Not-so-smart mobs

by Andy Oram



Like the rest of the world, the Internet is getting scarier and
scarier. In fact, it's becoming a three-ring circus where the
elephants commandeer the trapeze and the acrobats poison the peanuts.
And recently those responsible for the Internet's creeping anarchy,
even in their greed and vindictiveness, have been showing incredibly
poor judgment:







  • Sending out a virus that instructs Windows systems to launch a
    denial-of-service against the Windows update site, which obviously
    very few people use in the first place.






  • Bringing down the sales site of SCO, a company that makes its money
    off of legal maneuvers rather than sales.






  • Sending out a virus that "phones home" to the instigator's web site,
    even after the RIAA has shown how easy it is to trace Internet users
    with nothing more than a dynamic IP address and a timestamp.






  • Citing privacy as a reason to deny giving the identities of
    individuals to the RIAA--individuals who have put themselves in
    public view by offering up hundreds of files for sharing.








I should say a bit more about file-sharing to minimize the chance of
misunderstanding. Is the RIAA going stark raving mad in suing 275
music fans every week? Yes. Is file-sharing the cusp of a
revolutionary movement opening up the media? Possibly. Does the chance to get free pop songs rank as a legitimate reason for breaking laws, comparable to promoting rights for African-Americans or even offering marijuana to relieve AIDS sufferers? Not in my opinion.




On a related note, a friend of mine denies that flash mobs (such as
stunts where a hundred people show up at one downtown intersection and
do a five-minute dance) are an expression of direct democracy and a
disregard for hierarchy. "They're the ultimate in subordination and
hierarchy," she says. "A bunch of people mindlessly giving themselves
over to the whims of one person." That's a persuasive argument.
History teaches us not to expect much smart behavior from large
groups--but we aren't getting it from self-appointed vigilantes
either.





Are we seeing evolution or entropy at work?


6 Comments

anonymous2
2003-09-02 16:10:53
"They're the ultimate in subordination and hierarchy,"
I just think they dumb.


Most of the acts hover between banality and immaturity...


If "lives" were products, i would recommend they buy some.


anonymous2
2003-09-02 18:26:51
Pardon me?
Pardon me for the off-topic post, but the author seems to imply that it is acceptable for "African-Americans" to break the law in order to advance there rights. While this may have been true at one point--by helping slaves escape to the North or by refusing to take the back seat on a bus--in today's world, breaking the law will not help a race advance. The result will be quite the opposite.


I feel this was a remarkably irresponsible remark to write, let alone publish.

nyamada
2003-09-02 20:13:38
No, pardon me (OT)
Civil disobedience is _never_ irresponsible in the face of injustice. It wasn't irresponsible when Thoreau advocated it, nor when Gandhi or MLK used it, nor is it today. If the anonymous poster thinks that there aren't injustices out there, then he or she is simply sheltered and naive.
anonymous2
2003-09-03 01:54:55
Flash Mobs
IMHO, I think the general tendency is for people to read too much into what happens on the internet. With regard to Flash Mobs, surely it's just a bit of fun ? Remember fun ? :-) And let's not forget that with the pressure-cooker work/live environment that many people live in now a bit of mindless escapism is great therapy !
anonymous2
2003-09-03 09:08:55
Flash Mobs
goodie. let's go to a mall and clap in unison for five minutes.


fun.
cough.

jimothy
2003-09-04 11:00:16
No, pardon me (OT)
Gandhi and MLK, jr., who both supported non-violent protest, would surely disagree with you that "civil disobedience is never irresponsible in the face of injustice." You might call it civil disobediance, but the law calls it robbery, assault, and murder. And such acts aren't going to do a thing to advance the cause of any group.