Interview with Bill Wasik: Senior Editor of Harper’s and Creator of Flash Mobs

Interview with Bill Wasik: Senior editor of <i>Harper’s</i> and creator of flash mobs

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Mother Jones: What was the evolution of the flash mob?

Bill Wasik: Before there was anything called flash mobs, there were the protests in the Philippines where the participants used text messaging to coordinate. That preceded flash mobs. There are some semantic issues with what exactly flash mobs are. The way that I conceived of them, they were just 10 minutes or less and they were completely absurd. When people ask me “What do you think the political potential of flash mobs to be?” I say, “I don’t really think that there is one.” That said, using cell phones to coordinate protests has allowed for decentralization, for people to organize.

Whenever I hear talk about using flash mobs for political purposes, my first thought is that that person doesn’t really know what they’re talking about. The people who understand the technology and the generation that they’re talking about know that flash mobs were a little absurdist blip in a whole universe of social networking technologies or phenomena that do have the power to be very revolutionary. You could use flash mob as a metaphor for some of the ways in which the netroots will leverage the power of all of this collaborative energy and all of these people in remote locations and have them come together on a single project. A flash mob is an interesting metaphor and insofar as it’s being used as a metaphor I have no problem with that.

MJ: What do you think about the idea that technology is changing the way we do politics?

BW: A lot of techno-utopian types —the kind of people who would crow about Politics 2.0-type stuff —they have a hammer, but they don’t really know what their nail is. To me, the innovation of the netroots really has nothing to do with the Internet and has everything to do with the way they’re forging an aggressive vision of liberal politics that is rightly confrontational on the war and on economic issues. I think that, yeah, there’s a hammer and it’s called social networking. It’s the way in which the Internet allows people to come together in a virtual way. But it’s a platform that anybody can use, and the question is, what are we going to use it for? That brings us right back to Politics 1.0. My feeling about a lot of this stuff is, yeah, it’s cool, but it’s a sideshow. It’s not the main show.

 

More Interviews << >> Politics 2.0 Index

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate