If the mob comes for you, stand up for yourself. A free society demands it.

Let me be clear: The horror of Mao’s China was singular. I am not making a comparison to the death and destruction it caused or to the severity of the punishment that the mobs imposed. Instead, I am drawing a parallel (one that various journalists and commentators, including the pseudonymous Chinese-American academic, Xiao Li, have made before) to an instinct—the inclination to humiliate and terrorize anybody deemed guilty of even the slightest transgression. And, as in revolutionary China, the mobs in the United States today are indiscriminate. In their righteous fervor, they go after the guilty, the innocent, and those somewhere in between.

Today, the mob acts primarily through social media, meaning that the pile-on can come for anybody, at any time, with little to no warning. The critics humiliate their victim until the accused issues an apology to end the nightmare. And then the mob either doubles down, or it moves on to its next subject.

In the long run, obsequious apologies for imagined crimes pave the way for a destructive cycle of inquisition. Unless brave people stand up and say, “Enough,” the mob will continue steamrolling victims, leaving behind a trail of careers, reputations, and a culture of conformity.

So, if the mob comes for you and you don’t believe you have done anything wrong, I have a modest proposal: Don’t apologize.

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