If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know my opinion on so-called “flash mobs”. The term is poorly defined (mostly because the groups most associated with the term find it demeaning and refuse to describe themselves that way), but most people seem to have settled on the definition of a bunch of strangers meeting in a public place, doing something strange and then leaving.
That “something strange” is open to debate. In some cases, it’s harmless fun for fun’s sake. In others, it’s a highly-choreographed stunt. I wouldn’t really describe every seemingly spontaneous public performance as a flash mob, but as long as people are having fun I’m not going to complain.
My issue is that, because “flash mob” is popular among youth, various groups with agendas are trying to use it to their advantage. In some cases, the intentions are honorable, like fighting cancer. But it’s also been used to promote beer, or create “viral videos” to drum up interest in some convoluted advertising campaign.
Now, it seems, it’s also being abused for political activism.
I really shouldn’t have expected anything different from this “flash mob” protest organized by the anti-Turcot-project protesters. But heading down there with my camera, I saw plenty of mob and very little flash. In fact, no flash. They were just kind of standing around there. Did I miss the flash part?
I’m on the fence about the Turcot Interchange project as proposed by the Ministère de transport. I agree with a greater need for public consultation, and that we should prioritize public transit, and that forcing people to move should be avoided whenever possible, but I’m not sure with some environmentalists’ conclusion that we should keep the concrete spaghetti mess in the sky.
Still, it’s a free country. Let people protest. It’s better that people express their opinion on these kinds of projects than have nobody question them before they turn into giant sinkholes of taxpayer money.
Taking a page from the red squares used during student protests against Jean Charest’s Liberal government (which had mixed results – a plan to convert bursaries into loans was reversed, but tuition increases went ahead), the protesters wore green felt squares. This particular square is on the shirt of Jacob Larsen, who wrote a post announcing the event on Spacing Montreal.
Perhaps green squares were appropriate because a bunch of faces were recognizable names from the Green Party, NDP and Projet Montréal:
There was Peter McQueen, a perennial Green Party candidate who’s running for Projet Montréal in the coming municipal election.
And Anne Lagacé-Dowson, who left CBC Radio to run in a federal by-election for the NDP. She would eventually lose a general election to Liberal Marc Garneau. Since then she’s been heard on weekends on CJAD.
Despite these being fairly low-risk candidates for violence, police were there in force. Two cars around the corner, another four vans a block away. There were about as many police officers as protesters.
Three in a day
All this I would have dismissed if it were a unique case. But it was actually the third of three different protest-flash-mobs in a single day for three different causes.
At about the same time at Place des Arts, there was a flash mob for climate change. The “flash” part was apparently just making a lot of noise and standing behind a banner, which doesn’t sound that different from every other protest that has ever occurred. Oh, there’s something about freezing in place too, you know, to make it cool. And holding cellphones in the air (you see, because it’s a “wakeup call”, get it?)
And then earlier in the day, a flash mob for peace. This one even got the mayor to take part (he apparently wasn’t too busy preparing to have his re-election hopes flushed down the toilet).
I used to like going to “flash mobs” because they were fun. I like organized fun, even with strangers (I even have an entire category for it on my blog). And even if the term “flash mob” had no real meaning, at least it had fun.
But now they’ve taken the fun out of it.