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Smart Mobbing the War
March 8, 2003 8:35 PM   Subscribe

Smart Mobbing the War. [nytimes, reg yadda] I love it when the old-school press picks up a bloggish meme - it's like when Sinatra covers a Beatles song. I'm not sure the author gets the premise of the Reingold book quite right -- it's more about the decentralized nature of Internet anti-war organization, than about the specifics of wireless populi. In fact, he doesn't even credit Reingold, or mention the book. But it's a good read anyway. [By the way, they're protesting a coming war in Iraq, in case you haven't been following the news.]
posted by condour75 (21 comments total)

 
Howard seems a bit disappointed as well that the article didn't give him the proper shout out.
posted by donovan at 9:02 PM on March 8, 2003


Whoops, here's the permalink.
posted by donovan at 9:03 PM on March 8, 2003


y i checked that out after I read it. I'm amazed the NYT ran with that title, without even giving props. It really is sort of tangential to the book, but I suppose the spirit is the same -- ad-hoc, disaggregated, spry social movements enabled by networking.
posted by condour75 at 9:05 PM on March 8, 2003


Nice third person reference to himself in that blog comment.
posted by smackfu at 9:47 PM on March 8, 2003


Thanks condour - that's an interesting read. I think the role the web has played in getting messages out and making alternate news available is astounding...without the web to tell me otherwise, I might be inclined to think that the antiwar movement was just the little bell jar of liberalism that MA can be (we were the state that voted for McGovern.)

It is rather extraordinary that the NYT purloined this unique term for the story title without giving some credit...it's not as though it's a mainstream term yet - if you google the term, almost every reference includes his name.

btw, condour, speaking of smart mobbing, congrats on the popularity of your cool alternate "def con terror level alerts" - I see them posted all over the place now, they've become quite the meme.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:54 PM on March 8, 2003


thanks ma'am!
posted by condour75 at 10:01 PM on March 8, 2003


duh, in a fine example of dumb mobbing, I forgot to post the link.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:05 PM on March 8, 2003


when Sinatra covers a Beatles song

OT -- Anything Sinatra did to any Beatles song could only be an improvement...
posted by davidmsc at 10:56 PM on March 8, 2003


hehehehe.... Well, i don't know. I genuinely like both Sinatra and the Beatles (not exactly one of those controversial opinions), and I have to say that Sinatra's version of "Something" is one of the worst covers of the twentieth century.

also OT: I've decided that the best costuming decision of the twentieth century was giving Superman a "Members Only" jacket after he lost his powers in Superman II. Discuss.
posted by condour75 at 11:09 PM on March 8, 2003


This isn't an article about smart mobs, it's about anti-war activists. The smart mobs angle is just a hook to show how these activists are different from others (and therefore worth reading about, or so the journalist hopes). Rheingold wasn't asked to comment because that would be getting too far away from the subject. No sense in getting bogged down in comm. theory when you just want to profile some activists.
posted by raaka at 11:43 PM on March 8, 2003


OT -- Anything Sinatra did to any Beatles song could only be an improvement...

I'm sorry, I didn't hear that over the sound of John Lennon spinning in his grave. Come again?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:52 PM on March 8, 2003


Humanism rears its head.

These are very lucky times to be living in. Honesty, integrity and citizenship passed between people like love letters.

Awesome. Thanks internet.

For this illegitimate Bush cabal to stifle this (I understand this is tangential to the story) is to singlehandedly prove their propensity to eclipse the treachery of Hitler's Third Reich. They want to. You know they do.
posted by crasspastor at 12:03 AM on March 9, 2003


''Nature's great -- don't take it away.''

reminds me of "Tina for peace" i hope she follows in mr. pariser's footsteps. and as was mentioned at a party i was at this eve... in the words of garrison kiellor, when tina is of voting age george w bush will be remember as a "dumb low-rent mistake" and that alone ...
posted by specialk420 at 12:21 AM on March 9, 2003


their propensity to eclipse the treachery of Hitler's Third Reich.

O man, you're totally right, dood! Living in "Shrub's" Amerikkka is just as bad as life in the Warsaw ghetto, if not worse!!! The same scale of government-sponsored genocide is happening in the streets right now, as we speak! In fact I saw a harmless goateed college student protesting the war in the streets last weekend, and subsequently hauled off to an undisclosed location where his flesh was melted off his body to make soap & lampshades! Dood, it's that bad! I mean, in fact it's worse than that, as it's "eclipsing" the Nazis' merciless slaughter, just like you said! I hate this stale bread they make us eat here in the labor camps of Brooklyn, and the ragged clothing they make us wear! Oy vey! Goddess, I wish Gore had won and Shrub's cabal hadn't stolen the election, brother!

PS: What ever happened with your promised "soon-to-be over stint" of hysteria & hyperbole here at MeFi? Or maybe that just applied to MeTa?
posted by Karl at 1:33 AM on March 9, 2003


Not to rain on anyone's demonstration, however while they have organizing via the web down, now they must figure out how to give their message some impact. The blip they got from the news media barely made an impression on the American public.

As for the Times hijacking the meme without attribution, well, that's why they are called memes.
posted by mischief at 3:16 AM on March 9, 2003


Smart Mobs. Yum, ironic.
posted by Leonard at 3:53 AM on March 9, 2003


PS: What ever happened with your promised "soon-to-be over stint" of hysteria & hyperbole here at MeFi? Or maybe that just applied to MeTa?

I gave it up. I knew justice needed served and I was tipped a whoppin' 10 percent!

But hey, Karl, look at the lies, documented even, in that link I provided. Backed up with links even.

Is everybody just hyperbolic and hysterical who sees fascism lurking in the verbosely hyperbolic wings? What are lies? What are lies told by a powerful government to its people that result in the deaths of citizens? What are they? The very elements of fascism.

Instead of wailin' on shadows and resenting me posting on Metafilter, why don't you take for instance, that I'm just a guy sitting in front of his computer just like you. What do you stand to gain?
posted by crasspastor at 4:10 AM on March 9, 2003


What are lies? What are lies told by a powerful government to its people that result in the deaths of citizens? What are they? The very elements of fascism.

You must live in an interesting timeline. In my timeline, fascism is characterized by a strong dictatorial leader, a largely state-run, if indirectly, economy, a mystical union between the leader and the "soul" of the nation, and a valorization of war qua war. Lies don't enter into it.

Instead of wailin' on shadows and resenting me posting on Metafilter, why don't you take for instance, that I'm just a guy sitting in front of his computer just like you. What do you stand to gain?

A metafilter with more interesting posts and comments and less utterly-predictable political debate? Maybe it's the illegitimate Bush cabal that's responsible for that. Or maybe it's that God withdrew His protection from the US when Bill was getting his blow-jobs. Whatever.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:02 AM on March 9, 2003


on fascism and smart mobs. am i the only one that finds smart mobs scary? mobilising big groups of people to push political ideas through physical presence has an unpleasant history - look at yugoslavia, for example. first, i suspect anything that has mass appeal is so simplified it can be abused easily. second, mobs aren't nice things anyway. third, as ROU_Xenophobe points out, fascism has traditionaly relied on mob rule.

this is all a bit hodge-podge because i've never tried to organise my thoughts on it before. but maybe what's happening is that the middle class are organising, and are impressed by their clout. when the lower classes start doing it, maybe it will lose it's appeal. if a ghetto organises itself, using smart mob tactics, to attack a wealthier neighbouring area, then maybe smart mobs won't seem so cool and hip.

sorry, as i said, this is all a bit random. and probably bollocks.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:38 AM on March 9, 2003


andrew, I think you're getting hung up on the semantics of "mobs". Also, I think the idea of mobilising big groups of people is value neutral. It's not the mobilization, but the cause behind it and the method by which the crowd behaves. I'll see your Yugoslavia and raise you a 60s civil rights march.

The smart mob phenomenon hinted at in the article and described in Rheingold's book is quite different from the activist movements of previous decades. The way in which current activists organize loosely on a decentralized network of information prevents the creation of a hierarchy within that movement. It's less a mob, really, than a patchwork collection of activist groups with loose alliances directed at a specific cause. Therefore, it would be more difficult for a single ideologue to exploit this phenomenon because their words have to compete with the dozen or so other voices shouting with them.

I question your analogy with the ghetto, though ... smart mobs haven't evolved because it's cool and hip but because people are naturally learning how to take advantage of current communication technologies -- a few protest groups organizing a march over cellphones and SMS messaging is a macro example of what many of us do on a Friday afternoon, discussing spontaneous movie plans with friends on instant messenger. The frequency of smart mob phenomena will increase as communication technology evolves, and not because of fashion.

Though, of course, as I said, these mobilization techniques are value neutral. The current antiwar movement is an example of smart mob tactics being put to good use, but if I had to cite an example of smart mobs acting for vile purposes the first one I'd think of is al-Qaeda.
posted by bl1nk at 3:39 PM on March 9, 2003


i agree with you on most points (al qaeda is an excellent example), but:

big groups are not value neutral. they exclude a huge range of values because they're too complex. only simple values work.

i wasn't saying smart mobs are taking off because they're perceived as being cool and hip. my (poorly presented) point was that they seem to be getting coverage that says (or at least assumes/implies) they are cool and hip when the technology is neutral (we'll have to disagree on the value of mobs).
posted by andrew cooke at 4:08 PM on March 9, 2003


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