites (Citizens) was a rather blunt way of implying that they had already discharged themselves from his service by their mutiny. He offered to pay them their dues for the past 15 years and discharge them immediately because he claimed he did not need them. Reportedly, all the soldiers begged to be forgiven and taken back into his army.
  • This anecdote from Not Always Right has a child stare down people who were using racist, sexist, and vulgar language against another passenger.
  • Gaius Octavian once shamed an angry mob besieging the Curia and threatening to burn the senate alive for not not making Octavian dictator. He talked them down into having him made Grain Commissioner instead.
  • A Hackney resident named Pauline Pearce famously stood up and chastised a lot of the rioters in the London riots of 2011, becoming an internet sensation when a video of her doing so went viral, and she gained much acclaim from the press and politicians.
  • Attempted by William Butler Yeats during the riots over Seán O'Casey's play The Plough and the Stars. However, the political makeup of the audience, Yeats' close ties to the aristocracy, and his generally condescending tone (famously declaring "You have disgraced yourselves again", in reference to the earlier riots over Synge's The Playboy of the Western World) meant that he ended up making things worse.
  • During the events of Little Rock in 1957, when Elizabeth Eckford was being accosted by a racist mob while trying to first enter then depart from Central High, a woman named Grace Loach attempted to call out the mob for verbally attacking a defenseless young girl, only for them to insult her as "a nigger lover", and alongside journalist Benjamin Fine worked to get Eckford to safety, riding the bus with her home.


Video Example(s):


Sesame Street

Big Bird has finally had enough of the adults calling Snuffy an imaginary friend despite none of them having seen him, and proceeds to call them out for their disbelief and how he knows the difference between real and imaginary. His speech is so motivating it leads to Gordon, Maria, and Linda joining him.

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Main / ShamingTheMob

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