I wrote about flash mobs on October 24, 2005, and before that, I talked about them before the Manila Rotary Club in 2004 (which left the rather unwired members kind of confused, I think, at the time).
The Asia Foundation’s Steve Rood (one of the few readers of this blog to actually give this blogger something for Christmas, the other kind soul being Carlos V. Jugo) was quoted in an article in the International Herald Tribune, responding to what I call the Black Friday Protest Movement’s Frapp for Freedom campaign. He decided to dwell on some of the points he made further, and circulated them; the PCIJ beat us all to the draw and posted his ideas first. Read what he has to say. My only contributions to the discussion are few:
1. Everyone seems to forget the “lightning rallies” periodically engaged in by National Democratic forces. I do not know how old, exactly, that form of protest using only a few people, is; either it’s a subset of the flash mob concept or predates it.
2. The first political flash mobs, in a sense, date back to the anti-Marcos struggle; the Black Friday Protest Movement is simply reviving the effort that punctured the pretensions of the then-Palace puppets.
3. The flash mob as first demonstrated by the Black Friday Protest Movement is a variation of the flash mob concept, but in reality, far different from what the flash mob is supposed to be. If it’s true there were similar flash mobs in Alabang and at the Podium mall, then those were flash mobs; but the 6750 Ayala Avenue one was along the lines of a celebrity appearance and not a flash mob. Flash mobs are supposed to be anonymous, and puzzling to everyone else who isn’t in the know. Instead, the protests were widely publicized. To the rest of the public, they are meant to seem absolutely insane.
The Black Friday Protests will go on. But for what it’s worth, my suggestions for further action are as follows:
1. They should be surprising. Unexpected places, or places and persons identified with the President. Why shouldn’t every person in the movement have standing instructions to carry pictures of puppies and hand them to any cabinet member or crony they meet? Why not play Hello, Garci ring tones whenever you encounter an Assumption nun? Or simply go up to known pro-Arroyo society figures and tell them, “How baboy naman the pig!” That sort of thing.
2. They should be witty. As recounted in my article above,
[A] veteran of the anti-Marcos protests of the 1980s recounted two incidents. The veteran said that when Marcos banned rallies in Makati, “we had to come up with a lot of creative ways to demonstrate.” At lunchtime, Makati workers walked to Rustan’s (at the time said to be partly owned by Imelda Marcos), and “entered the shop and just stayed there without buying anything, then walked back to their offices.” The veteran recalled that perhaps a few thousand participated.
On another occasion, protesters went to the lobby of the Manila Peninsula, ate there and then, on cue, stood up and, with raised fists, sang “Bayan Ko.” The pianist at the mezzanine cooperated by providing accompaniment to the singing. And, according to the veteran, “here’s the bonus: Teodoro Valencia, known apologist for Marcos, happened to also be there at the time. After ‘Bayan Ko,’ the crowd faced him and started singing ‘How much is that doggie in the window,’ including the ‘Arf! Arf!’ Of course, he had to leave. I don’t think he finished his meal.”
3. The targets of flash mobs must include crony companies and businesses and institutions, and not just target the President, but her diehard supporters: it’s obvious not just the President should be criticized. People can enter offices of Aboitiz shipping, for example, and make chicken noises for 30 seconds, etc.
4. They should be easy to replicate so that if there’s a Frapp for Freedom on Friday, the next Friday, other people can Frapp for Freedom while the next group goes on to the next activity. Record “How much is that doggie in the window” and turn it into a protest ring tone.
If sustained, and funny, and slightly crazy, they will accomplish far more to puncture the pretensions of the Palace than any standard protest could muster.
Thank you to recent linkers: