I was reading about flash mobs the other night, and an idea came to me. This is going to require a little back story, so bear with me.
Sometime last week, I stumbled upon a story in Der Spiegel Online about the German Apple Front. The GAF is a group of young kids, some counter-cultural, who get together to watch movies, play games, and stop neo-Nazi marches and demonstrations. What makes them interesting is they don’t do it by a counter-protest; they do it by protesting in the same way that the neo-Nazis do, but instead calling for “the purity of German fruit”, chanting “Down with tropical fruit!” and “What’s good for German youth? Apple Juice! Apple Juice!” By parodying the neo-Nazis, they draw attention away from them and keep the hate message from spreading. I loved this idea, and tucked it away into the back of my head.
Back to flash mobs. While reading the Wikipedia article on flash mobs, I started remembering the German Apple Front’s methods of combating racism. When I got to the section about flash mobs being used as instruments of social and political change to varying degrees of success, a light bulb went off in my head. What if you combined the methods of the GAF with the medium of a flash mob, and used it to combat various social problems? Flash mobs have been organized in the past through email or a blog, but you could probably make it work faster by using one or more RSS feeds. It would require a dedicated group of people to start it off, and the RSS feed idea probably wouldn’t work at first, but if you stuck with it and could get enough people each time to make it work, I think you’d have the makings of a powerful vehicle for social and political change.
Think about it. What would happen if you scheduled a flash mob to “demonstrate” about something ridiculous (I dunno… the purity of American corn crops, or why Pepsi One is an agent of the anti-Christ, or something) every time the Reverend Fred Phelps staged an abortion protest? What if you syncronized a flash mob to visit FoxNews.com whenever the president made a speech to the press? What if you were sitting in a Washington coffee shop when a congressman walked in with an oil company lobbyist, and you sent email out to a group list telling people to meet and ask for Senator Doe at the intersection of Foo and Bar street at the Starbucks?
Grand ideas, I know. You’d probably have to start off with using RSS to organize another giant pillow fight in a public place, just as a proof of concept. But if you could get it to work, it would be a very powerful instrument indeed.
Thoughts? Comments? Talk to me — let me know if I’m crazy.