Market Mad House

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

Historical Insanity

Are Flash Mob Robberies the beginning of the Revolution?

The flash mob robberies disrupting U.S. retail are a form of civil unrest that has revolutionary implications.

To explain, mobs are looting stores across the country in broad daylight. For example, around 30 people swarmed through a Best Buy (BBY) store in Minnesota, making off with electronics. Similarly, around 80 people pillaged a Nordstrom (JWN) store in Walnut Creek, California.

In Lakewood, California, several looters stole hammers, crowbars, wrenches, and other tools from a Home Depot (HD), The Mercury News reports. The looters were apparently gathering tools for future robberies. Police later arrested several suspects in Beverly Hills, where they were apparently preparing for another smash-and-grab attack.

They call these attacks flash mob robberies because they organize them online like a flash mob. To elaborate, investigators think crooks organize and direct the robberies on messaging apps. Moreover, video of the robberies often goes viral on YouTube and TikTok.

Flash Mobs attacks are more than Robberies

I think these flash mob attacks are far more than mere robberies. I consider these loot fests a form of civil unrest directed against income inequality and capitalism. In other words, the flash mob robberies are class warfare.

Notably, the flash-mob epicenter is the San Francisco Bay Area, ground zero for American income inequality. The Bay Area has the highest income inequality in California, the Policy Institute of California claims. Top earners in the Bay Area make around $384,000 a year or 12.2 times the incomes of the working poor.

Furthermore, the looted stores include luxury brands; such as Nordstrom, Burberry, and Yves Saint Laurent, The Washington Post reports. The mobs are targeting the upper class.

News reports show most mob members are young people. That reminds me of the mobs that looted parts of American cities during 2020’s George Floyd Riots. The targets of those mobs included luxury shopping areas in New York, LA, and Chicago, the places the flash mobs pillage.

The Children of Income Inequality

So who are these looters, and why are they pillaging luxury stores? I think they are the children of income inequality.

To elaborate, the flash mob members are working and middle-class kids who grew up in the shadow of Silicon Valley and Hollywood. The people who cannot afford an apartment in their hometowns, no matter how hard they work.

These kids saw their parents work themselves to death and get nothing. Many of these people saw their families face eviction and slept in cars. The mob members grew up eating handouts from the food bank and only wearing clothes from thrift stores.

Some of them are children of immigrants who came seeking the American Dream. Yet they grew up a country where the American Dream only exists in old movies and Madmen reruns. These are the kids who saw their teachers drown in student debt and drive Uber (UBER) to pay the bills. The lesson they learned in school is that middle-class conformity is a ticket to poverty.

Moreover, these are the kids who saw the wealthy drive past in their new Teslas and Mercedes while their mom was praying the family’s 20-year-old Toyota will not die today. They are the kids who grew up in abundance they could never share.

Is it any wonder they consider looting and pillaging a career option? Okay, some looters are just greedy, but others are desperate. What else explains the pillaging of Walgreens (WBA) drugstores?

Moreover, the flash mobs apply the sick morality of modern capitalism to street crime. People who grew up seeing one blatantly corrupt billionaire after another rewarded for criminality – will see nothing wrong with looting. Remember, these kids saw a blatant fraudster rewarded with the Presidency of the United States and the leadership of the Republican Party.

Revolution by Flash Mob

The revolutionary implications of the flash mob looting are obvious. Revolutionaries could easily adapt the strategy of social media organization and mobs overwhelming security to the seizure of government buildings.

Indeed, the flash mob robberies resemble the 6 January insurrection at the US Capitol. In both cases, mobs gathered spontaneously, attacked fast, and overwhelmed shallow security. The difference was that the January 6 mob had a political goal; disrupting the election, while the flash mobs are out for loot.

Notably, flash mob robberies are occurring in Los Angeles, a city that has been a center of open political warfare between far-left and far-right extremists. Indeed, news stories indicate the flash mobsters use some of Antifa and the Proud Boys’ tactics. For example, looters spray security guards with pepper spray, zap employees with Tazers, and hit people with clubs. Additionally, some of the Flash mobsters carry guns like many Proud Boy and Antifa stormtroopers.

Class Warfare by Flash Mob

Both the flash mobs and the political brawls remind me of historic revolutionary violence. In particular, the chaos in France during the French Revolution 1789, the July Revolution of 1830, and the Paris Commune of 1871. Income inequality, in particular, was one driver of the French Revolution.

For example, in March 1789, well-organized groups of peasants began killing the game animals on nobles’ estates throughout Northern France. The game animals were luxuries, the ultimate symbol of 18th century wealth and influence. Moreover, the game animals often ate the peasants’ crops or fodder the peasants could use to feed their livestock.*

It was illegal for anybody but nobles to kill the game animals. Hence, killing the game animals was class warfare in 18th century France. Just as looting Bloomingdales or torching a Ferrari is class warfare in 21st Century America.

The game-killing peasants were well-organized and systematic, just like the flash mobsters. Author Simon Schama writes that French peasants even destroyed the nests and eggs of expensive game birds, such as partridges. What Schama calls the Game Riots were 18th century Flash mobs settling accounts with the wealthy. Within a few months, the Game Rioters had looted and burnt some chateaus of the nobility.

Similarly to the Flash mobs, long-held class grievances drove the peasant exterminators. Notably, the peasants were sick and tired of waiting for wimpy King Louis XVI to redistribute the wealth, so they took matters into their own hands.

Similar impulses motivate today’s Flash Mobs. In particular, the failure of corrupt and weak political leaders such as Presidents Joe Biden (D-Delaware) and Donald J. Trump Sr (R-Florida) refuse to deliver on their promises of wealth redistribution. Young people disillusioned by the political system are taking matters into their own hands.

The peasants’ actions inspired French politicians to take radical action when the Estates General (France’s parliament) met in June 1789. That led to the French Revolution. Four years later, in 1793, the Jacobians took class warfare to its logical conclusion the mass slaughter of nobles and conservatives history calls the Reign of Terror.

Hence, Americans need to be terrified of the Flash Mobs.

Latin American Style Violence

One fear I have is that flash mobs and political violence will lead to oppression, repression, and police violence. Another fear is the importation of Latin American style political and street violence to the United States.

To elaborate, in some Latin American countries, the police, the military, right-wing death squads, gangs, drug cartels, and left-wing guerrillas systematically kill anyone they perceive as a threat. For example, The Rio Times claims Brazilian police killed over 2,000 children between 2017 and 2020.

For instance, Nordstrom management seeing how ineffective private security and police are could hire MS-13, the Crips, or worse, import Mexican Los Zetas to protect their stores. Similarly, local government could use left-wing or right-wing paramilitary gangs to police the streets. We already saw police tolerate armed vigilantes on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020 – which led to the Kyle Rittenhouse tragedy.

The Violence will Get Worse

No matter what happens, I think the violence will get worse because our leaders do not understand its causes.

I think the causes of this violence are income inequality and the lack of opportunity. In particular, a generation of young people who think they will never have a good job, own a home, go to college, or drive a new car. Additionally, many of these people see traditional paths to success, such as college, jobs, and home ownership, as traps that lead to debt and drudgery.

Unfortunately, our leaders will not try to fix the true causes of the violence. Instead, the Right will blame a lack of values, Godlessness, and disrespect for law enforcement, while the Left will blame America’s history of racism and white people.

There will be some truth to such sides’ claims, however such talk will not address the true causes of the violence. Instead, both the left and right-wing culture warriors will return to Washington DC and state capitols and vote for larger police budgets, greater police powers, and bigger prisons as solutions. Hence, they will respond to private violence with government violence.

I predict the authoritarian response will fail because of the amateurism, disorganization, and incompetence of America’s law enforcement community. What happens next is unclear. Politicians will either send in the military or try to use the mobs for their own purposes, as former President Donald J. Trump (R-Florida) did on 6 January 2021. Either response will be bad.

The correct solutions to the Flash Mob violence are to increase opportunity, limit income inequality, and build a society that does more for the working and middle classes. Sensible responses could include basic income, free college, free trade school, Medicare for All, a higher minimum wage, debt cancellation, and efforts to make housing affordable for ordinary people. For example, a modern-day GI Bill that makes low-interest and no-down payment mortgages available to all Americans.

I predict the flash mobs and the political violence in the streets are only the beginning. America is facing violent revolution and our leaders refuse to see it.

*See Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution by Simon Schama pages 322-324 for full details of the Game Riots.