Op-Ed: The man who monitors violent flash mobs Special

Posted Sep 17, 2011 by Alexander Baron
A new and disturbing phenomenon is sweeping America, that of the violent flash mob; one man who has a personal interest in it has set up a database and he's agreed to speak to ‘Digital Journal’.
Flash mobs are everywhere
Flash mobs are everywhere
The term flash mob is said to have originated in 2003, and at that time was a bit of harmless fun, indeed, it remains so. Thousands of people in touch via social media would meet up in a public place and do something pointless. The Urban Playground Movement has emerged from this phenomenon, and on April 2 this year it organised International Pillow Fight Day.
All good clean if at times untidy fun, but social media can also be used for anti-social purposes. Earlier this week, Sean Duffy of Reading was gaoled for eighteen weeks after leaving obscene messages on Facebook and YouTube tribute pages to a 15 year old girl who had committed suicide.
At a higher level, some of the loonies associated with the 9/11 Truth Movement openly accuse our leaders, politicians, even law enforcement agencies of organising, perpetrating, and then covering up the mass murders of innocent people on American soil; the mantra “9/11 was an inside job” will be familiar to anyone who has studied this bizarre phenomenon.
Although we need not take the 9/11 Truthers seriously, there is a form of ongoing anti-social activity that is being taken extremely seriously in America, especially by law enforcement. This is the phenomenon of violent flash mobs, where several or even large numbers of predominently youths meet up and attack people both in public but also on private property, acts which have resulted in serious physical and psychological trauma, and even murder.
The swarm robbery is an extension of the violent flash mob which involves many, perhaps dozens of youths entering a convenience store or some other shop, helping themselves to goods, and walking out, relying on the intimidation of numbers. If most swarm robberies do not result in serious violence to innocent people, it is only because most shopkeepers and store personnel realise discretion is the better part of valour, and are content to hand over CCTV footage to the police and let them do the rest.
Even worse than swarm robberies and violent flash mobs are wildings, which can involve gang rape. Although the consequences for victims can be terrible, these are fortunately rare. Alas, although they are new phenomena, both swarm robberies and violent flash mobs are increasing in both number and intensity.
During the rioting, looting and massive damage to property (including by arson) here in Britain last month, some people were using social media to incite or even to organise the mobs, and afterwards, the police returned the compliment by using social media to identify the perpetrators and bring them to book.
We spoke to the webmaster of the Violent Flash Mobs database, who wishes to be known only as Andrew.
AB: Can I ask where you are from, sir?
VFMW: Queens, New York.
AB: What inspired you to put together your website; for example, have you been on the receiving end of one of these mobs?
VFMW: I haven’t been on the receiving end of a flash mob, although I knew J.B. Hehman, who was chased to his death by a group of teens trying to rob him. I was inspired to put together the website in late June 2011 after reading about yet another mob style crime taking place. It seemed like they were happening every other day and I was curious exactly how many of these events had occurred. Although there’s greater awareness of the trend in recent months, the media had been reporting on these events as one-offs and not reporting on what was quite obvious - that these incidents were happening more frequently across the country and that in most instances, the victims were completely innocent and the attacks were unprovoked. I don’t really care when thugs attacks other thugs, but mobs attacking or intimidating the innocent is reprehensible and the public should not be kept in the dark about it.
AB: I’ve noticed it is largely American oriented; will you be including other countries?
VFMW: I’ve intentionally included just incidents taking place in North America, mostly because the scope is manageable and I’m more aware of how both the media and public are covering these attacks. I’m certainly aware that mob attacks take place elsewhere, but I don’t have the time to expand this into a global project.
AB: Will you be including links to YouTube?
VFMW: Possibly in the future.
AB: Will you be archiving this website with Archive.Org or Webcite?
VFMW: I don’t know - I’ve been meaning to use the UnMHT plugin on Firefox to save the content on the links since they’ll go away in due time. Frankly, I don’t have the time so if someone can help me out with that, I’d be most appreciative!
AB: It is noticeable from what I have seen that these mobs are or appear to be exclusively black. Is that the case in your experience?
VFMW: It’s true that the vast majority of these attacks have black perpetrators (a small handful don’t). Since starting the website, I’ve gotten over 1,000 emails via the contact form and probably 5-10% of those ask me to list the race of the suspects and victims. I let the list speak for itself because I don’t want to make the racial angle explicit. I’m not trying to hide the reality of the situation, but I want the site to be accessible to mainstream outlets and the instant you highlight race, there’s no chance a larger publication will link to you and the opportunity to spread awareness to a wider audience is diminished. I don’t want the stigma of being a “racist” site.
AB: Do you think the racial content and at times the apparent racial motivation of the attacks is the reason they have received so little mainstream media coverage?
VFMW: Yes. There’s been more mainstream media coverage in the last month or two, but there’s always a reluctance to report crime trends when blacks are the perpetrators and non-blacks are the victims.
AB: Not everyone is hamstrung by political correctness. Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia for one has gone on record.
VFMW: I saw that. Good for Mayor Nutter - he was forced to speak up because the frequency of these incidents in Philadelphia meant the issue could no longer be ignored.
AB: What do you hope to achieve with this website?
VFMW: I want to inform people that these attacks happen regularly and put to rest the notion that these are isolated incidents hyped up by political or racial agitators. There is a subset of the population that doesn’t respect the public order and thinks nothing of ransacking a store, beating up a bicyclist, rampaging through a plaza, etc. I don’t want to live somewhere that tolerates this behavior and I hope the sooner the majority of the population gets feds up, the sooner the flash mob problem will go away.
AB: What do you think are the real causes of these mobs?
VFMW: There’s probably multiple explanations, but I think the overarching problem is that we live in an increasingly undisciplined society. Think of the teenagers flash robbing a convenience store and 30 kids participate. How so many kids can think looting a store is a joke is a reflection of large, societal problem.
How do you think they should be dealt with?
VFMW: The perpetrators should be shamed and punished severely. I truly think a mob crime is a variation of aggravated assault because unless the victim is armed, he or she is at the complete mercy of the attackers. If states have special gang charges, they should be applied, even if the group isn’t a traditional gang. Moreover, since many students are participating, school districts should immediately revoke any such student's right to graduate on conviction for such an offence.
AB: Thank you, very much.