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Mob Mentality

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The term "mob mentality" immediately conjures visions of an Italian mob boss. However, mob mentality is a factor in everything from street gangs to dictators like Kim Jung Un and Fidel Castro. Any regime (secret society, cult, government) can utilize mob tactics to control its members. Here are ten key elements of the mob mentality.

1. One Big Family

You know they love you, don't you? Sure they do. You're family. This is the easiest way to draw members. They use acceptance, loyalty, and love to bait the trap. They offer Dick protection and connection.

2. In or Out

They ask for a commitment, a blood oath, or a small sacrifice. There is always a price for entry. Dick will be confronted with this choice. Is he in or out? They make coming into the fold look really attractive. Or they threaten to kill Dick if he refuses.

3. Secrets That Bind

Once Dick is in, he is privy to secrets they are willing to kill to protect. There are many skeletons rattling around their closets or bodies buried in deep graves. Whether it is drug deals or sacred rituals, Dick is now an accessory. He may have secrets of his own that they threaten to expose.

4. No Exit

Dick can check out any time he likes, but he can never leave. Dick may be horrified by what he learns once he joins the family, but he will have to remain silent. He can't leave the family, unless it's in a coffin.

5. Protect or Kill

They will kill to protect Dick. That makes him feel all warm and fuzzy, until he realizes they also expect him to kill to protect them. Dick has joined a band of brothers. He must protect the family even if it means sacrificing his life for the greater good, or evil.

6. Circles Within Circles

There is always a central figure that everyone revolves around. Just like high school, there will be cliques and factions. The figurehead will have his close inner circle. Usually the closer to the central figure Dick grows, the more he knows and is involved in. The noose tightens. The closer Dick is, the less expendable he becomes. The figurehead always protects those closest to him the most. The further away the members are, the more expendable they are.

7. Nothing Goes Unpunished

Members are kept in check by the threat of torture and/or immediate execution. They may use the leverage of Dick's loved ones. Either way, the threat is implicit: step out of line, Dick dies. Betray them and everyone Dick knows dies.

8. Most Violent Rules

The most sadistic person is usually the ringleader. I'd say they are almost always a sociopath because sociopaths have no empathy. Occasionally someone who isn't a sociopath may inherit the position. They won't last long. They have to be just as cruel and violent as the leader before them or they become the weak link.

9. No Weak Links

Weak links are pruned, period. Leaks are plugged and the bodies are never found. They can't afford disclosure or infiltration.

10. It's Lonely At The Top

Because the ringleader must maintain his bully pulpit, he is never truly safe. The situation breeds sharks that are only too eager to take his place due to greed or sadistic enjoyment. He can never truly trust even his closest advisers. If he cares too much about anyone, he has a point of vulnerability that can be preyed upon. He can't easily abdicate thanks to rule #2. Is he in or out?

It is easy to use these ten rules to build conflicts in a story. Use your verbal camera to show them being enforced. Dick is drawn in, disillusioned, then trapped. Readers will root for him to get out.

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