Michael Moore galvanized the Occupy Wall Street mob last week in an “address” amplified for the mob by means of a “human microphone.” The human microphone has caught on like a sold-out Christmas toy with OWS mobs across America, from Atlanta to Chicago to Riverside, California (the closest OWS mob to me), where a small but doughty group of Hoos hollered with all their might last Saturday night.
The human microphone idea is simple. The crowd repeats each phrase uttered by a speaker, in order to amplify the sound and ensure the message gets across. If you’re not alone in being reminded forcibly of kindergarten, wait, there’s more. Check out the Chicago link above, and scroll down for the links to photos of “spirit fingers,” “peace guns,” and “point of process” triangle hands. These methods of communication remind me of nothing so much as the cues used by grade school teachers with their young charges.
People used to get their buzz over responsive yelling by attending football games. Communicating in code, with hand gestures, was something that was fun for a while if you were a Boy Scout or a Campfire Girl, earning badges and learning special, secret things. Bird calls, writing in hieroglyphs, spelling out cuss words in American Sign Language – kids can have a lot of fun with codes.
But we have no tribal memory, as humans, of a time when it might have been a good idea to give a say over our lives or our government to people who adopt the communication modes of childhood. That would just be stupid. The kid-level communicating is cute when kids do it. It’s creepy and weird when the people doing it have the bodies of adults – and aren’t in a comms-challenged combat situation like a SWAT Team, a SEAL team, or an infantry patrol.
The “creep” factor is the one that struck J. Christian Adams, who posted the video of the Atlanta human-microphone incident for Pajamas. (Jazz Shaw today highlights the same mob’s ignorant dismissal of John Lewis.) And there is definitely an element of mindless invigoration to it. It’s one thing to listen to a demagogue (or even just someone giving administrative instructions), registering the message in your brain but not doing anything about it, at least for the moment. It’s another kind of action altogether, to vigorously repeat everything a speaker is saying. Doing so generates a powerful sense of noisy assent for everyone involved. You’re not just there listening and thinking: you’ve sold out your critical thinking faculties, and agreed to convey automatically whatever the speaker wants to say.
Most of us have been to church at least once. Think about a typical service.
You sing together. You bow (or kneel) and pray together. You recite scriptures together. There is a reason for that.
Humans are social animals. We naturally congregate together. We are hardwired to submit to peer pressure. That’s why fashion trends and fads come and go.
Some people are more susceptible than others, but if you change groups don’t be surprised to find yourself changing the way you dress, talk and behave.
The “people’s microphone” and the hand signals are a way to get people actively involved instead of just passively observing. Once you do that the hardwiring in their brains starts to do the rest. You’re not selling out your critical thinking faculties, you’re bypassing them.
That’s why people go to a OWS protest and come back as a member of the borg. They let themselves become assimilated. That’s also why they’ll urge you to go too.
“Just come to a rally with me, and you’ll see what it’s all about.”
BTW – They used the same techniques at Obama rallies. (Hint, hint)