People look down on the pastime of shooting fish in barrels, but it's actually pretty fun. For the last few years, flashmobbers have been the favoured barrel-bound prey for us and anyone else with a brain and/or semblance of dignity. It's not surprising that they're so easily mockable – after all, they were invented by Bill Wasik from Harper's Magazine as a way of lampooning the conformity of hipsters. I think we can all agree, his joke was a zinger.
On the plus side, Wasik's gift gave any cynical blogger an endless parade of twee, corporate, mindless, obedient, free-hugging twemo twats to rip into. On the downside, it revealed the huge number of infantalised morons who you have to share a planet with. Well, I reckon flashmobbing is about to go the way of happy slapping and Skins parties and it's thanks to the riots that took place in English cities earlier this month.
After all, what were the riots if they weren't just a big, vicious series of flashmobs? Sure, the kids weren't lifting commuters out of their perceived malaise by dancing to Abba in Liverpool Street Station for T-Mobile. They were doing it by firebombing buses. But that's just semantics, ultimately it's the same deal.
After the lulz of the Croydon burnings, will flashmobs appear to be harmless fun ever again? Just as backpacking Muslims suffered a PR disaster in 2005, these days any torrent of teenagers flooding a shopping centre are going to be met with shuttered shops and water cannons. The lines have already become blurred, with police in Essex charging a man who tried to organise a flashmob water fight because they suspected he was planning to use it as cover for a riot. It's a theory which sounds either madly paranoid, or very likely, depending on what mood I'm in.
I imagine even the most irritatingly ardent and cutesy flashmobber would rethink the wisdom of planning one of these shitshows now that even kids who organised unsuccessful riots are ending up with four years in prison. Equally, policemen and women have never seemed to have much tolerance for infantile social mischief, and you can't imagine the events of the past month have done anything but make their patience thinner.
Maybe we should take our cues from America, which is always ahead of the curve when it comes to moral panic. Over in the States, "flashmob robbery" is already an acknowledged trend.
So, in the spirit of optimism, here are a few of the most miserable facets of flashmobs, which, with any luck, we will be saying farewell to soon. CRIES FOR HELP FROM SOCIALLY HANDICAPPED TEENAGERS
THE CRAPPIEST ARTISTS ON THE PLANET
A CERTAIN TYPE OF MINDLESS CRETIN HAVING FUN WHILE SOBER FOR JUST ABOUT THE LAST TIME
CONSTANT, DISAPPOINTING MISUSE OF THE WORD "NAKED"
INNOCENT IDIOTS INVOLVING THEMSELVES IN SOMETHING MORE EVIL THAN THEY COULD POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND
PEOPLE WHO STILL FIND ZOMBIES INTERESTING AND/OR AMUSING
EVENTS THAT YOU'RE SURE MUST BE SELLING SOMETHING, BUT YOU CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHAT
I've never told anyone this before, but one of my biggest fears in life is that the citizens of the future will look back at my generation, and deem that flashmobbers were a breed of social activist somehow equal to the White Rose Movement or those involved in the Zemla Intifada. It's comforting to me to think that the recent riots might have prevented the future from making what would be a huge, tragic mistake.