The Corner

Dodging a Riot

I have good news for you, Jonah; As someone who was attacked by a howling mob of honors students at Yale some years ago. I can tell you the experience is an extremely exhilarating one. While they are shouting things like “Get Goldberg,” you feel nervous but not really afraid. In my case that may have been because my “protectors”–i.e., the students responsible for getting me into this plight–were whispering: “Don’t worry we’re going out by another door.” When we set off towards this other exit, however, one of the mob’s accomplices in the hall shouted: “They’re going out by another door.” Whereupon I could clearly hear the mob run around the back of the hall to the other door. Cleverly we then went out through the first door, but the mob was again informed in time and ran back to greet us.

The next point to bear in mind is that it takes time for the inhibitions we all have against using violence to break down–maybe as long as seven or eight minutes. During this time the mob confines its attention to coming very close to your face and shouting insults very loudly — in my case “racist,” in your case probably “racist” too, but the well-read rioters may add “fascist!” The next stage in the mob’s moral decline is that it starts making very slight physical contact with you — sight slaps at your jacket, playful punches at your shoulder, amusing jabs at your middle. These gradually get less amusing — and then the best ploy is to shout “police.” I was surrounded very quickly by four tough campus cops, who had been alerted by my protectors, and carried bodily by them through the howling honors students to the waiting car. When I was safely inside, the mob lost all their previous inhibitions and started thumping the car in the mistaken impression that I minded about the condition of the auto. The driver did mind, though, and quickly accelerated out of Yale towards New York.

When my calm had been restored, I sent a letter to the Yale president thanking him for the swift action of the campus police. I was grateful for their saving me, but also I know that if the mob ever heard of the letter it would add to their irritation and disappointment. Something to bear in mind if things go wrong. Well, that’s it, old sport. Best of luck. I’m off to the Madrid launch of my book in Spanish at a reception hosted by Jose Maria Aznar, the former prime minister here, followed by a delicious dinner. I anticipate no riots.


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