Mary Jordan has an interesting narrative in today’s Washington Post, illustrating the political uses of swarming. She writes about Mong Palatino, and his role in coordinating a lightning rally in the Malacanang area through a "text brigade."
Soon Palatino’s phone was alive with a flurry of texts from coordinators and marchers anxious to start.
One asked: "Are the media here?"
About a dozen TV cameramen and newspaper photographers gathered outside. They, too, had been summoned by text.
At 1:45, Palatino’s phone pinged again, this time with the message: "ASSEMBLE RIGHT NOW!"
A smile crossed his face. With a few more taps of his thumbs, he forwarded the command down the text brigade ranks. He sent it to those on his phone list, and each who received it did the same. In seconds, about 1,000 students were in the street, stopping traffic and sending cars and bicycle taxis scattering.
Two students quickly hooked up a public address system to the battery of a vehicle. One by one, leaders climbed on top of it to fire up the crowd. Palatino demanded that President Arroyo do more to end the killings and allocate more money for universities.
"Books, not bullets!" he shouted.
The all-at-once strategy worked: The police were caught off guard. Only a few officers were on the scene, and they quickly pulled out their own cellphones to make urgent voice calls. Within minutes, scores more officers arrived.
Two quick caveats. She does not mention that Mong also keeps a well-read blog, and she repeats the assertion that the Philippines remains the text-messaging capital of the world. (Through sheer volume, of course, China is the undisputed king. Here, for instance, is an 18-month-old stat.) Oh, a third concern: There’s very little actually said about politics, beyond the administration vs. opposition divide.
But all in all, a good read.