The Dark Side of Flash Mobs

The FBI will now be monitoring social media networks in an effort to crack down on flash mobs.

The practice of using social media as a means to create instant crowds began about seven years ago.  Back then the mobs were simply pranks or performance art (if you have a very loose definition of art).  Mobs would stand perfectly still for a pre-set period of time, clap in unison, disrobe, or engage in other activities which while perhaps distracting, were not really harmful to anyone.  Even the more disruptive mobs never intended themselves to last more than a few minutes.  Pillow FightFor instance, while a pillow fight in downtown Toronto (pictured right) might clog the sidewalk for a short while, it’s unlikely (and certainly not the intention) that anyone would be hurt.

But, in Philadelphia, flash mobs have taken a more violent turn.  Thousands of teens have gathered, blocking streets, vandalizing property, and assaulting bystanders (and other members of the mob).

Something about jumping on cars and roughing up complete strangers seems a little bit darker than impromptu snowball fights or rounds of applause.  I can’t quite put my finger on what it is though.Philly Mob

PS: To those of you unaware of the hilarious origins of flash mobs…they were created by Bill Wasik, an editor at Harper’s Magazine.  Mr. Wasik was a guest in my CyberLaw class one day and explained his motivation behind creating the first flash mob.  He wanted to demonstrate the confirmity of hipsters and other anti-conformity types, knowing that they would rush to anything that was billed as innovate, edgy, or running against mainstream culture.

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