Flash Mobs: May Actually Be Useful After All

So we’re at work and we’re discussing flash mobs (more specifically a hypothetical flash mob based around the Hawkmen from 1980’s Flash Gordon; long story, don’t ask). This isn’t as left-field as you might expect, as our office tends to have conversations about quantum physics and why the best Terminator film is, ironically, the one that doesn’t fit within it’s own model of time travel. However, that same night I’m reading Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky and he discusses, yes, the concept of flash mobs. I guess the library angel was pushing me in the direction of this post, because, while I previously saw flash mobs as something that bored students in America get up to, elsewhere they’ve become a protest tool against authoritarianism. Cory Doctorow uses this idea in his book Little Brother, but in Belarus, 2006, following a harsh government crack-down on those protesting what appeared to be a rigged election, the by-mob blog called for people to gather in Oktyabrskaya Square and eat ice cream. This got many of the flash mobbers arrested, but it seemed to start a trend; Belarusian flash mobs would go on to read books (protesting the banning of the Belarusian Writers Union) and newspapers (protesting the closure of Nasha Niva); other mobs would go on to protest the cancellation of benefits for students, state-run media, newspaper propaganda and other examples of injustice. Suddenly flash mobs aren’t just an excuse to dress up as ninjas, they’re a creative example of peaceful protest. Looks like they might be some use after all…

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