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Flash Mobs Take a Violent Turn

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Those wacky teenagers! What will they think of next? A flash mob used to be a term that referred to a social media organized event, where a group of people materialized out of nowhere and engaged in benign activities like pillow fights or group purchasing decisions. If this term is entirely new to you, here’s a quick recap from Wikipedia.

“One of the first flash mobs was created in Manhattan in May 2003, by Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper’s Magazine. The first attempt was unsuccessful after the targeted retail store was tipped off about the plan for people to gather. Wasik avoided such problems during the second flash mob, which occurred on June 3, 2003, at Macy’s department store, by sending participants to preliminary staging areas – in four prearranged Manhattan bars – where they received further instructions about the ultimate event and location just before the event began.

More than 130 people converged upon the ninth floor rug department of the store, gathering around an expensive rug. Anyone approached by a sales assistant was advised to say that the gatherers lived together in a warehouse on the outskirts of New York, that they were shopping for a “love rug”, and that they made all their purchase decisions as a group. Subsequently, 200 people flooded the lobby and mezzanine of theHyatt hotel in synchronized applause for about 15 seconds, and a shoe boutique in SoHo was invaded by participants pretending to be tourists on a bus trip.

Wasik claimed that he created flash mobs as a social experiment designed to poke fun at hipsters and to highlight the cultural atmosphere of conformity and of wanting to be an insider or part of “the next big thing”. The Vancouver Sun wrote, “It may have backfired on him … [Wasik] may instead have ended up giving conformity a vehicle that allowed it to appear nonconforming.” In another interview he said “the mobs started as a kind of playful social experiment meant to encourage spontaneity and big gatherings to temporarily take over commercial and public areas simply to show that they could”.

So that’s what flash mobs used to be. A somewhat funny but mostly annoying waste of time.

In recent days, however, the term has taken on a whole new meaning, spawned by out-of-control teen rioting in England, and a string of violent attacks in American cities like Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Washington DC. It began in Philadelphia, where dozens and sometimes hundreds of participants came out of nowhere to rob and beat innocent bystanders.

Though some media outlets and even police departments are loathe to speak the words, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter did not shrink from noting the apparent black on white racial component of the crimes. He recently relayed the sentiment from the pulpit of the West Carmel Baptist Church, which is mostly black, saying, “You have damaged your own race. If you want anybody else to respect you and not be afraid when they see you walking down the street, then leave the innocent people who are walking down the street minding their own damn business. Leave them alone.”

Twitter seems to be the medium of choice for violent flash mobbers. The popular Internet social media site is perfectly suited to short, instantaneous communication, and plays perfectly into the risk-taking group behavior that young people are so fond of involving themselves in. Is it Twitter’s fault a bunch of amped up teenagers are running riot around the world? Of course not. And whether this flash mob mentality is simply a flash in the pan or a portent of a long term trend – who knows?

Short of avoiding humanity entirely, which is often difficult to do, maybe it’s time to get that permit to carry license you’ve been thinking about. Nothing takes the fight out of a young hoodlum faster than a .357 caliber reminder of mortality to the stomach. Sure, they might be carrying too, but would you rather take your fists to a gunfight or a dose of cold steel? We’re just saying, there is this thing out there called the Constitution – the Second Amendment in particular – which provides for your right to keep and bear firearms.

Nowhere does the necessity of taking advantage of that right seem more clear than in today’s flash mob urban environment. The rise of flash mob incidents has led to police monitoring social media websites more closely, hoping to attack the problem at the source. To them we say, “Good luck.” As is the case with most criminals, flash mobsters might be violent but they aren’t very smart. When dozens start to head off to prison, the sheep left behind will fade away until the next “cool” crime emerges.

The Holistic Survival Team




(Flickr / emilydickinsonridesabmx)


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