Thursday, August 11, 2011

In Defense of Flashmobs and Blackberrys

I just heard Martin Fletcher on MSNBC say that, over in the United Kingdom, some people are calling for "crack downs" on Blackberrys, since messaging on them has been implicated in the assembling of the rioting mobs over the there.   Meanwhile, I was interviewed the other day in The Daily about talk in Philadelphia and elsewhere in America to limit flashmobs, responsible for violence in Philadelphia and other American cities.   My response to The Daily - “The Cairo flash mob had a very good result."

Think about it.   There no doubt were all kinds of criminal activities planned on telephones in the 20th century - should that have led to their banning or any across-the-board restrictions?   Aside from being an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment, such limitations would have been entirely unnecessary: we already have restrictions on criminal activities.

Banning or even general limitations on flashmobs not would not only violate the freedom of speech provision of our First Amendment, but its freedom to peaceably assemble, as well.  And they are similarly unneeded.  We already have ample laws on the books against looting and other criminal activities of crowds.   England does, too.

The Arab Spring, while not successful everywhere, has already peacefully spread to democracies in Israel and Spain.   The larger message of these assemblages of people, brought together through online invitations, and publicized through Twitter and other new new media (my name for media which transform consumers into producers) is that we may be witnessing a profound shift, even in democracies, from representative to direct forms of governance.  When elected representatives don't do their jobs, the people press to take more power.   This was always the case - and why we in the United States changed from selected to directly elected U.S. Senators a century ago.   But now the voice and wishes of the people can be heard as never before, through the smart phones in an increasing number of hands.

Governments would be wise to take this revolution seriously, and not disable it by even a well-meaning but unnecessary limit on smart phones and flashmobs in response to a summer of hooligans.







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