It's new, it's daft, it's Flash Mob

 

GERMANY: Brace yourselves, Dubs: the flashmobbers are coming. They wave flags, wear silly hats or hop around clapping madly and they are going to descend on the capital this week.

Part frivolous stunt, part Dada performance, Flash Mobs have swept across Europe in recent weeks with a simple premise: a few dozen ordinary decent strangers come together for a few fleeting minutes in a public place to do something daft, then vanish.

The phenomenon began in the US and has spread to Europe via Germany. There were three flash mobs last week in Berlin alone with another planned for today. Detailed instructions are posted on the Internet about when, where and what to do. Think of it as a spontaneous street happening organised with military precision.

Last Friday at 6.01 p.m. over 50 people materialised in front of KaDeWe, Berlin's answer to Harrods, and started shouting "Yes, yes" into mobile phones. Precisely one minute later they all began clapping, in another minute they had vanished, leaving a crowd of dazed shoppers in their wake.

On Saturday evening a crowd appeared from nowhere outside Berlin's heavily guarded American embassy at 7.47 p.m. precisely. Under the eyes of armed policemen, the crowd of flashmobbers waved flags for a minute, then popped open bottles of champagne and spent 60 seconds raising their glasses and shouting: "Here's to Natasha." A minute later they were clapping wildly, then they began to photograph each other. Four minutes after they appeared, they were gone.

"I felt like someone on a blind date, strangely nervous and counting the seconds until 7.47 p.m., wondering what the other mobbers would be like," said one Berlin mobber afterwards as she hurried off towards the Brandenburg Gate, a half-empty bottle of champagne concealed in her handbag.

As usual, there's a boffin putting a serious spin on the frivolous phenomenon. In the case of Flash Mobs, it's Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution. "Right now, it's just people wanting to do something silly . . . but it shouldn't come as a surprise when this becomes a major outlet of political activism soon as well," he writes on the website smartmobs.com.

With luck, Dublin's first Flash Mob will get a better reception from gardaí than the demonstrators at the first Reclaim the Streets event. Dublin flashmobbers should just tell them it's art.