Want to get me to drop you from my Christmas card list forever?  Call police and the military “sheepdogs”.

Because what do sheepdogs do?  They move sheep around, in a big, passive, helpless herd.

The term is part and parcel of the contempt in which bureaucracies, from the Intelligence and Homeland Security bureaucracies all the way down to all too many local police, hold civilians.

The official take on large groups of civilians is that, in the face of a life-threatening even, people will freeze up and/or mill about in panic like a flock of sheep, waiting for their “sheepdogs” to take charge.

The truth, up to and including 9/11, is pretty much the opposite; in episode after episode, while the bureaucracy bumbles ineffectually about at worst, and arrives on the scene too late to do any good at best, it’s the people – regular people – on the scene who have the reflexes, the intelligence and the information to act.  And when they have the tools at hand to turn action into results, they accomplish miracles.

  • On 9/11, not only did the passengers on Flight 93, armed with information from the ground, realize that the pre-war advice to sit down and not challenge hijackers had become instantly obsolete, and launch a doomed but successful counterattack without the aid of a single bureaucrat – but the mass of civilians in the World Trade Center largely self-organized the evacuation of the Twin Towers.  Which takes nothing away from the police and fire responders; the fact is, without tens of thousands of people thinking for themselves, disobeying their official instructions to stay put, and getting themselves out of the towers, the death toll would have been many times higher and the sacrifice of the FDNY and NYPD would have been been fruitless.
  • Law enforcement notes that the best way to deal with an active shooter is to shoot back.  They phrase this in the form of police shooting back – but the fact is, history shows us the responder doesn’t need a badge to deter a spree killer.
  • Last weeks’ episode on the Amsterdam/Paris train shows that not only are typical Americans perfectly capable of taking rational, sensible action under extreme stress, but it’s not even solely an American thing.

Glenn Reynolds renews his call, that America be a pack, not a herd.

I could scarcely agree more.

And to it, I add; all you “sheepdog” people?  Shut up.

4 thoughts on “Wolves

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