Amanda Ripley

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Deconstructing a Crowd Crush

6th Feb 2011 posted in General

John Seabrook has a chilling piece in this week’s New Yorker detailing the 2008 Black Friday stampede at a Long Island Wal-Mart. You have to subscribe to read it, but it’s worth paying for (abstract is here). I wrote about how to prevent these tragedies for Time back when the Wal-Mart incident happened, but Seabrook follows up on what has happened since. And he gives a nice introduction to the larger science of crowd crushes (which, as I explain in The Unthinkable, are no longer mysterious—and almost always preventable.)

From a Q&A with Seabrook about the story:

“There‚Äôs a deep seated fear of crowds that I think you can trace back to the 19th century and the writings of Gustave Le Bon. It was a class based fear that was largely purged in the 20th century, in a political context, but lingered on in the realm of crowd dynamics, and lingers to this day.”