Crowd Control

October 19, 2008

I have been thinking about crowds lately for a few reasons.  First there’s the crowd pics I’ve been erasing faces from; I’m not sure why it’s so fun but it is.  It also gives you perspective on the purpose of a crowd: support and/or appreciation.  My image choice is limited somewhat by not being able to get shots from communal experience because there’s too much detail and/or I’m lazy, but it’s startling to realize that the crowd is there as much to perform there “crowdiness” as to be an audience.   (In terms of the audience for this blog: people seem to read the working class/art school post the most, though I’m not sure why.)

I don’t like crowds because I don’t like people; I don’t like people because they confuse and alarm me.

Case in point: the recent/ongoing “lynch mob” Republican rallies, at which McPalin, having uncorked that particular bottle, is having a hard time tamping down on the cries of “kill him!” and “terrorist” and “He’s an Arab!”  This is where a crowd turns into a mob.   People seemed shocked and dismayed by this, and by the repub’s halfhearted response to it, but it scares me silly.  This is the sound of people who have been whipped into a violent frenzy and told how to organize by PR.  This is not good, and not to be taken lightly.  I want to pursue crowds more in future work because they are so unnerving and, despite an ongoing and destructive US hat-tip toward Rugged Individualism, seem like a huge part of the American psyche.

On a different but related crowd note: I joined Facebook.  I’m not really sure why I did, and that’s because I’m not really sure what its purpose is.  I understand that it connects people, and I like the idea of being an accidental hub between populations that would ordinarily never come in contact otherwise, but I’m still not sure what to do with it.  I’m sure as hell not going to put my own photo on it; I posted some work instead.

That’s it for tonight’s rambling.  Here’s my favorite “crowd” pic so far; it’s a little messy but it’s the best source material:

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2 Responses to “Crowd Control”

  1. Will Says:

    A friend of mine uses Facebook to create characters that speak
    to a real audience. He’s created a hard-line right-winger based
    on Jack Nicholson’s character from A Few Good Men, and he
    spouts over-the-top rhetoric to right-wingers, with the idea of
    making them see a line they don’t want to cross, and hopefully
    re-think some of their positions. A sort of Colbert
    approach, minus the winking. He has quite an audience.

    Lately, he’s using it to meet real-life ninjas, so the possibilities are
    pretty endless. I’m tempted by the idea of getting my book known
    semi-anonymously that way, but I’m still wary of it. Definitely,
    definitely, post the training center stuff there.


  2. At first, the faces brought to mind the pixelated genitalia of Japanese porn, and that got me to think about the authorities that require the anonymizing . In the case of JP, it would be the government censors, but in the case of news media pixelating faces, it would be the legal department in some instances and the editorial department in others. It can be about protecting identity of not having permissions of either the model or the original image-taker.

    In either case, the photographer or model was asked–and permission denied–or (more likely) there’s an imagined threatening legal cloud that keeps folks from testing any boundaries.

    I’m thinking that besides support and appreciation, crowds give permission to be rowdy and mob-like, something these folks would loose as individuals.

    On the other hand, when individuals act outside social norms, disguises and anonymity often come into play. In fiction we have the proxy and alter ego, and in real life there is the ski mask of Subcomandante Marcos, the hood of the executioner, and the disguise of the bank robber.


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