Flash mob rule

Much has already been said about the looting spree that afflicted London and other British cities last week, so I’ll stick to just one observation:

These incidents were traditional flash mobs in every sense but for their destructive intent. All flash mobs — be it a “spontaneous” pillow fight in central Stockholm or a frozen Grand Central Station in New York — share the same dynamic: Social (or semi-social) media are used to gather a group at a pre-defined semi-secret location to engage in a common synchronized activity.

In the case of the London incidents, the looters discovered that this dynamic can be co-opted to overwhelm local law enforcement through sheer numbers at a certain place and for a certain time, thus facilitating looting.

Law enforcement has always been a little skittish about flash mob projects, precisely because there was that “what if” scenario looming — what if the group act was anti-social in its intent, instead of social? Now we know it works very well. And so do the looters.