John Perry Barlow, former Grateful Dead lyricist and Republican city council chairman has an interesting idea.

BarlowFriendz
Dancing in the Streets: Revolution with a Smile

...Maureen Dowd recently observed that the Republicans had become so obsessed with rejecting the 60's ethic of doing it if it feels good that they have taken up an ethic of doing it if it makes someone else feel bad. Moreover, the GOP strategy of basing their root-level organization on Hot Protestantism has infused their ranks with a lot of chilly Puritanism, which, as H.L. Mencken defined it, is "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is having a good time."

...So, to that end, I propose the following: I want to organize a cadre of 20 to 50 of us. I want to dress us in suits and other plain pedestrian attire and salt us among the sidewalk multitudes in Republican-rich zones. At a predetermined moment, one of us will produce a boom-box and crank it up with something danceable. Suddenly, about a third of the people on the sidewalk, miscellaneously distributed in the general throng, will start dancing like crazy and continue to do so for for about a minute. Then we will stop, melt back into the pedestrian flow, and go to another location to erupt there.

As always, the full text of his essay is a great read, but this idea of discombobulation as protest is funny and seems appropriate as well. I wonder if we can map "I don't think it's funny" split. I wonder if this would constitute "terrorism". I guess it might depend on what they were dancing to.

12 Comments

I wonder if this would constitute "terrorism".


Nothing constitutes terrorism.

Sounds like an excellent idea. I've heard through the grapevine, however, that the RNC plans to release a herd of angry elephants that will trample all those present at Madison Square Garden. This premptive method is necessary because the liberals might indeed strike at any moment.

See, this is where it is dangerous to believe your own propaganda. Most Republicans I know are fun-loving, life-enjoying individuals. That also applies to most (hot) Protestants I know.

It gets a little tiresome seeing my religious and political point of view caricatured in such a disingenuous way by popular media. I would not be surprised--should such a flashmob occur--that it would be difficult to tell the dancing "mobbers" from the dancing convention attendees.

I think if they use William Shatner's cover version of Pulp's Common People, it would definitely be terrorism.

How about eqipping about 25 ppl with neon lights and dancing in the appropriate area allowed for demonstrations. You need to find someway to get camera attention, and a flashy high-tech light show might draw the attention you desire.

Seems like this is a bad idea unless your goal is to make the RNC more fun.

In these grim and scary times, there should be more public dancing, whether or not it helps/hinders the RNC. And through my experiences leading random mutant dance parties through my town - 15 happy people, a boom box, and a copy of the A*teens cover of 'Super trooper' (or Wham 'Wake me Up (before you go-go)') will get any street corner a hoppin'. Crazy costumes optional.

I've had this idea for years and years, and I certainly can't be the first to have it. I know I haven't. There's already been stuff like the nobly-minded but perhaps poorly executed and short-lived Right to Dance group in Los Angeles. (But oh-so-fun to attend. What a rush. Big stack of speakers. Big pile of grinning silly folks dancing and waving at bewildered people and rush-hour traffic.)


I've always wanted to do this, and I will eventually. And not even as protest, just for fun.


I'd like to throw renegade dance gatherings where you would just broadcast the DJ's output on microradio and the sound system is whatever people bring, rather than a huge centralized system. Car stereos, boom boxes, portable headphone radios become a decentralized PA system.


With today's technology you could stuff a back pack with a laptop running the excellent and usable Traktor DJ studio, an FM microtransmitter, sling a wireless keyboard and mouse on the DJ or use an existing, slick DJ interface.


The DJ could be totally mobile at a festival-sized dance party, dancing and grooving among the dancers out where the sound actually is. As a DJ, I'd love to be able to do that if it worked well.


Or you could flashmob into strange locations for a few hours of clandestine and nearly silent dancing - if everyone used headphones. Think grocery stores, malls, parks, parking structures, bridges and culverts. Libraries! Subways!


One of the only valid complaints fun-hating authoritarians have with these not so new-fangled technopagan-disco happenings is the noise complaints. (And these fun-hating authoritarians exist in astonishing droves. Hence things like the aforementioned RTD.)


And I feel it's high time to start forcibly - but joyfully, mind - reclaiming our right to freely assemble peacefully for any reason, from the purely frivolous to the completely serious, without need for permit or permission. Because it's fading so fast it's almost gone already.








I think that I understand the spirit of JPB's proposal. It's a good idea and it sounds fun. However, I'm left with a nagging question that I actually feel guilty for wondering about. And it's this - are RNC/Bush opposers too soft and wussy like? I don't mean to criticize JPB at all when I saw this. It's just that these days, liberals (JPB may not count himself as one) seem to have lost their testicular fortitude when it comes to playing dirty. That's a good thing in principle, but consider the nature of the opposition that they face. I'm probably suffering from a major misunderstanding of the situation. I dunno.

If Bush wins, we'll wish we did a lot more than just dance.

Mike B. Bill Clinton seems to stress this point in every speech I hear of his. He stresses that the Dems lose when they aren't tough enough against the Republicans...

"How about eqipping about 25 ppl with neon lights and dancing in the appropriate area allowed for demonstrations."

how about equipping about 25 people with neon lights and dancing in the INappropriate areas NOT allowed for demonstrations? :)

ideas like these aren't new... google the phrase "reclaim the streets".

Joi - I guess I agree with Bill. Two rights don't make a wrong, but in my opinion, calm resistance is not what the political situation in the States calls for. One way to play dirty "honorably" might be to continue to hold Bush's feet to the fire. Continue asking him the tough questions. Do not let him escape or disguise his personal limits which make him unfit for the position he presently holds.

Yes, America has some hard-core enemies. Believe me, I seek the satisfaction that comes from nullifying their threat. (Perhaps I relish the idea too much.) But we've a President who invaded a sovereign nation on a premise which was no premise at all. It was a lie, in fact. This is simply not acceptable under any circumstance. Yet, as always, we Americans have our heads in the sand -- we just don't realize the severity of the situation, or else we wouldn't let this guy get a moment's rest.

I disagreed with Clinton on some things, but one thing I always noticed about him is that he didn't let his enemies get to him. He controlled his thoughts and remained focused. His opponents never really did break his spirit. It sounds like a cliche, but the man was a rock. He knew how to take his licks and remain in the fight. I don't see that kind of resolute conviction and toughness in the Democratic party today. You can't remove a corrupt, arrogant, and authoritarian political contigent by dancing in the street. Consider what we're up against. Powerful liars that play with our soldiers lives, as if they were toy soldiers.

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From John Perry Barlow, a flashmob leftist protest scheme: Maureen Dowd recently observed that the Republicans had become so obsessed with rejecting the 60’s ethic of doing it if it feels good that they have taken up an ethic of doing it if it ma... Read More

http://joi.ito.com/archives/2004/08/01/barlow_proposes_dancing_flashmob_to_protest_rnc.html... Read More

I've had this idea for ages. I love this idea, and love that it keeps resurfacing and reinventing itself. Anyone I've hung out with in person for long enough has heard me get all frothy about this kind of a... Read More

Joi Ito blogs John Barlow's idea of a Dance Mob protesting the Republican National Convention in New York City. The idea is to get a bunch of people in standard Republican business attire planted strategically, flash-coordinated (and hopefully smart-c... Read More

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