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Are flash mobs the best way to educate people about crises around the world, or will they create more violence?

Talk about getting a message across:

Besides these pregnant-dancing-divas, Jamie Oliver also recently organized one on his show, The Food Revolution, to get people on board with healthy eating. Last Hanukkah provided the perfect setting for the first flash mob in Jerusalem in honor of the holiday.

From April 15 to May 2, 2010, Washington D.C.’s Dance is the Answer is using this “world-wide phenomenon that has busted into being” to spread the joy of dancing to people around the city (if you are in the area, be on the look out for some of these routines).

Violence Ensues

Yet, in Philadelphia, the term “flash mob” has become synonymous with crime. Violence has broken out amongst teenagers at so-called organized flash mob events, and social media is being blamed for the ease of gathering trouble-making kids together.

Is this just another case of a peaceful act being co-opted by an always prevalent darker side of humanity? Must we accept that with every positive move we make in life will eventually give rise to the negative flip-side?

It just kinda sucks that these fun scripted or unscripted gatherings may become feared occurrences by communities.

Just For Fun

Before we get too weighed down by the possibilities of violent behavior, let us return to one of the inventors of the flash mob scene, a yearly tradition that has no educational component whatsoever, but is sure to make you chuckle:

Do you think flash mobs are helpful, or pointless and possibly harmful? Share your thoughts below.

Feature photo: welovethesky

Community Connection

Wanna learn how to get your own (peaceful) flash mob started? Then check out HOW TO: Start a Massive Dance Party.

Pop Culture


About The Author

Christine Garvin

Christine Garvin is a certified Nutrition Educator and holds a MA in Holistic Health Education. She is the founder/editor of Living Holistically...with a sense of humor and co-founder of Confronting Love. When she is not out traveling the world, she is busy writing, doing yoga, and performing hip-hop and bhangra. She also likes to pretend living in her hippie town of Fairfax, CA is like being on vacation.

  • Anny at BikeHike Adventures

    It’s sad when something as peaceful as dancing becomes another way in which gangs rival each other. I don’t think flashmob dancing promotes violence in any way – those that use it as a way to pick a fight would’ve gotten physical regardless.

  • Gwen

    I agree.
    I went to Pillow Fight Day in Melbourne last week, and it was remarkably peaceful People really just made it a fun event and no one went crazy beating others up.
    Maybe I’m prejudiced, but isn’t Philadelphia, well, Philadelphia?

  • Katie

    I think flash mobs are a pure nuisance to society. They may look fun and interesting on YouTube, but they is nothing fun about them when you are innocently in the middle of these pests on society.

    The video posted in this article does not make me chuckle. These are people walking around with half their clothes missing in a public setting. There are children taking the subway! We have social norms for a reason. Pants, or something covering the genitals and top parts of the legs, are social norms in 99.9% of all cultures.

    I truly hope flash mobs become illegal.

  • Katie

    Flash mobs are a nuisance to society. They may look fun and interesting on YouTube, but there is nothing fun about them when you are an innocent bystander trapped in the middle of it.

    The video above does nothing but show a group of devious individuals breaking social norms. There’s a reason 99.9% of cultures around the world have social norms that requires the genitals and upper thigh areas to be covered. It’s disgusting that these people think it’s funny to go into a public area and promote partial nudity.

    I sincerely hope flash mobs become illegal and all those that participate in them are prosecuted.

    • Alouise

      I sincerely hope flash mobs don’t become illegal, unless of course the people participating are engaged in illegal activities. New York (and other cities) could always pass a law stating that the removing or pants on a subway/bus/train is illegal. But the pantsless subway ride (which is done in many cities) to me is a way of showing that social norms are subjective and just temporary constructs of society. They aren’t engraved in stone, we follow them because that’s what’s expected us, and most of the time we may not even realize it. Of course I fully support wearing pants, I think they’re there for a reason. But it’s interesting for one day to see our society without pants.

      To me Flashmobs seem more entertaining than educational. But I guess there’s always something to take from them. I always love ImprovEverywhere’s Food Court Musical, but perhaps that’s because I love musicals. I’d be ecstatic if people started bursting out in song.

  • Mago

    Um, I live in Philadelphia. As “dangerous” and “scary” as the flash mobs seem, these kids aren’t simply “trouble-making” kids that should be written off as such. The kids involved mostly come from extremely oppressed and disadvantaged communities and have little outlets for expression or opportunities for growth and development (at least in the Eurocentric sense). So as sad as it may be that your precious flash mobs could get a bad reputation, these kids have real anger and a real need for change and social justice. Maybe the potential power and strength of a more peaceful, “positive” flash mob could be mobilized to give these kids and their communities a voice.

    • Christine Garvin

      While I appreciate that you live in Philadelphia and therefore understand the context in a way that none of us not living there do, and the fact that many of the kids participating in these particular flash mobs might come from oppressed and disadvantaged backgrounds, lacking an outlet for their voice, the students from the Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Awareness Program who participated in forums around the question ( seem to think the swarming is pointless. If there was some sort of call to action, it would be a different story, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. I have worked with plenty of social justice groups in the SF Bay Area who would never stand behind such a display because it lacks merit other than to “catch a rep”, as one of the students stated.

      I understood the anger of the “black block”, an extremely leftist group who would break off at the end of the peaceful anti-war demonstrations in SF from 2002-2007 to call attention to the corporate money behind the war, but I could not condone them throwing large objects through glass storefronts and vandalizing businesses in the name of fighting corporate oppression (especially when they would do this to local businesses). It just doesn’t fly to condone violence even when it comes from the framework of calling attention to oppression (which as far as I can tell, neither of these cases did), especially when it ends up hurting the innocent people on the street (which is who it most often hurts).

  • Sarah

    I think flash mobs are a wonderful idea, and I would be happy to be one of the people around when it happened. I think that people should lighten up and learn how to have fun. These flash mobs are almost a challenge to the idea of social norms, such as ‘pregnant women don’t break dance in the street’. They bring a little fun to everyday life, and in a way it connects people.

  • Georgina

    Opinions required! I’m researching flash mobbing for my final year geography dissertation at the University of Nottingham and need the views of people who have participated in one or more flash mobs. If you’re one of these people I would be very appreciative if you could take just a few minutes to complete my questionnaire. There’s a chance to win a £10 iTunes voucher! Just follow the link below, thanks.

  • Luther

    If your gathering in the streets to beat people up or just destroy eveything in sight, then you should be shot dead where you stand!
    Now if your gathering at the local mall and start dancing around like your in some stupid musical…..well thats just retarded. But I guess it’s not against the law to be a moron.

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