No, It's Not a Gang of Streakers

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An article at IndyMedia notes the protest set's growing interest in the flashmob phenomenon. The most obvious problem is that a genuinely flashmob-style protest would be less well suited to drawing big-media attention. Of course, maybe that's no longer the goal… which would be a welcome sign that activists are noticing that all but the biggest protests slip under the radar anyway, and those that do get covered often alienate as many people as they interest. (I recall reading some sociologist argue a while back that the Vietnam war would have ended years earlier if people weren't so hostile to the anti-war protesters.) It'll be interesting to see where this goes.

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  1. Shoplifting problems

  2. What is the purpose of a protest if nobody notices it?

  3. Not “nobody,” just not major media. It would be targeted at ordinary folks on the street who witnessed it, but there wouldn’t be one big gathering to splash up on the news… or to tear-gas.

  4. Speaking from experience, “ordinary folk on the street who witness it” are likely to have an even more hostile reaction than the people watching on TV.

    Running into a mob of people with “Bush = Hitler” signs on the way back to the office from lunch is not high on my list of fun afternoon experiences. Especially since there’s always a degree of intimidation involved — will the people turn violent? If I look hostile or unenthusiastic, am I in danger from them? If I try to get through the crowd in order to cross the street, will I be accosted? Etc.

    Protesters are like homeless beggars… most people just hope to get past them without too much hassle or embarassment, but outside of San Francisco virtually nobody’s happy to see them in the street. 🙂

  5. An article about the flash mobs in the Philly Inquirer today.

    http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/magazine/daily/6474903.htm

    Gotta agree with anon here. 200+ people storm a particular shop, cause some sort of confusion and then all bolt within 10 min, definitely going to be shoplifting problems.

  6. Well correct me if I’m wrong but I believe the first American flashmob may have been the KKK.

  7. Doug,

    Aren’t you forgetting the minutemen?

  8. A good book on the subject is Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution by Howard Rheingold. The link above goes to the website created about the book and the topic.

  9. Am I the only fan of Larry Niven’s Science Fiction around here? He wrote a short story almost thirty years ago called “Flash Crowd:” which postulated the same kind of scenario by extrapolated it from a future teleportation technology. Niven is a classic hard SF author and also wrote about black market organ transplants (organlegging as he called it), government agencies that hunted down people using illegal technology (such as the Kazaa crowd)(both in the Gil Hamilton novellas), and human-computer links that allow access to the world’s databases at all times (in the Todos Santos series). I’m waiting for archologies in the desert, a declaration of independence from the folks on the space station, and our first meeting with the Kzinti; if his batting average holds.

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