Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

The Earnesty of Flash Mobs

I considered titling this post “The Sincerity of Flash Mobs,” but something about the connotations of “earnesty” fits the thinginess of a flash mob better.

Ostensibly a spontaneous act (though often calibrated through social media), the collective gesture of gathering, performing some kind of action, and then, just as suddenly, dispersing, seems to be the heart of the flash mob. I remember first witnessing it a couple years ago during a silent–though oddly joyous–celebration in Grand Central Station. I was enthralled. Over the years, with the flash mob has either evolved or taken on new angles: pillow fights, cooking/dance routines, and intentional surprises–like this one–for a specific individual.

In this case, it’s a bus driver in Copenhagen a few days ago. The earnesty of the individuals involved–a man in a tux playing a trumpet solo, passengers singing in unison aboard the bus, and finally, a street mob that forces the bus driver to stop mid-route–is obvious. But is this earnesty completely without self-interest?

Who filmed this video, for instance, edited it very carefully, and posted it to YouTube for all the world to see? Did the creator hope for 161, 602 page views (the number when I viewed it this morning)?

I want to believe that love for this driver–obviously, a man surprised and emotionally taken aback–motivated its creation. But the cynic in me wonders about the videographer’s intent. What seems like the collective earnesty of a flash mob somehow feels commodified (see the way producers Ryan Seacrest and Jamie Oliver utilize the flash mob for their television show); in our fame-seeking culture, are we all victims of an insatiable need for attention?


Filed under: consumerism, culture, entertainment, , , , , , ,

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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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