Saturday, 28 July 2012

Olympic Hysteria?

It's interesting to see how the public excitement about the Olympics has been represented. There's far too much media coverage for me to attempt to give a representative view of all of it, but one little snapshot grabbed my interest.

During a concert that was held in London's Hyde Park in the run up to the opening ceremony, Boris Johnson the Mayor of London addressed the crowd saying that the enthusiasm about the Olympics was like a 'benign virus' sweeping through people. This suggests that there is something 'pathological' about crowd behaviour, even when there's no suggestion that there is anything remotely sinister or negative about the crowd in question. Other terms often used to describe crowds (such as 'contagion' and 'hysteria', 'panic', etc) also represent a discourse of disease and/or irrationality. I think this reflects a pervasive (but fundamentally flawed) view in social discourse that even celebratory crowds should be treated with caution, just in case a less 'benign virus' sweeps through people with devastating effects. Why can't we just accept that years of research into all kinds of crowds shows that they can behave much better than often expected, and come up with a less loaded way of describing them?! 

On an amusing footnote, for anyone who hasn't already seen it, the hilarious footage of the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt almost killing his publicist with his attempt at bell-ringing can be seen here!

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