Sep 222011
Authors: Jordan Lavelle

The first rule of flash mobs is: you do not talk about flash mobs. The second rule of flash mobs is: you DO NOT TALK about flash mobs! Or at least that’s the direction we seem to be going in.
A article published last Friday titled “‘Flash mob’ robs Maryland 7-Eleven in less than a minute, police say” injects a negative connotation into the once family-friendly image of flash mobs.

The piece, compiled by the CNN Wire Staff, asserts, “Surveillance video shows a couple of teens walking into the Germantown 7-Eleven store Saturday at 1:47 a.m. Then, in a matter of seconds, dozens more young people entered and grabbed items from store shelves and coolers. Police said the teens left the store together, without paying for anything.”

After watching the video associated with the article, I am amazed at how CNN exhibits nothing more than sensationalism in its report of the incident, referring to it as “obviously abhorrent.” Both anchorman John King and CNN contributor Roland Martin even go so far as to label these teens, who happen to be African American, as “thugs.”

Really? defines the term as “a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber or murderer.” Let’s also be aware of the difference between robbery (the felonious taking of the property of another…against his or her will, by violence or intimidation) and theft (the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another).

Now I do not condone what they did, I’m just not sure juveniles (under 18 years old) committing petty theft deserve such a despicable designation like “thug,” especially when video evidence shows they did nothing even remotely cruel or vicious. Maybe I’m being too rational.

In one of the surveillance clips, we see one of the teens knock a bag of chips off the rack, only to be picked up and put back on the shelf by another — clearly an example of thuggish behavior, right?

As King and Martin continue talking about this “youth problem,” they raise concerns of other kids seeing this and becoming infected with the “copycat syndrome.” They say, “kids [will] think it’s cool somehow to get involved with this gang,” and make it seem like they will increasingly use tweets and status updates to organize convenience store shoplifting en masse, thereby implying the need for (more) preventive measures.

This “objective” report comes almost a year and a half after the “New York Daily News” published a blurb titled “CNN officials promise to stand by objective approach to news, despite ratings drops,” in which CNN President Jon Klein told advertisers and reporters, “Our mission, our mandate, is to deliver the best journalism in the world. Firsthand reporting, incisive analysis, no bias, no agenda.”


All of this sharpened focus on a few people’s misuse of social media attempts to overshadow the positive effect it had and is still having in the ongoing, but less reported revolts in the Arab world.

Notice how the positive messages from these Middle Eastern and North African uprisings have become filtered to a drip, and are apparently now being transposed into a threat to society.

Every revolution in the world’s history first took place in the minds of the dissatisfied, oppressed people, and then spread through the medium of their time — word of mouth, letters and now in the case of Egypt and other Arab nations, social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

And now, thanks to CNN’s “incisive analysis,” there are now concerns and questions regarding the very mediums that have liberated people from their tyrannical government.

Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff writes in his blog, “The abuse of these networks and their capabilities hardly justifies recent talk of limiting access, shutting them down or entrusting corporations and central authorities to monitor them at the expense of our privacy. As the ever-growing News Corp./Scotland Yard scandal illustrates, it is not unregulated phone hackers we need to be afraid of so much as the folks who are supposed to be entrusted with maintaining these networks and our security.”

“The less access we have to these tools…the less about them we understand,” Rushkoff contends. “And the less about them we understand, the more easily our behavior can be programmed by them, instead of the other way around.”

And so I wonder, how much of our freedom are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of security? Benjamin Franklin believed, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

In any case, we must not be afraid to think and talk about these things, even if that means we have to break the rules.

Copy Chief Jordan Lavelle can be reached at

 Posted by at 4:39 pm

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