among the thugs

Buford was an American living in England in the 1980s.  He became fascinated by British football hooligans, and how, by assembling suddenly in large numbers, they were able to overwhelm the forces of law and order, and engage in unconstrained property destruction and violence.  He hung out with the hooligans long enough to be accepted, and began to identify with them.

The frightening thing about the book is that Buford showed there is such a thing as a crowd mind.  He found that members of a mob can cease to be individuals, only units of a mob mind.  He experienced this himself, and found it to be extremely pleasurable.  He enjoyed the feeling of having his ego dissolve in the mass, of being free from the constraints of civilization, of individual responsibility, of giving himself up to adrenaline and the thrill of the moment.  His ego dissolved into a larger consciousness. It was a kind of evil mysticism.

Buford was not the kind of person you would think of as a thug.  He was the editor of Granta, a respected British literary magazine. He was, on the evidence of this book, a fine writer, with good self-insight and honesty.  If someone like him could get caught up in mob violence, even temporarily, then nobody is immune.

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