The Mob That New Technology Has Made
But we are. One touch of a button. One group e-mail. One
Crowds gather. Crowds turn to mobs. Mobs turn to riots. And they were all invited.
"Bare SHOPS are gonna get smashed up so come get some (free stuff!!!)" read one post prior to the recent
The proliferation of messages sent across social media sites -- especially BlackBerry's messenger service -- were so significant, British authorities are talking about finding a way to limit such sites in the case of potential violence.
But how? How do you put genies back in bottles -- in this case a million genies in a million cell phones?
"It's instantaneous and it's anonymous," said
The 21st Century mob. Just press send.
Anyone remember our protest rallies from the 1960s? We knew about them weeks in advance. There were posters. Phone calls. Bus trips. It took a lot of effort. And, despite the drugs flying around those days, there was usually a reason to gather.
Today, not only don't you need a reason, such methodology would be like getting ice from a truck. Why phone one person when you can text 1,000? Why tack up posters when you can digitally invite the world?
"They're lawless. They act with ignorance. They don't care about anybody else," the Philly mayor,
Understood. But how do you stop it? Some have talked about blocking the signals of digital devices in certain volatile areas -- sort of like an instant jamming mechanism. But that supposes 1) You can identify that area quickly, 2) You have the technology, 3) You're not also blocking legitimate use of those devices -- like an elderly person calling for an ambulance on a cell phone.
Besides, once you identify a "hot spot" hasn't much of the damage been done?
You can't keep people from assembling in this country. But what happens when the point of the assembly is to disassemble something?
Censorship and fascism?
Ironically, the whole idea of flash mobs was originally to have fun. Spontaneous large-scale dancing. A worldwide pillow fight. But somehow that has been turned on its ear. What appealed to adventurous fun now appeals to disenfranchised anger, boredom, the simmering temperature of a gathering horde.
And yet we can't deny the disenfranchised in oppressive regimes can be galvanized by social media. Look at
"Free flow of information can be used for good," British Prime Minister
And that's your problem in a nutshell. The only thing that seems certain is that the world is going so much faster now, snap decisions, snap judgments, snap riots, snap coverage. We are teaching a dangerous, subtle message, that we can see everything in an instant, know everything in an instant, have an opinion on everything in an instant.
With that, inevitably, comes desire for everything in an instant -- including whatever you don't have. Is it any wonder that would-be looters, alienated youth, the bored or unemployed or disconnected want the same thing, and see that tiny screen as a fast way to get it?
The 21st century mob. Assembled in the time it takes to make a sandwich. The world is indeed becoming a scary place.
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