How do you get bullies' attention

Bundestag election 2013

"Flash mobs" are becoming more political
The employee of the sporting goods business escapes "Hey dude, what's going on here?". Irritated, the lanky man in the baseball cap lets his gaze wander through the store. A young woman is lying on the concrete floor in front of him, asleep. Next to it, a bearded man is leaning against a clothes rack with sports jackets. He apparently dozed off while standing. A girl curled up on a shelf with her head on a pile of T-shirts. 20 people lie in the sports shop in downtown Berlin. None of them were tired - on the contrary. You want to shake people up. With their "flash mob" campaign, the sleepers want to draw attention to the working conditions in large sports groups shortly before the Olympic Games in Beijing. In "flash mobs", many people meet, usually by cell phone or on the Internet, for apparently spontaneous actions in a certain place. Usually the whole thing only takes a few minutes. Then, for example, people are applauding, talking on the phone - or just sleeping. A whistle wakes the sleeper after two minutes. You stand up and wordlessly hold leaflets over your head. "Play Fair" is written on it. Then they leave the sports shop.

History of the "flash mobs"
"Flash mobs" first appeared in 2003 in the USA. In the lobby of a New York hotel, 150 people suddenly applauded for 15 seconds, to the amazement of the guests. Then they disappeared as quickly as they came. In Berlin, several hundred people recently ordered more than 10,300 burgers in a fast food restaurant at the same time. In 2003, around 2000 "flash bullies" met in a furniture store in London and said, "Oh, what a sofa" at the same time. "Such actions have no sense, except to irritate the passers-by, who mostly just stand there confused or stunned and cannot explain what is happening at all," write supporters of action art on the website "www.online-flashmobs.de".

"Flash mob" campaigns are used more and more politically. In September of last year, demonstrators hit drums and pot lids at Berlin Central Station and tore up signs reading "183 = 13". With the arbitrary numerical equation, they wanted to draw attention to the fact that the federal government wanted to privatize the railway below value.

"Smart bullies" with a political mission
A special form are "smart bullies" who want to draw the public's attention to grievances with their actions. The term goes back to the book "Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution" by US media expert Howard Rheingold. The social researcher attributes enormous social power to the bullies, who can quickly and spontaneously get together thanks to SMS and the Internet - useful and destructive at the same time. In his view, mobilized masses could “smartbob” everything and everyone, in other words overthrow presidents, but also collect donations for tsunami victims. The Berlin demonstrators also want "flash mobs" with a message. "It's exciting to fill flash mobs with political content," says the 27-year-old protester Magdalena. Berndt Hinzmann is hoping for "a dialogue" from the campaign in the Berlin sports shop. He belongs to the Inkota association, an ecumenical network that organized the action. "Flash mobs just get attention." In the Berlin sporting goods store, the phenomenon has not quite reached the extent feared by the US expert Rheingold. But it was political, and it was even fun, according to the demonstrators. "It's better than walking through the city with a cardboard sign and being looked at in a gloomy manner," says Hinzmann.

From: Patricia Driese: Ein Naperchen im Sportladen, in: dpa, April 5th, 2008, http://www.n-tv.de/politik/dossier/Flashmobs-haben-politischer-article259948.html (October 8th, 2012).

Flash mob: mobilize and take action

Rough concept / methodology
After an introductory plenary session, the total group of around 40 was divided into four sub-groups, each of which prepared one aspect of a [...] project. The project was a flash mob in a shopping center, through which the public on site and via the media should be made aware of the working conditions of temporary workers. The four groups:
  • A group "Theater" designed and tested a dramaturgy for the process on site.
  • A "Networking and Activation" group tried to publicize the event in advance via social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and to win over outsiders to participate in the flash mob. She also set up a public blog as the central platform of the project.
  • An "Information and Media" group drew up a flyer with information on the project and temporary work that summarized the main messages. In addition, this group tried to get journalists to report on the flash mob.
  • A "Video" group learned the basics of working with video cameras, live streaming, video editing and online publishing. The group filmed, live-streamed and documented the action on video.
After the action was carried out, the groups first followed up and then reflected on in the plenum.

From: Jöran Muuß-Merholz: Flashmob: mobilize and become active, 10.08.2011, http://www.bpb.de/lernen/unterrichten/methodik-didaktik/web-2-0/71411/workshop-projektarbeit (08.10. 2012).

Section 32 Inadmissible election propaganda and collection of signatures, inadmissible publication of voter surveys Image and any collection of signatures are prohibited. (2) The publication of the results of voter surveys after voting on the content of the voting decision is not permitted before the election period has expired.

From: §32 Federal Election Act, http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bwahlg/__32.html (11.10.2012).

Work orders:
  1. Researched politically or socially critical flash mobs and smart mobs on the Internet. Which ideas did you like? How do you rate the expressiveness and the publicity of the campaigns?
  2. How could a flash mob make (young) voters aware of the issue of elections or motivate them to vote? Develops ideas in the group.
  3. What has to be considered during planning, application, implementation and documentation? Who could support you with the implementation?