Flashmobs: "Take the Riot to the Streets."

hammertime-flash-mobI hadn’t really heard much about ‘flashmobs’ lately then lo and behold they’re in the news again. A simple post on Twitter and Facebook saying “Take the riot to Hollywood. 7:30” got things going as a group of about 50 people, mostly teens answered the call and raised havoc on Hollywood streets Tuesday night going on what police called a “rolling crime wave.” Perhaps the rash of recent protests over the George Zimmerman verdict may have had something to do with it, but when a group like this gathers for the sole purpose of stealing from stores and shoppers something is terribly wrong.

I always thought a ‘flashmob’ was a form of performance art. A large group of people assembled together at a particular public place and particular time, who take part in and become a part of some grand event.

Someone, a person, group or organization, puts out the word by way of a text, email, tweet or Facebook post, that a flashmob will be occurring, including where and when you should be there, and what props if any to bring. Once at the location and just moments before the event another message is sent telling everyone what exactly will be happening and what they are expected to do. Moments later the event takes place, catching unsuspecting bystanders by surprise. Once completed everyone who participated quickly goes their separate ways and life returns to normal. Usually someone has filmed the event and posts it to YouTube for all to enjoy. No harm no foul.

Flashmobs take place anywhere, public streets, malls, stadiums, subway and train stations, stores, restaurants etc, anywhere there are loads of people. Events can range from extremely simple to the more complex. The most popular are flashmob dance routines, but there have been others, like large scale pillow fights, Star Wars saber sword fights, zombie invasion, the now famous Grand Central Station’s  Freeze, where hundreds of people suddenly became human statues, streets filled with human domino chains, a flashmob assisted wedding proposal and even a wedding!

The whole flashmob phenomena sort of reminds me of the old school pranks we used to pull to confound our teachers. Remember the instructional note floating around the class saying “at 11:45 everyone turn around and look at the clock.” ” At 1:00 everybody cough.” Everybody stand up, stay seated, sneeze, drop your book, whatever. The fun was in getting as many people as you could to do it. A flashmob is the same thing but on a grander scale. Just a little harmless fun right?

Yeah, I thought so too until I saw the video of the Hollywood flashmob. It’s not the first time a flashmob has turned criminal. In Maryland a flashmob invaded a 7-11 store. In less than a minute a large group of teens apparently organized through the internet, swept through a 7-11 store taking anything they could get their hands on, then leaving without paying. Other violent flashmob incidents have occurred in Chicago, Las Vegas, Philadelphia and elsewhere. What began as a fun, social happening has morphed into a new and very troubling form. The flasmob has become a potential vehicle for looting and violence, organized chaos.

The addition of violence and looting to the flashmob movement is very disheartening. The potential for wide scale anarchy exists and can result in personal injury or possible arrest. So far businesses have stood by and let the incidents occur but what happens when one of these businesses decides to act? What happens when they decide to protect their property and arm themselves? Someone will get hurt. It will happen. You can count on it.

It all comes down to making the right choice. There is nothing wrong with getting involved in a flashmob event, it may even be fun. But when you have fore knowledge that there may be violence or looting you need to stay away. Or if you’re already on the scene and find out, you need to walk away. Make the right choice, don’t get caught up in a mob mentality. Dance, sing, be a statue, zombie or whatever, but don’t take part in anything that may be dangerous or affects the welfare of your community. Flashmob Smart!

It sort of reminds me of when I was a teen and I wanted to do everything that my friends were doing. I wanted to be part of the collective cool. My mom would say no, but I would persist in asking why. She would always ask me why I wanted to do it so badly. My common response was “because everybody’s doing it.”  To which she would respond “If everybody  decided to jump off a cliff would you jump too?” Well would you? People need to use their heads and make sound decisions…

Just Saying…



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