This article analyzes the “13-M” flash mob protests following the 11-M terrorist bombings in Madrid and immediately preceding the March 14 Spanish General Elections of 2004. The Governing Popular Party’s insistence that ETA were the main suspects despite contradictory evidence led to a widespread perception that they were deliberately misleading the public for electoral purposes. This sparked the indignation and mobilization of thousands of citizens on March 13, 2004, in an illegal unprecedented “flash mob” protest. Contrary to the two main explanations in the literature, I argue that the 13-M protests were neither purely spontaneous manifestations of public opinion, nor were they the result of Socialist Party machinations. Autonomous social movement activists used cell phones and the internet to mobilize previously established networks for a protest that quickly spread as critiques and demands they were making resonated with an important segment of public opinion. Drawing on ethnographic, primary and secondary data, this analysis provides an inside look at the mobilizing structures and motives behind an important protest and adds to our understanding of political flash mobs in the 21st century.
- “flash mobs”, smart mobs
- social movements
- new information and communication technologies