What is mobbing?

Early on my mobbing, those harassing me called themselves mobbers and claimed that they were mobbing me and would mob me at least until I left my home. “We’re the mob!” they would shout into my house.

I began looking online for references to “mobbing.” It took a long time until I found the United Nations article about “Forced Evictions” that listed “real estate mobbing” as one of the means of forced eviction. During that same period of time, I also found an Amnesty International reference to it as a Human Rights violation. And I learned about the recognition given to “mobbing” of all kinds as a problem in Europe. In Spain, in particular, there has been a great problem with real estate mobbing in Madrid.

Eventually I concluded, based on the manner in which the harassers proclaimed themselves “mobbers,” that it might be a term they adopted despite a lack of use in the United States. For example, it might be a term they adopted to take advantage of the cache of “The Mob,” in hopes that people would flee their homes if they thought they were being pursued by The Mob (and the harassment has often included statements like, “At least, we’re the mob so far as you’re concerned”). Calling themselves the mob and mobbers, I concluded, was likely just another hoax or scam to con a person into fleeing their home.

But there does seem to be an interesting parallel development in the “culture” of acquisition, that is, real estate acquisition and flipping. Take, for example, the website propertymob.com. It is something of a motivational site for those interested in the sport of flipping houses. I was negatively impressed to see columns on the site complaining about reluctant sellers, waxing enthusiastic over the use of property violations as a means of convincing a reluctant owner to sell, and advising readers on the in’s and out’s of dealing with rental properties. Given that I have been harassed by real estate agents presumably aligned with the developers whose houses they sell on this street, to the point where they have attempted to flag me down and have contacted my landlords and done their best to damage our relationship, perhaps the attitude of propertymob.com reflects the rather unfortunate new wave of speculators.

If that’s the case, perhaps these speculators should just call themselves criminals.

Anyway, maybe I’ll  post the content of the letters my landlords have received from agents of a preeminent northwestern real estate company as well as those illustrious captains of the local neighborhood watch so you can see the lengths that some people are willing to go to, apparently involving felonies, to harass legal residents out of their homes or to acquire the property. My neighborhood has a goodly number of property disputes between owners but those usually remain more or less in the civil realm.

Back to mobbing. In the United States, the use of the word mobbing is more or less limited to “workforce mobbing” or “academic mobbing.” This is generally more or less civil bullying that occurs in the workplace, is often initiated by a nasty “queen bee” type and is driven by malicious gossip. The water cooler is a dangerous place to be. Workplace mobbings, the focus of the Oxford Press book Mobbing by Maureen Duffy and Len Sperry (https://global.oup.com/academic/product/mobbing-9780195380019?cc=us&lang=en&), are also vicious, eventually involve the corporate hierarchy, and usually end with the victim leaving in emotional or health crisis or being fired as corporate machine becomes Nazi Wehrmacht. This is the mobbing that, I read, is the height of passive-aggressive behavior.

I have found some references to “condo mobbing” online or in books like Mobbing, but the 24/7 harassment to which I have been subjected by the not-so-well meaning neighborhood watch in association with local real estate profiteers seems little known, or at least is not talked about. Perhaps that’s because it is, as the harassers once ad libbed, a “shadow service.”  In my case, it may well be a shadow service to entities who are unable to separate a good deal from crime.

What if, for those developers and real estate speculators who just want to get the job done, there is such a service? The mobbers have also called themselves “clearers” and said that they were “clearing” me. And indeed, they are organized and the houses from where the mobbers seem to work were purchased by people who were quick to cozy up to the neighborhood association. I’ve also considered that they might have been given first opportunity to buy because they were house flippers who were willing to harass tenants for a good deal. In fact, there have been times when the harassment was underway and neighborhood watch people and even those involved with the neighborhood watch in my area who have in the past held or, I’m pretty sure, currently do hold positions with the City of Seattle, have been guests at the houses during the mobbing. Perhaps city officials who read this blog, if any there be, should have a look at who lives in my area. It would certainly seem to be doubly unethical conduct to be not only a captain of a neighborhood watch who has helped to put together an effort to harass a legal resident out of the neighborhood, but to be a city official whose salary is supported by the taxpayer dollar. If those connections exist, this is indeed a neighborhood watch way out of control, and one that needs to be cleaned out.

What if “We’re mobbers!” is just a more glamorous way of saying we’re professional harassers, or we’d like to be anyway, professional harassers who “clear” tenants, or have been taught by their friendly real estate friends about how it’s done? Or what if, mon dieu!, I have been surrounded by professional harassers. I suppose it’s possible. They have on occasion told me there were bombs in my car or that my chances for survival didn’t look good if I didn’t “get out!” I’m also pretty sure they have used lip reading and other invasions of privacy to attempt to get information about me. (More on that another time.) Unfortunately, having some people attempting to criminally harass me out of my home has flipped a switch in me and months back the chances of my acquiescing to their demands completely shut down. When they threaten to post pictures of me in the shower on the Internet, I tell them to just be sure to copy the FBI. When they tell me they can make it sound like I really am a pedophile, I ignore them. And when they tell me that if I don’t get out they’re going to call the police and say that I’m harassing them, my resolve stiffens.

What if “mobbing” is an old backwoods technique for getting rid of thieves, pedophiles, and no-goods? On first meeting the mother of one of the new owners, she did comment that most renters “aren’t very good people,” and that’s the kind of thinking that fits in with the effective criminalization of tenancy seen in this neighborhood. If a renter is more or less a criminal, why not be rid of them with the same techniques used in backwoods, small-minded communities to raise a ruckus before a witch burning in the public square? Yea.

What if “mobbing” is a technique of harassment used by tenant “clearers,” regardless of whether those tenant clearers are real estate speculators who are willing to harass people out of their homes in order to lay claim to the property and profit, or whether they’re paid in free rent or money by unethical neighborhood watch organizations like my own? I can see how the deal might go. Say, for example, a developer wants a property that is not available, and it has a renter in it who is disliked by the neighborhood lynch mob. If that’s the case, it could be easy to ignore the rights and interests of the renter. It’s the perfect terrain for collusion between real estate developers, speculators, and the very neighborhood organizations that have a duty to safeguard the rights of all legal residents. Okay, then, supposing the street is actively being developed, with empty lots cleared of their “natural beauty” and replaced with one or more narrow houses or mini-mansions, and other houses being bought with intent to remodel and “flip” them.

This is where people who call themselves “mobbers” could move in, that is, if houses are available near one that a developer or neighborhood watch captain wants to “clear,” maybe the mobbers hear about it through channels when the market is on the rise. Maybe they move in and begin to work slowly, to observe the resident in the house they want to clear silently. If things go well, the resident is completely unaware of being watched. The worst that can happen is that the resident becomes aware of some odd alliances and behaviors forming around him as anonymous complaints are made to city departments, complaints that the resident cannot in most cases track, or complaints that are tracked to someone who is already known to be hostile. And the new owners who have moved into the neighborhood slowly start to seem something like “The World’s Worst Neighbors,” you know, those people who actually are paid to move in near someone and act like such pains in the ass that eventually that someone leaves without really understanding the full constellation of events that led to their making the decision to go.

If this isn’t enough, there is legal bullying, reporting of more and more violations, and malicious gossip that will destroy a person’s reputation, at least in their neighborhood, if they don’t take the hint that despite civil law and rights, they are being bullied from their legal homes.

And then there’s the increasingly shady terrain of the “shadow service” that mobbing or tenant clearing might actually be. This is where you might find some instances of condo residents describing harassment coming from the other side of walls in their buildings, or where I found a few references to people who had actually lost their homes after some of the same hoaxes and harassment that have been part of my own “mobbing.” And I started to wonder if some of the crazy claims about “gang stalkers,” weren’t the sincere attempts of people who were being harassed out of their homes for profit, to put together what was happening to them. Perhaps “mobbing” is an attempt to treat legal residents like criminals and to scare them out of their wits to get them to flee. “He with the most toys wins” and in a gentrifying neighborhood, there is no greater amusement than scaring off the renters and winning the property, hopefully at foreclosure prices.

Perhaps, then, “mobbing” is the escalation of a more civil harassment, one in which things become more outwardly quiet to protect the criminals who would harass others, whether holed up in homes nearby, or making cell phone calls that are transmitted into streams directed into the home of the harassed by directional speakers that are shut down by those who tend them onsite whenever someone comes up the drive. The point isn’t who does it, it’s those who support it, who hire them, broker the real estate deals with the knowledge of their meaning to legal residents, those who would allow harassers into their houses to harass their neighbors. These are the people who should be arrested.

What is mobbing?

Mobbing is a crime.

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