There’s no controlling the flash

There’s a quaint story in today’s Guardian revealing the futility of government attempts to control speech and assembly.

Police in Leeds are hoping to prevent an outbreak of internet-enabled mayhem after thousands were invited to a public pillow fight through Facebook. . . .

A police spokesman said yesterday: “We have contacted the alleged organiser regarding this event and advised him to cancel it. We will be monitoring the situation to ensure that it does not take place. Any such events, especially those potentially involving large numbers of people, must be given the proper licence by the council in advance.”

There’s the funny bit: a flashmob license.

I understand their desire. The story says that a flash water fight caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to a park in the city. And there’s no means for the organizers to organize a crowd once it is amassed.

Still, it’s a futile effort. Mobs can form instantly via Facebook and Twitter and there’s no telling who the organizer is because they won’t necessarily have an organizer. Welcome to the dispersed, distributed society. Mobs, by their definition, can’t be controlled.