August 08, 2003
To hell with flash mobs

I am now engaged in an argument with Michael Jennings about this.

He says they're an example of something creative. I say it's bollocks and I say to hell with it.

Picture this: You're approaching the corner of Yonge and Dundas and suddenly, from out of nowhere, 100 men and women flood the pedestrian crosswalks, spinning and twirling as they cross and re-cross the street.

A few minutes later they've melted away, vanished without a trace.

Or you're at Chapters, absorbed in a leisurely examination of the latest bestseller when, without warning, scores of people come to a stop around you and start peppering the sales help with questions about non-existent books.

Within minutes they're gone and, but for the frazzled clerk, you'd be tempted to think you imagined it all.

Welcome to the flash mob, the urban phenomenon that's caught the fancy of cellphone users worldwide.

With a bit of planning and a few up-to-the-minute friends with text messaging, you, too, can create your very own flash mob.

"Everybody loves a mindless mob," said Merilyn Synder, who has participated in Manhattan's Mob Project, an e-mail driven experiment in organizing groups of people who suddenly materialize in public places to do one or another weird thing, and then disappear as suddenly as they appeared.

"Everybody loves a mindless mob"!!! Speak for yourself you brainless moron bitch from hell.

What Michael is trying to say in his clumsy way is that these cretins are using a method of self organisation which will be increasingly common in the years to come, now that ultra-powerful personal communication plummets towards costing nothing, and rockets towards being able to say everything to everyone, everywhere, instantly. He has a point. But these flash mob idiots are actually proud of the fact that their flash mobs are to do nothing but spread bewilderment and confusion, and otherwise have no purpose whatsoever. Something tells me that they will be targetting innocent shopworkers in capitalist enterprises rather than making life difficult for the public sector, which is where they will all eventually be employed, although I personally hope that they do as little actual work as they can contrive, because all that they will do will be thoroughly bad. That's the kind if idiots they all are.

Michael's problem is that anything involving the word "spontaneous" sounds cool to him. Other things being equal. Which they aren't, is my point about these people.

Here's another idea for the use of similar techniques, but this time with a purpose. Every time a "flash mob" assembles, another purposive group self-assembles and pelts the original mobsters with giant cans of shaving foam, plasticated cake decoration, and if that doesn't do the trick, napalm.

Or maybe, infiltrate the flash mob and contrive to lead them over a cliff, the good guys stepping aside at the last moment while the Gadarene mob hurls itself to its well deserved destruction.

Have a nice weekend.

By the way, Michael does have his uses. I just lost this whole damn post, and he rescued it all with some "undo" magic which on my own I couldn't have imagined.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:47 PM
Category: Technology