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La pendaison (The Hanging) from The Miseries and Disasters of War (1633) by Jacques Callot
La pendaison (The Hanging) from The Miseries and Disasters of War (1633) by Jacques Callot

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Lynching is an extrajudicial punishment by an informal group. It is most often used to characterize informal public executions by a mob, often by hanging, in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate a minority group. It is an extreme form of informal group social control such as charivari, Skimmington, riding the rail, and tarring and feathering, but with a drift toward the public spectacle.

Victims of lynching have generally been members of groups marginalized or vilified by society. The practice is age-old and is believed to have started long before stoning was adopted as a judicial form of execution.

"Lynch law" is frequently prevalent in sparsely settled or frontier districts, where government is weak and officers of the law too few and too powerless to preserve order. The practice has been common in periods of threatened anarchy. In the early twentieth century it was also found significantly in Russia and south-eastern Europe, but especially and almost peculiarly in America.

Lynching is sometimes justified by its supporters as the administration of justice (in a social-moral sense, not in law) without the delays and inefficiencies inherent to the legal system; in this way it echoes the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, which was justified by the claim, "Terror is nothing other than prompt, severe, inflexible justice."

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Lynching" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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