Pundits Argue Philly Youth Mobs Tied to Class, Not Race

The story behind the Twitter-fueled "flash mobs"

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The specter of youth mobs has once again gained national attention after a series of "flash mobs" involving large groups of teenagers erupted in Philadelphia. On at least four occasions in the past year, these crowds--gathered through a combination of social media, text messages and word of mouth--have turned violent. A near-riot over the weekend sent several innocent bystanders to the hospital.

The New York Times' Ian Urbina succinctly summed up the cultural issues raised by the incidents: "The flash mobs have raised questions about race and class." Pundits grappling with both subjects have ultimately rejected the race argument, arguing the mobs are a function of class differences.

  • Was it Racial? Not Really "Just as some white people don't like black people, some blacks don't like whites," admits the Philadelphia Daily News' Stu Bykofsky, who acknowledges the racial aspects of a mob made up almost entirely of African-Americans. But Bykofsky contends race was not the underlying factor.
Behavior is more a function of class than race. Anti-social behavior is associated with bad education and poor parenting, and that's prevalent in poverty zones, which in Philadelphia are minority neighborhoods.
  • Class Struggles, Meet Twitter At Gawker's, Adrian Chen echoes Bykofsky's argument, with a nod to social media's role in fueling the mobs. "In fact even our own uncomfortableness pointing out the race thing probably hints at some interesting issues of class and its intersection with technology," he muses.
  • 'Performance Art'? I Don't Think So Leaning heavily on the New York Times story, Sweetness & Light's Steve Gilbert brings up the term popularized by New York newspapers in the wake of the Central Park jogger assault. "Er, seven years ago it was called 'Wilding.'," he points out. "And it was just as violent back then."
  • Just Buy a Gun On Michelle Malkin's blog, La Shawn Barber compares the evolution of flash mobs to the top-down sexual revolution of the 1960s. " Fueled by white, educated, upper- and middle-class women, the so-called sexual revolution trickled down to the lower classes, who couldn’t bounce back from sexual irresponsibility the way the higher classes could. In the same vein, when the 'bored, sophisticated' flash mob idea trickled down to the lower classes, it turned violent and definitely unsophisticated," she lectures. Barber's advice to Philadelphia residents is grim and to the point.
While the police are doing their part, I recommend law-abiding residents of Philly do theirs by exercising their constitutional right to bear arms. For the record, Pennsylvania is a “shall issue” concealed carry state.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.