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Pack vs herd vs lone individuals

Yesterday Mike Vanderboegh re-printed a classic that I’d missed first time around even though it riffs on a classic of my own — asking that ever-pertinent question, “When is it time?”

Mike uses the sorry example of the Weimar German Reichsbanner to show how even the prepared can tragically fail to act when the day comes. The Reichsbanner were a military group sworn to protect the Weimar Republic against an anticipated Nazi coup. But when Hitler rose to power they did … nothing.

They were waiting for a signal from a leader. And for various reasons, they waited. And waited.


This got me thinking about the differences in packs vs herds vs lone individuals.

In my personal observation (and it’s surprising how little has been written about this), herds panic and stampede at any signal from any member. The weakest, most low-status member could scent a predator (or imagine one) and if that weakling took off, the whole herd would mindlessly follow.

Packs (again in my personal observation) are equally prone to mindless following, but the signal usually has to come from an alpha.

As Mike describes it, the Reichsbanner was clearly a pack, but in the end had no alphas.


Some of Mike’s readers believe that when that time comes Three Percenters — “Threepers,” that bold minority that will oppose tyranny with their lives — will be individualistic enough to act without awaiting an alpha.

I hope so, but I doubt it. The very fact that people identify as Threepers indicates pack identity. (Not a bad pack, mind you. I hope that in that moment I’d also be a worthy Threeper, though until the day comes, who knows?)


And frankly, as plenty of others have pointed out, the moment it’s “too late to work within the system” may be the time to “shoot the bastards.” It isn’t happening, and I expect most of us are glad of that.

When occasionally some loner does decide to express his opinion of Authoritah by delivering lead (like the creepy cop killer currently on the loose in Pennsylvania), we rightly shudder away from him, seeing him not as a harbinger or a signaler, but as a dangerous (not only to cops but to freedom) loon.

So the problem for reasonable people — who are likely to err on the side of reasonableness when that time comes — is not only to recognize the moment but to know that other reasonable souls have also recognized it and acted on it.

That’s hard. Very, very hard.

And it’s just as hard whether the ultimate need is for shooting or (better) for non-violent, but adamant resistance to unjust authority.


One observation of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment is that, even when conditions were horrible, the rare individual who dared to stand up in opposition was scorned as a troublemaker. The other “prisoners” didn’t join his rebellion even when they were being treated monstrously.

Basically you had a predatory pack (those students chosen to play guards), cowing a herd (those students chosen to play prisoners). And — typically — both scorned the lone individual, whose agitation everybody else considered to be anti-survival.

Neither packs nor herds trust loners. And loners tend not to trust each other.


To the extent that Threepers are true lone individuals, I fear they’ll wait to act until it’s too late, not supporting or even recognizing each other when the first of them begin to strike back. To the extent that Threepers function as a pack, I fear they won’t strike back at all unless some leader gives the signal.


Again, this is nothing against Three Percenters or Mike’s concept. On the contrary, I admire Mike hugely and believe he’s right about the small but vital number who’ll eventually rise against tyranny. I would be honored to be one of them. I admire Mike for his concept, his fire, and his drive to go on through great suffering and against great odds.

I think the image and identity of the Three Percenter is one of the most valuable things to come along in years. It’s right up there with cells of one as a vital freedomista concept.

I merely fear, given what I know of herds and packs and lone individuals, that then that time comes we’ll either all be waiting for a signal from a leader or we’ll still be looking at each other in suspicion, fearing to be that one lone guy (hero? or loon?) who stands and dies — or even worse, makes a fool of himself — alone.


  1. BAM
    BAM September 18, 2014 10:38 am

    That guy in PA accused of shooting those troopers is most likely already dead, probably before the trooper shootings even happened. It was too convenient to find his car with his ID there. If he’s ever found, he be long rotted away. Perhaps his buddies set him up or some black op took place. He had made his dislike for police well known and someone is taking advantage of that, but the real killers won’t be found.

  2. Jim B.
    Jim B. September 18, 2014 10:40 am

    I think most are waiting to become a Resistance when its clear to do so. Any attempts to do before the attitude of the critical mass changed to one of support will tend to turn a guy into another Carl Drega. Who was seen by many to be just another nut job dying a lonely death.

    I think one of the fears of most people is not wanting to die for nothing. If they have to die fighting, then they’d want their death to mean something.

    It is too late to work within the system, but the actual time of fighting is not clearly here yet.

  3. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty September 18, 2014 11:19 am

    And yet… each empire falls. Inevitably and irrevocably. They die from their own excesses and bad choices, the immutable natural laws of simple physics and the market. So, their demise is assured. It is only the time frame that is actually in question. To survive, we simply do whatever we can to defend ourselves when we must, ignore them as much as possible otherwise, and teach our children to be individual sovereigns.

    We’d all like to be completely free starting right now, but I don’t think that’s ever been one of the options. Just think about the fact that most of the common people, especially blacks, indians, women and many others, had little or no more actual freedom after the “American Revolution” than they did before.

    I tend to think that freedom is a journey, a process, not a destination. If you ever actually “got there,” I suspect there’d be plenty of folks ready and willing to wreck it for you – and you might just wreck it yourself through complacency. That old “eternal vigilance” thing…
    Just my 2 cents worth…

  4. Alan
    Alan September 18, 2014 12:30 pm

    The biggest enemy of freedom is the bystander effect.

  5. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau September 18, 2014 12:46 pm

    Just read “Guerilla Days in Ireland” by Tom Barry. It’s well worth a read and answers a lot of these questions.

    I am not too worried about us submitting like the Reichbanner did. This is the country after all, where the compliance rate with gun laws runs around 10%. Can you imagine Germans doing that? How did homeschooling happen? By people disobeying the law. Look at the state of homeschooling in Germany – nonexistent!

    We definitely will have a lot of problems, but lack of the will to resist is not one of them.

    The way I see it there is individual and group action. Individually, it is already at the time to shoot. I don’t see the point of any individual submitting to arrest any more. As to group action, first there will be small groups of 2 or 3 who will decide to respond in vigilance committee fashion to some outrage (I am amazed that more killer cops are not themselves dead already, but the time will come). These small groups may coalesce in time but will remain pretty small. Some of them will likely have police participation, at least secretly.

  6. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau September 18, 2014 12:53 pm

    Oh, as to Carl Drega, he is a perfect example. We shouldn’t care that the Ministry of Propaganda casts him in a bad light (not that the general population even knows who he is) but the fighters look to him as a person to emulate. “Don’t let bastards push you around,” is that a bad principle?

    I typed in a quote from “Guerilla Days in Ireland” and put it in my favorite quotes file:
    “The British Prime Minister’s invitation to the Irish leaders to attend a conference to end the war and the terms of the Truce are perhaps the best indication of all as to the success with which the Irish people waged and maintained guerilla war. Those British Ministers who had refused so violently and viciously during the preceding years to deal with murderers, criminals and rebels had now somersaulted to approach as equals those very same leaders and to recognise the guerilla forces as the Irish Army. This startling upheaval in British policy was due, and due only, to the British recognition that they had not defeated and could not reasonably hope to defeat in the measurable future, the armed forces of the Irish nation.

    Had the enemy felt capable of doing so, different terms would have been offered, terms similar to those at the close of all the many armed efforts of previous generations of Irishmen. Since the Treaty of Limerick in 1691 down to and including 1916 the British terms to the defeated Irish soldiers had always been unconditional surrender followed by a massacre of the Irish leaders. But now they had to deal with an Army that was capable, not alone of fighting back but of actually threatening to smash their military power in Ireland in the not far distant future. While the Army survived and fought on, nothing under God could have broken the Nation’s will to victory. Patriotic and brave men might die on the scaffold, on hunger strike or endure in British jails; mass meetings might demand our freedom; electors vote for a Republic, writers and poets cry aloud of British tyranny and of Ireland’s sufferings, but none of those would have induced the lords of the Conquest to undo their grip or even discuss our liberation. The only language they listened to or could understand was that of the rifle, the revolver, the bomb and the crackling of the flames which cost them so dearly in blood and treasure.”

  7. Joel
    Joel September 18, 2014 2:31 pm

    With apologies to Claire, the problem with that old quote is that readers are led to assume there are only two alternatives: Work within the system or shoot the bastards. The book the quote is pulled from (“101 Things,” fercrissake) clearly says no such thing but most people only hear that one aphorism. So people say, “Sure, I’d love to work against this oppressive system. But I don’t want to be Carl Drega or the next counterproductive lone nut, so I guess I’d better just go vote for Marco Rubio or whatever.”

    As far as I’m concerned, the ‘awkward stage’ has been a fruitful and enjoyable time.

  8. Matt, another
    Matt, another September 18, 2014 2:32 pm

    It would appear the Irish spoken of in the “Guerilla Days in Ireland,” were not adherents to the Non-Aggression Policy.

  9. Keith
    Keith September 18, 2014 4:10 pm

    another lone voice from another wilderness

    Even pacifism (which I don’t adhere to), is not synonymous with passive-ism.

    I gather that this coming Saturday is the day for taking as big a box of donuts, as much corn syrup to sweeten them with and as much high fructose corn syrup laden soda as you can afford, as a present to your local cop shop.
    If you don’t think they’ll trust you enough to eat them, see if you can get some sort of vouchers from the local purveyor of donuts, and drop them in for the boys and girls in blue, as a thankyou for them being there…

    and being as over weight, out of condition, lazy and generally in as ill health as it is possible to be.

    You might not be able to dismember an enraged leviathan, but you can certainly give it gum disease and hangnail.

  10. Curt S
    Curt S September 18, 2014 6:56 pm

    It seems I will be preaching to the choir here….but this thing with herd or pack… The way I see it seems like today most folks want to “fit in”. Why? I have no idea except they don’t have the balls to be independent. As for herd or pack…well, ever notice there are those that want to be a part of a group….any group, since they seem to have some sort of identity complex. Then we have the “pacl”. Those folks will join up with some group that espouses what they feel and like. When I was a kid I had maybe 6 close friends…that was common. Today, hell, if a kid doesn’t have dozens of friends they feel there is something wrong with them. Stupid!!! Funny thing, the way I see it. Look at a wolf, tiger, hawk and their eyes are in the front of their face. Now look at a sheep, deer, robin….their eyes face to the sides. Now…..which way does a human’s eyes face? What I am trying to say in today’s PC world, everyone has to “fit in” BS! By nature I am more of a lone wolf. Yes, one needs others but to just follow along in order to feel “secure” or wanted. No way.

  11. LarryA
    LarryA September 18, 2014 11:29 pm

    From my observations, at least among mammals, predators form packs and prey form herds. Prey move together, everybody in one direction and changing course at the same time. Packs tend to show more individual movement, the hunters that the alpha sent to the right driving the prey into the ones sent to the left.

  12. david
    david September 19, 2014 7:00 am

    In my own mind, a herd is something to avoid always. When that TIME comes however, whether I’ll be part of a pack or a loner will be a circumstantial choice – I have no plans to initiate violence against anyone, but I have plans and means for resistance to violence initiated against me. And my main plan – knowing the likelihood of death if I’m attacked by any gang of any variety of thugs (because they don’t like to lose and do like to instill fear) – is to make my life cost them more than they get by killing me. To do that I only need to take two with me, but I’m pragmatic, and if I can take a lot, then I inspire others. And in a sense, I win too.

    If we all use that approach, pretty soon there wouldn’t be any thugs accepting that particular kind of duty. If nobody shows up for the game, the loner wins, and if the thugs all know that SOMEBODY from their team won’t go home again regardless, they’ll be less likely to suit up at all. If nobody suits up, the thugs can’t field a team. And other guys can always track down the thug-team that does show up.

  13. Pericles
    Pericles September 19, 2014 8:25 am

    Perhaps it is instructive to look at Chris Dorner and Bundy Ranch and why both incidents set the authorities on their ear, but had different outcomes. An individual being screwed over is less likely to get a sympathetic response as long as the incident is about the individual. Success seems to be predicated on surviving the initial incident and being able to turn the conflict into a matter of principle that transcends the self interest of the individual.

    Packs need to work out their deployment and engagement criteria (different lines in the sand) that will provoke response without an order being given. This was the failure of the Reichsbanner.

  14. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau September 20, 2014 7:21 am

    [Perhaps it is instructive to look at Chris Dorner and Bundy Ranch and why both incidents set the authorities on their ear, but had different outcomes.]

    Not so different (besides the outcome to the individual in question). In both cases the state lost legitimacy, and were made to look like violent thugs. Both were a PR disaster for the state. Same thing with Drega.

    We all know what the Rush Limbaughs are going to do. Whether the average Joe submits depends on the “safety in numbers” question, and for the issue of gun prohibition we already know the answer: the numbers won’t turn their guns in, no way. In fact attempting a gun grab would be the biggest mistake the ruling class could make because its legitimacy would go to zero not only in our minds but in the minds of the average Joe – which is why they won’t try it. They are not that stupid. They are reduced to “baloney slicing”, nibbling at RKBA, and even that is not working for them.

  15. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau September 20, 2014 8:27 am

    Thanks for that link to Jack Donovan’s blog. What is it that you don’t like about him? I’ve found nothing objectionable yet…

  16. KiA
    KiA September 22, 2014 7:05 am

    i feel that the focus should not be the “shooting” (and who won’t shoot and why they won’t shoot, etc) but what comes after. let’s imagine that shots have been fired and the bastards are dead. what next? let’s see more articles about that. not every revolution turns out for the better. do we just play revolution roulette?

    also, many people may not like the current state of affairs, but i think most believe in the current system. is there a new system being proposed? or just suggesting a reboot?

  17. M
    M September 22, 2014 8:30 am


    For a start, his views on race and a great many firmly held beliefs by the people that frequently link him leave me cold. (Link to racialist post removed at M’s request.)

    The fascination over Donovan by Bob Whitaker disciples (Google: “Bob Whitaker” or “Bob Whitaker mantra” or “anti racist is code for anti white” or throw “David Duke” into one of those…) leaves me very wary of using even the things that I agree with in supporting any of the arguments I make when having discussions about individual freedom.

    @ KIA

    The recent Scottish vote gives an interesting example. I don’t think there was a single coherent suggestion as to HOW to go about establishing a nation…It was just a question of “Hey guys, do you want to start our own country?”…With no consideration to the things that make a “standard” independent state in today’s world, or even a suggestion as to how a post-state state would work. That scares a lot of people, I think, as there would have been little in the way of resources available to keep the population there in the same kind of living conditions that they’re in. While many of us here would gladly (or do) live in a hut in the wilderness, the majority would not.

  18. M
    M September 22, 2014 8:32 am

    Crap… CLAIRE!!!

    Please, for the sake of your blog, edit previous comment and unlink it! I don’t want my post to be responsible for a deluge of followers, and did not intend to live link it, since I don’t know if they monitor link referrals. (Sorry! 🙁 )

  19. Claire
    Claire September 22, 2014 8:53 am

    Done, M. Nothing to be sorry about, though. Had racialist types headed here as a result of that link they’d have soon learned this isn’t a welcoming place for them. The link was informative, but I did de-link it per your request. Thanks for your concern.

  20. M
    M September 22, 2014 9:51 am

    Thanks, Claire. This ‘blog is sanctuary of calm for me compared to quite a bit of other stuff on the daily reading list, and I’d feel bad for disturbing that.

    Paul – See:
    www*DOT*radixjournal.*DOT*com/journal/2014/8/19/who-will-swing-the-blade (An example of a piece with some points I agree on, here.)

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