Nobody asks anymore, but now I can finally tell people who invented flash mobs.
He’s Harper’s magazine editor Bill Wasik, and he revealed his identity to the public in this month’s issue.
In the article Bill credited me with naming flash mobs flash mobs.
Bill, thanks for kicking off the fun. I don’t share all your interpretations of what flash mobs were. I certainly don’t view Stanley Milgram through your eyes. And I think flash mobs turned out less hipster-centric than you expected, at least beyond Manhattan. (How many hipsters can you count in these photos?)
But bravo; this was one the funniest spectacles I’ve taken part in. Core to the fun for me were all the wild interpretations people put forth, how earnest and sure of themselves most commentators seemed, and the vast differences between interpretations. Now the guy who started it all finally chimed in with the most surreal interpretation yet, closing the circle.
Thanks Bill and the rest of the flash mobbers. If nothing else, we slipped a bit of prankster graffiti into the Oxford English Dictionary.
(A minor correction: the article claimed that I named the phenomenon after “Flash Crowd,” a 1973 short story that I’d never heard of until the flash mob fad was in full swing. For the record: Howard Rheingold’s book “Smart Mobs” probably influenced the name, but “Flash Crowd” didn’t.)