Social Mood Conference | Socionomics Foundation

By Robert Folsom | October 1, 2012

Earlier this year I described how the NYPD’s controversial “Stop and Frisk” program produced record numbers in 2011: Nearly 700,000 citizens were stopped and frisked; 50,700 were arrested (or received a summons) for minor amounts of marijuana; some 88% of stops uncovered no wrongdoing; and 90% of stops involved black or Latino New Yorkers.

I argued that from a socionomic perspective, the scale and visibility of this the story amounted to a public arena in the struggle between authoritarians and anti-authoritarians. Since then, developments related to the “push back” call for an update.

It begins with the Q1 of 2012, when the program set yet another record — 203,500 stops, more than any three-month period in the program’s 10-year history.

But in turn, an authoritarian police action of that magnitude (an average 2261 stops per day) appeared to trigger what has been the public’s loudest and most organized resistance to the program thus far.

In April and May, a stream of news began to describe community marches, criticism from church leaders and local politicians, stinging media coverage, angry callers to talk shows, class-action legal challenges and unfavorable court rulings regarding stop and frisk.

The drumbeat continued through the summer months, and the Q2 data released in early August revealed to what effect: The number of stops was down by 34%, an unprecedented quarterly decline.

Even so, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said “he did not believe the decline in street stops was in any way connected to the criticism the tactic had attracted” — but then last week, The New York Times reported that the city’s law enforcement faced a major source of dissent within its own ranks: The Bronx district attorney’s office had stopped prosecuting people arrested for trespassing in public housing projects, “unless the arresting officer is interviewed to ensure that the arrest was warranted”:

Prosecutors quietly adopted the policy in July after discovering that many people arrested on charges of criminal trespass at housing projects were innocent, even though police officers had provided written statements to the contrary.

In the April 2010 issue of The Socionomist, Alan published part one of a two-part study of “Authoritarianism,” and made this observation:

Authoritarianism begins with a negative social mood trend, which in turn spawns a desire among some to submit to authority and among others to coerce their fellows to submit. At the same time, still others, caught up in the same emotional climate, battle against authoritarianism.

We forecast that a continuing long-term trend toward negative social mood will produce increasingly authoritarian — and anti-authoritarian — impulses…

This forecast grows more relevant by the day. You can read that study in moments, via the complete access to our archives that comes with a subscription to The Socionomist. Follow this link to learn more.

Andrea Dibben contributed research.