Point[ed|less] Mobs

We’re All Connected?

…flash mobs, in their apparent pointlessness, have steered so conspicuously away from being exploited by either commercial interests or the professional theorizers who will inevitably organize highfalutin conferences to swap career-advancing pronouncements on the trend; for now, mobbists serve the cause of no cause.

I remember an old Larry Niven story (which I have upstairs and am too lazy to run up and grab the title of, but it’s in his “Tales of Known Space” collection) about a free park where people can do anything they want as long as nothing violent happens. The power goes out and suddenly anarchy truly reigns. One group (or maybe it is a single person) is walking around with a blank sign. Maybe he stands for nothing at all. Maybe he’s letting his sign stand in for whatever cause you want to imagine he supports. Maybe he’s making a statement about making statements. At any rate, when the power goes out, he gets targeted by the angry mob that inevitiably forms. People were angered by him more than by anyone holding an actual sign with an opinion on it. The message I took away from that was that people hate ambiguity. Black and white thinking is not just popular because it’s easier than dealing with the messy reality of gray zones, it’s also comforting. (I’ll set aside my theory about fundamentalists (of any kind) being weak minded and that it’s only the stronger minds, the ones more willing to accept that there are few absolutes, the ones brave enough to live in a world in which there are more questions and answers who are the truly intelligent people.)

So, for now, I applaud the pointlessness of the mobs. But I also will welcome pointed mobs too. Say, on election day 2004? Wouldn’t it be great if far more people suddenly show up to vote for, say, someone who is not Bush, than anyone predicts or expects?