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Friday, April 2, 2010

Flash Mob Frenzy: A Clockwork Orange

About two weeks ago, I thought I’d stumbled upon a flash mob while waiting for the 15 trolley at Front and Girard. The time was 6:45 p.m. on a Friday evening. A raucous group of about fifteen kids, many of them fiddling with cell phones, ran up and down Girard Avenue for the better part of 20 minutes. Pedestrians looked on nervously as the screaming kids seemed poised for action.

The kids disappeared when a patrol car came into view.

The flash mob craze began as street performance art in New York City about seven years ago. Manhattan hipsters, perhaps thinking of something Andy Warhol might like, arranged (through emails) a friendly mob “attack” on Macy’s, where everyone pretended to be in love with the same woven rug. Shoe stores were also hit when throngs of people pretended to want the same pairs of shoes. These sophisticated ‘art attacks,’ in which the ‘mob’ became both the show and the audience, hurt no one. Soon flash mobs took on a political cast, rallying in vintage ACT UP style, for this cause or that.

When the craze found its way to Philly, it morphed into something out of A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 seminal film in which a gang roams London streets and preys on innocent bystanders. In Philly, the flash mob as impromptu art event was taken over by low class pinheads bent on violence and destruction.
The huge flash mob on February 16, when about 150 kids wrecked havoc in the Gallery, and then headed up to Macy’s, where they ran through the store screaming and knocking over display cases, was a trial run for the South Street rampage on the weekend of March 20th, in which thousands of kids fought amongst themselves, attacked pedestrians, and tried to pull people out of cars. In that melee, a number of bystanders were hurt and three people were arrested.

Among the mob were kids as young as 11 years old. Mayor Nutter seemed to downplay the incident, saying, “This is bad decision making by a small group of young people who are doing silly but dangerous stuff.”

‘Silly’ is a word I would use to describe reruns of Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse, not a mob of teenage terrorists.

News of Philly’s plunge into anarchy was reported around the globe, igniting more bad press for a town eager to become a world class city.

“The flash mobs have raised questions about race and class,” The New York Times observed. “Most of the teenagers who have taken part in them are black and from poor neighborhoods. Most of the areas hit hard have been predominately white business districts.”

So here we have flash mob violence as a major blow to race relations—not a good development at all. The Times even reported that bystanders heard rioting teens cry, “Burn the city!”

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin observed, “…While the police are doing their part, I recommend law-abiding residents of Philly do theirs by exercising their constitutional right to bear arms…”

Malkin’s supporters even offered tips on what kind of guns to buy. “If you want a good personal defense weapon, I suggest ‘The Judge’ by Taurus. It fires .410 shotgun shells. It is just as adept at killing desert snakes as it is killing city-snake mobs.”

Another reader offered: “Thank you Mr. Remington, Mr. Colt and fellows; you made America a better place IE: an armed society is a polite society.”
Unfortunately, vigilante-style violence is what will occur if the Mayor doesn’t make good on his promise to charge the parents of these pinheads for the crimes of their children, and change the terms of the free Trans passes issued to students. Currently, student passes are good until 7 p.m., a time when children should be home, not prowling the streets. The mayor wants student Trans passes to expire at 4 p.m.

Student rowdiness has been brewing in the city for some time. For several months, I’ve witnessed boisterous groups of students on the Market Frankford El. They usually enter the train en masse in a pushing and screaming explosion, often forcing many passengers to “flee” to adjoining cars. While you cannot classify this behavior as violent, it is still intimidation in the form of noise.

When this type of rowdy behavior occurs on trolleys or buses, drivers rarely issue an ultimatum to “shape up or get off the bus.” More often than not, bus drivers say and do nothing. Their inaction is seen by many as condoning what’s going on.
In addition, the “Aw, shucks, they’re just kids” attitude about flash mob teens has got to go.
We live in dangerous times. The “Leave it to Beaver” age has long since gone down the tubes.

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