Flash mobs are really cool, eh? Those riots that helped democracy in the Philippines? Or peaceful rallies, organised through SMSes rapidly spreading from individual to individual? Of course we all knew that technology isn’t good or evil in itself, but the riots in Sydney are the first example I’ve noticed of really bad uses of flash mobs and SMS rallying.

Sixteen people were charged yesterday in relations to Sunday’s violence, when a 5000-strong alcohol-fuelled mob, some waving flags and chanting racist slogans, chased and bashed people of Middle Eastern appearance at Cronulla beach.
The trouble was sparked by an attack on surf lifesavers at the beach the week before, and text messages calling for retaliation. (The Age, 13/12/05)

The violence has been fuelled by a series of text messages urging revenge attacks for the assaults on men and women of Middle Eastern appearance by a 5000-strong crowd at Cronulla on Sunday. A separate series of text messages call on locals to defend Sydney’s suburban beach strip. (The Australian, 13/12/05 – this one includes photos of more SMSes)

“All Arabs unite as one, we will never back down to anyone the aussie’s (sic) will feel the full force of the arabs as one `brothers in arms’,” the SMS said.
“Unite now lets (sic) show them who’s boss `destroy’ everything gather at cronulla . . . spread the message to all Arabs.” (Herald Sun, 13/12/05

SMS text messages circulating in Sydney have called for renewed violence. One congratulated Australians for the fight they put up against the Lebanese, but called for more attacks.
“We’ll show them! It’s on again Sunday,” the message said. (The Age, 13/12/05)

Unfortunately, these mobs don’t sound very much like Howard Rheingold’s optimistically named smart mobs.

3 thoughts on “flash mobs – drunken, violent and racist

  1. JosÈ Angel

    Sounds, too, like the Paris riots and massive car-burning, apparently there was lots of sms networking; and there’s also the even more direct use of the cell phone as a detonator for a bomb, in the Madrid bombings last year. We may not appreciate, but the mobs behind those actions sure do feel smart.

  2. Martin Lessard

    Seems to me that, once again, you are right, technology is no more than what human wants to do with it. Rheingold’s utopy seems to hit some realy-check, here…

  3. beautiful

    Just so you know it’s not only Australia…

Leave A Comment

Recommended Posts

Machine Vision

Cultural Representations of Machine Vision: An Experimental Mixed Methods Workshop

Call for submissions to a workshop, Bergen, Norway
Workshop dates: 15-17 August 2022
Proposals due: 15 June

The Machine Vision in Everyday Life project invites proposals for an interdisciplinary workshop using qualitative approaches and digital methods to analyse how machine vision is represented in art, science fiction, games, social media and other forms of cultural and aesthetic expression.