An interview with Marc MacYoung
by Gila Hayes
In our January eJournal, violence dynamics expert Marc MacYoung gave a professional’s viewpoint on the civil unrest, riots and destruction that plagued the nation throughout most of last year. MacYoung blends his expertise with experience as an L.A. resident during the 1992 riots. Last month, he outlined options for avoiding and escaping a riot-torn area. This month, we drill down into survival strategies and preparation for various situations, including protesters marching through your residential neighborhood, being caught in a mob while you’re just trying to get home from work some night, or being in a restaurant that is attacked by packs of protesters. We switch again to Q & A as we continue to learn from MacYoung in his own words.
eJournal: Last month’s talk with you was important because you outlined a number of indicators that we should recognize well in advance, so that having listened to you, we recognize, “Oh! This is what Marc was talking about. Now is the time to leave” and we get out of there before we look like an easy target.
MacYoung: When you are getting the night riots like you have seen in Portland, Oregon, those were specifically targeted at government buildings. That was the area where they were “protesting,” and you know what? I don’t really have that much reason to go into downtown Portland anyway, and I really don’t have any reason to go down there at 11:00 o’clock at night! At 11:00 o’clock at night, that is not a protest. That is a riot. You do not want to be out roaming the streets at that hour. If you have any possible opportunity not to be in that area, take it!
eJournal: Moving more into other areas of concern, I want to ask you what happens when protesters march into residential neighborhoods. I’ve spoken with members who are frightened by the current civil unrest and not surprisingly, fear of violent protesters invading the neighborhood where they live is right at the top of their list of concerns. People are very, very alarmed by that possibility.
MacYoung: They should be! Let’s talk about riot delivery guys. With delivery services you can have pizza and restaurant food for home delivery. Now it’s riot delivery. My first big bit of advice is to know exactly what the laws are for your state.
eJournal: If readers are not sure about their state’s laws, they should chat with an attorney licensed to practice in their state. I say that because the laws about how much force is allowed to keep people off of your land – your driveway, your lawn, your garage and outbuildings compared against inside the dwelling – are extremely varied from one state to another. What is allowed in Texas may be massively illegal in Connecticut, and beyond that, you’d better consider what the courts in your state have allowed plaintiffs to collect in damages from homeowners after defense of property.
MacYoung: Where does your castle doctrine begin and end? Or does your state not have a castle doctrine? So, #1, know that! Next, let me ask you, when 300 people, some of them carrying rifles, are marching past your front door, do you really need to go stand on your porch and watch?
eJournal: I don’t think the question for our members is so much about glowering like an angry spectator, as it is whether their defense is best established by standing on their porch with a shotgun, at the end of the driveway with their own rifle, posted inside the front door with a shotgun or hunkered down in the furthest point of the basement with a gun. Member questions show an honest puzzlement, because few to none have ever faced riots before and never expected to in their lifetimes.
MacYoung: I have been through multiple riots. The decade from 2000 to 2010 was the first decade I had not been in those circumstances. I have left situations that were turning into riots and I have been on the ground within a few miles of riots. I spent the L.A. riots in L.A. I was living in Glendale and my girlfriend was in Pasadena.
When it started, we phoned and she said, “They said they are sending us home from work.” I had an enclosed porch and I sat out there, reading a book and smoking a pipe, with a shotgun right next to me on the table. When my girlfriend pulled in, we parked her car in the garage and we went inside. The only time I was outside was to make sure that my girlfriend, when she slowed down, would not be accosted.
eJournal: In your experience when protesters go into residential neighborhoods, are the marchers focused on getting to the house they want to protest in front of, or are they looking to enjoy some gratuitous destruction on the way there?
MacYoung: If these guys are marching through your neighborhood to go protest at somebody’s house, the odds are good they are going to keep walking by your property. Instead of, “Will they fight me?” the question is, “Why am I drawing attention to myself?” if I am going to stand there and volunteer because I am out in front holding a rifle.
eJournal: Finally, a factor you can control! Why are you drawing attention is a great question! Why am I doing things to actively draw the protesters’ attention?
MacYoung: Why am I drawing their attention? Why, especially if they have not crossed my property line? You know, one of the hardest lessons for people to learn – especially people who have put a lot of time into training – is the following very, very important saying: “Not my circus; not my monkeys.”
eJournal: To apply that adage, we might need to determine, where is the border to my circus tent? The mob making its raucous way past your front yard creates a lot of fear. It scares people so badly that they start imagining trespasses. They think they should “stop it before it starts.” They stop thinking rationally and stop perceiving that they are not presently being attacked. The fear steals their ability to think clearly and all they want to do is make the scary people go away. When they’re scared and in situations for which they have no applicable experience, people do some pretty foolhardy things – including brandishing firearms at large crowds marching past in the street.
MacYoung: That fear then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The marchers are targeted on somebody else – say, like in the Colorado Springs incident – where people went to the home of a police officer who was involved in what had been deemed a legitimate shooting, a justified shooting. The mob said, “No! No! No! He is a killer!” although the kid he shot had a gun and was turning around toward him. You cannot reason with people who reached a conclusion through means other than reason! There, you had a bunch of nutballs who were walking around armed. Yes, it was threatening; it was intimidating, but they are really not looking to get into a firefight.
eJournal: What happened in Colorado Springs? Were they focused exclusively on the police officer’s home?
MacYoung: No, they were focused on anybody who challenged them. Think of the Buffalo Springfield lyrics, “Singing songs and carrying signs; most say, hooray for our side.” There were some confrontations with people who were standing outside and watching, some with guns. Don’t be a bullet magnet! By and large, the marchers just kept on going. Now, it would be a different story altogether if someone broke off from the march and tried to break into your house.
eJournal: Have there been instances of broader destruction? In addition to Colorado Springs, what is happening elsewhere? Marchers went to the Olympia, WA mayor’s home; marchers went to protest at the apartment building where Portland, OR mayor Ted Wheeler lived. I think the same has happened in Los Angeles and San Jose, CA, Wilmington, DE, in Washington, D.C. and in Chicago. Is the targeting specifically the residence of an elected official or is the destruction more general?
MacYoung: In residential neighborhoods, the targets tend to be specific, with pounding on the door of that house and throwing rocks through windows of that house. For the most part, the crowds just go past the other houses. There could be a few guys hanging around afterwards doing break-ins, but I have not heard any reports of that happening.
eJournal: Nonetheless, it is not unusual to hear people who live in higher-income enclaves express fears that rioters will break into the community and attack them simply because they are well-to-do.
MacYoung: That fear is predicated on threats that were made to do that, but if you get 300 people marching down the street, some of whom are openly armed, some of whom are raising Hell, most of the time, they are going to walk by property. If something happens to trigger it, then they might destroy property.
eJournal: What might be that “something that happens to trigger it?”
MacYoung: Like if some nervous Nellie opens fire. That is totally a wild card. Who knows what is going to happen if somebody gets in someone else’s face and starts arguing? When you have got a wolf pack cruising by your front door, don’t call attention. Now, if they try to come through that door, that is a different kettle of fish.
eJournal: Note that you said, “through the door,” and that implies that the homeowner is not outside waving a gun at the mob; he or she is inside, armed and has drawn the line at entry into the residence. Shifting gears, you’ve talked about the wolf packs hunting down people of different ideology than theirs, and I’m wondering if there are things that we do or appearances that we assume, that put targets on our backs and elicit the response, “Oh, he or she is not one of us! Let’s mess him/her up.”
MacYoung: There can be, but more of it is that people who don’t catch their attention are just background. If you turn and walk away, they have closer people to look at. On the other hand, wearing a Trump hat in Portland is a really good way to stand out and to be singled out.
eJournal: So maybe we don’t have to kit out in black hoodies and bandanas to blend in?
MacYoung: Have you heard the saying, “Don’t be that dog?” Have you ever had a dog that has a propensity to fight other dogs? You’ve got him on a leash, and another dog comes into the area, and he gets all excited and starts quivering and pulling on the leash because he wants to go fight that dog?
Many decades ago, I was not at the height of my nastiness, but I was pretty close, I was at a convenience store with the guy who was my live-in girlfriend’s little brother. We were picking some “honey-do” stuff up before we went home, when three cholos, Mexican gang members, come in.
All of a sudden, I feel this “disturbance in the force,” and I look over and here is my brother-in-law being “that dog.” He is quivering…it is actually now called “Mad Dogging,” but the term was not around at the time…he was looking at these three guys and going, “Grrrrrrrrr,” and I said, “Stop looking at them! STOP LOOKING AT THEM!” He says, “I can’t help myself, man! I just gotta.” Well, these guys have now noticed him glaring at them and they start to come over. So, I stepped between them, and I flipped the switch, and all of a sudden, they were like, “Oh, we have to go now and shampoo the cat.”
What I did, was I turned, grabbed my brother-in-law, and shoved him toward the cashier. Once we got out of there, I said to him, [through clenched teeth] “Don’t look at them. If you look at them, I will slap you silly!” So, we got out of there, and nothing happened. I love stories that end in “nothing happened.” I tell you that story to illustrate the advice, “Don’t be that dog.”
eJournal: You would be surprised how many times people say they believe it is better to give a hard stare to people who they find alarming than to look away, because they believe the latter will be perceived as weak. Applying that concern to today’s topic, what creates more problems with a mob? A hard, aggressive stare or no eye contact?
MacYoung: Being too weak when dealing with a mob is less of a problem than trying to challenge them or put another way, “Don’t be that dog.” Granted, if you are wearing all the wrong clothing, you are going to send up a red flag. But if you aren’t, what is going to attract their attention is you glaring at them and trying to attract their attention.
eJournal: The principles you’ve outlined today are so important for ordinary, middle-class folks who never faced a mob, as we work out strategies to survive our current reality, and I am not optimistic that the civil unrest will end anytime soon, so perhaps is the reality for some years to come. We would prefer to learn from your experience, not through trial and error. A big key is understanding the messages we are sending through our demeanor.
MacYoung: Remember in my book Multiple Attackers, the only physical technique that I taught was how to frog march a friend out of a situation. If you do that right, you are going to be so busy keeping your friend from glaring at them that you won’t have time to glare at them yourself.
eJournal: If you are focused on performing a task like pulling your friend or family member out of a budding conflict, that mission keeps you from getting sucked into posturing and growling with a predictably bad outcome.
MacYoung: It is going to be ugly. The odds are not in your favor.
eJournal: Marc, there is one part of this problem we have only mentioned in passing. If we are in a car, you’ve already strongly advised pulling a U-turn – even if it is illegal – and not getting caught.
MacYoung: Break the law! Get out of there!
eJournal: OK, let me make this worse, maybe we are on a bridge with no way to turn around when we’re soon going to be overrun by a big crowd of protesters with signs and weapons and shields and all the other indicators that it is not a peaceful rally. Are we better off staying inside the vehicle? The idea of a pedestrian pushing through a riot scene is truly terrifying.
MacYoung: That is such a booger of a question! There is literally no right answer.
eJournal: I hear you! I think we equate being inside a car that is being kicked, dented and damaged with being trapped, but is it safer inside or out?
MacYoung: They can beat the bejeebers out of your vehicle and if you are caught inside, don’t react! The solution is called “insurance,” so let the insurance company take care of the damage.
eJournal: Is an automobile better protection against violent people than we might think – especially if people are thrashing the car body?
MacYoung: Well…yes…and… [long pause] First of all, in almost all states, life is given priority over property. So, you can’t shoot them if they are pounding on your car hood. The vehicle itself does provide protection. There is a lot more vehicle to get beat up than you.
It becomes a problem when somebody tries to come through a window because somebody trying to enter the passenger compartment of the vehicle can be construed as an attack. It becomes a problem if somebody is waving a gun, because bullets go through cars.
But, if you floor it, you are going to be running over people who were not posing an immediate threat to you. Jumping out of your car is going to be construed as participating and escalating. Sit there and let them trash your car up to – and this is going to be the really hard one – up to smashing and coming through a window (not smashing a windshield). A smashed windshield is still a barrier.
eJournal: It seemed like an awfully fine line until you identified two different actions: smashing compared against coming through the window. I don’t think I have heard those two elements defined separately before, and that is an important distinction.
MacYoung: You know what else? My car comes with this amazing feature called reverse.
eJournal: Yep! Unless there is a Mack truck behind you.
MacYoung: But, again, you can go forward enough and then you can slam it into reverse. The conditions to be locked in, and utterly unable to move are very rare. Get the hell out of there. Realistically, if you are driving and you see a mob of people…I mean, how many car lengths ahead are you supposed to be looking when you are driving? Well, last time I checked, mobs do not materialize out of thin air.
One of the things in Austin, TX really bothered me. That guy saw a bunch of people marching in the middle of the street. He turned and tried to drive down that same street. Hmmm…I am pretty sure my car still has reverse. I can drive backwards down the other side of the road.
eJournal: From the news report, it sounded like the Austin motorist was determined to drive into the crowd. I think people who are expressing fears of being trapped in cars by mobs are coming from a different perspective. They are the ones who talk about making a mistake and inadvertently getting stuck on a single lane offramp or whatever that “what if” might be.
MacYoung: You can explore as many “what if” scenarios as possible, but generally if you are caught that means that you had – and you know how much I love this term – a situational awareness failure.
eJournal: There’s another area of concern, and your comment about situational awareness failures reminds me that we need to talk about it. In past months there was news footage of people dining in nice restaurants that were invaded by mobs. That has raised concerns amongst members who could imagine going out to dinner with their wives or families and not knowing what to do if assailed by a mob while in a restaurant.
Without question, the “school solution” is to grab your dependents and run out the back door of the restaurant. I would, though, like to use this as a setting for a different line of exploration. You have talked about verbal communication, and I have to ask just how well verbal de-escalation works against excited, wrought-up, emotional mobs. Your thoughts?
MacYoung: [deep sigh] Oh, why don’t you ask me something easy like explaining women? Let me think to see how far back I need to go. This is an incredibly important question; the problem is it needs some background information.
eJournal: I’m listening…
MacYoung: Have you heard me talk about plastic berserks?
eJournal: No, please fill me in.
MacYoung: I have actually dealt with some that were truly berserks. They are not berserkers, by the way, that is actually making the Swedish term English. In the original Nordic languages, a berserk is both a state of consciousness and the individual doing it. So, to stop a true berserk, you will have to empty your magazine into him. He is so fixated on killing you he doesn’t mind dying to get there. Stopping him is a nightmare.
Now, a plastic berserk is somebody who is using that tactic to intimidate you.
eJournal: Do you mean that he wants your reaction without sharing the risk of dying?
MacYoung: He is not that far gone. Now, there are two types of plastic berserks. One is an attacking plastic berserk and the other version is a posing plastic berserk. I have seen people in mid-attack who are going to physically attack, who are acting like berserks, they are running, barking, drooling, howling, and then when they suddenly realize that the person they are charging is going to play show and tell with their vital organs, and it is like watching somebody hit a force field. They bounce backwards.
A true berserk would come through regardless. He doesn’t care about dying; he just wants to kill you. Somebody using berserk tactics is trying to freeze you and intimidate you. If you freeze or you go “eeeeck!” he will attack.
eJournal: Sure! It worked just like he hoped…
MacYoung: …and, by the way, you are frozen right there where he needs for you to stand. If he is charging once he sees legitimate resistance, he is going to change his mind and break off the attack. He may stall, so don’t expect him to turn and run. That is plastic berserk number one. That is the attacker.
The posing plastic berserk is just no end of trouble, because he will come screaming up to you and stop in your face in attack range and keep on screaming at you.
eJournal: So, what do you do? You don’t really have a legitimate reason to shoot someone who is just too close and screaming at you, but because of his proximity the potential for injury is off the charts so you have to do something.
MacYoung: Well, yeah, that is the problem, but even if he’s stalled and even though you feel threatened, it could start up again and actually turn into a physical attack if the guy doesn’t believe his bluff is working. The posing berserk is pure intimidation, and if you thump them or shoot them or whatever, they are going to squeal, “I wasn’t going to attack them,” to the police and suddenly, they are the victim. If you watch these people running into these restaurants, what you will see, almost exclusively, is posing plastic berserks.
eJournal: How the heck do you get safely away from them?
MacYoung: Well, part of the problem is the way that most people handle it. Most people just go submissive until the cops come. The berserks come in and they go, “oggity, boogity, boogity” until someone calls the cops and then they get out of there before the cops show up. They are not engaging in actual physical violence. What they do is pure intimidation.
If you cannot withdraw, you have got to work from where you are. I can come from a seated position – and I have done this before against an attacking plastic berserk – I was sitting there one second, and he is coming, charging at me, and the next thing he knows, I am moving toward him. Now, I had to be able to justify and explain why I was moving towards him.
As an expert on the subject, I knew if he hit me while I was sitting or if I was standing and leaning back, I would be at a positional disadvantage. If asked, “Why did you come out of the chair?” I would answer, “because I did not want to get hit while I was sitting.”
I understand that because I know the danger of multiple attackers. I understand that if I hit or drop one, I am likely to have to face others, so if I come up out of the chair with enough force that a) he is on the ground and b) he is screaming, that might just convince the others that they don’t want to fight with me.
eJournal: Besides there are other diners who are easier to intimidate.
MacYoung: Years and years ago I heard a saying, “A bully doesn’t want to fight you.” In fact, a bully does not want to fight at all. He wants to beat you up and be done with you. For the plastic berserk this is a mad power rush. It’s fun. It’s exciting. See how powerful they are! Right? And they are not suffering for it. Now, if they were really to start suffering seriously, that often breaks their will.
eJournal: That’s why we need to identify what we are up against. What you have explained about the posing berserk is completely different than some of threats you described earlier, like wolfpacks. How we respond has to be dictated by what we are facing – and that is before we even broach the question of tailoring our response to avoid going to court to fight criminal charges.
MacYoung: They may turn into a wolf pack if you do not respond with sufficient force. You have to be able to explain why you reasonably believed that amount of force was appropriate for the circumstances. In this case, the reason is about multiple attackers. If you are familiar with the dangers that multiple attackers pose, you can justify using a higher level of force.
eJournal: I think that truth is particularly applicable to our older Network members. A few years ago, Dr. Robert Margulies gave us an interview that I think all members should study to understand the dangers of head injuries. In his interview, he explained that as we age, our brains actually shrink, so the danger from brain damage from a fall or blow to the head is much more extreme for an older person. (See https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/december-2015-blunt-force-trauma-lethality)
MacYoung: You cannot take a beating when you are older the way you could when you were younger. There is more room for your brain to bounce around in your skull.
You must not wait until the point of no return. I cannot tell you how important it is to understand attack range. If I understand attack range, and someone is screaming and howling and calling me names from outside attack range, I can just say, “Well, just get that all out of your system, Pun’kin.” Well, fine, he can do that. If someone is howling and barking and doing a berserk charge in another direction, I can say, “Well, have fun charging the castle, boys!” I don’t need to react.
Not my circus; not my monkeys is a very, very important concept. That doesn’t mean I am going to stay sitting there drinking my tea, watching it happen, but on the other hand, I do not necessarily have to get involved. If I am sitting at a table and people rush into the restaurant and going “rumpa, rumpa, rumpa,” even if I don’t stand up, you will see me reaching across my body to put my hand on the edge of the table. When I come up, that table will get tipped over.
eJournal: You are going to have a barrier.
MacYoung: … and they are going to have something to trip over.
eJournal: Applying these principles outside of the restaurant scenario, gets a little more difficult if you are surrounded by the mob.
MacYoung: Not necessarily, because it is hard to surround you if you are retreating. If someone tries to speed up, you can tell them in no uncertain terms to back off.
eJournal: So, we do communicate, even with howling mobs.
MacYoung: Oh, yes, you communicate and communicate and you communicate again. “I am leaving. I do not want trouble. You go your way, and you can live.”
eJournal: This is such a huge subject…
MacYoung: Yes, it is, but the main starting point is, don’t get involved. Once you get involved, that is where it starts getting complicated.
eJournal: If I asked you to identify the single most important strategy, what would you say? What takeaway do you want to lodge members minds as we wrap this up?
MacYoung: You are one person against many. The odds are not in your favor. Plan accordingly. That is so important. If I start counting, “One, two…” I am out of there!
If there is a second takeaway, it is that there is no shame in withdrawing from superior numbers.
eJournal: That gem of advice comes from someone who has not shied away from violence, so anyone who takes that advice doesn’t have to worry, “Does this make me a coward?”
MacYoung: That is true, and more than that, it used to be my job to handle whatever came through that door. I could not retreat. You can!
eJournal: That might be the most important thing you’ve taught us today, although there are a number of very applicable strategies you’ve outlined in this two-part interview, as well as your many books, articles, videos and other contributions. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.
Marc MacYoung is an author, lecturer and martial artist and is considered to be one of the pioneers of reality-based self defense. This is not theoretical for MacYoung who spent his youth in situational poverty and lived with crime and violence on the streets of Los Angeles, where he was first shot when he was fourteen. He later worked as the warden of a correctional institute, bodyguard, bouncer and security professional. Initially known best for his street-violence survival books, he has also published a considerable body of work on personal safety and self defense in both books and videos. Start your exploration into Marc’s other published work, videos, books, and articles at. Learn more from via video (https://www.patreon.com/MacYoung) and his extensive website http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/.