I’m in the kitchen preparing a late dinner and walk over to the sink. “Move on,” a masculine voice whispers from the other side of the window pane. The voice doesn’t register and I figure it’s either the guy whose red SUV has been in evidence nearly every day these last weeks, or another guy I’d just seen awkwardly walking away from the mobbing house, his head covered with the hood of a jacket, to a truck that seemed familiar to me. I consider whether I have the plate number of that truck and remember that the owner of that mobbing house has driven one like it in the past. I finish dinner and sit down to begin this post. “Hey! Idiot!” The masculine voice is dim though I hear it right next to me. It’s probably a projection timed to hit me as I sat down to work. Usually it’s “Village Idiot,” an insult that I had concluded fits in well with the narrative that mobbing seems to be. At least, it’s been a famliar part of their incantations for more than sixteen months since I first heard the neighborhood watch co-captain telling a few young adult women in the street that I was “the village idiot” before being aware that I was been “mobbed,” much less coming to understand its meaning. This insult has been but one in their oft-repeated refrain, this song with which they seek to disgorge me, the renter, from my home. The tone of voice changes depending on how the insults are transported to me, but it’s probably not the first time the voices of these men have been transmitted to me from a nearby home. They’re probably the same ones I’ve heard in my bedroom, observing how I look as I sleep, how much of my body is revealed when I cast off the sheets in the summertime heat, and where I keep my hands. It’s nothing new. Not anymore.
This is the backdrop against which my life has been lived for the last sixteen months, but it’s often more intense than that, at least, they want it to be. Harassers seem to need a lot of attention.
For now though, I focus on my thoughts and the whispers quiet. For the moment, I focus on this writing, these words.
Back in the days of blockbusting, developers got residents to scurry on with whispers and rumble machines. As I’ve learned firsthand, ventilation and water systems transport and even amplify sound. As builders with a ground-up understanding of building systems, developers’ intimate knowledge of architecture, materials and fabrication allowed them to make structures unlivable. The super could shut down water and heat; the rumble machine could shake occupants into submission. These appropriations, even subversions, of building utilities and services remain the way to, in the idiom of my mobbers, “get you out.” My own mobbers keep window fans poised in locations above my own windows and the sound drifts down to me, they’ve likely stationed speakers on the opposite sides of the fences we share and activate them when I’m within range in my bedroom, outside in the garden, or in the bathroom. They’ve bounced sound of my windows, they’ve used my air cleaners as propulsion systems for harassment, they’ve taken advantage of the concrete slab that connects our houses. Sounds they don’t have, like the rumble of a blockbusting rumble machine, or the gunshots I joked that it would take to evict me, even these sounds they can manufacture and project to me.
But while mobbing uses the old-school and the low-tech, it’s decidedly high tech. This, I would wager, is a natural outgrowth of the development and real estate industries being very forward-thinking when it comes to investigating new ways to make money. Real estate was very quick on the uptake with digital cameras and 360 degree environments to entice customers who want to feel what a house looks like before they see it. Developers and builders have been quick to adopt drone technologies to survey properties, especially those on steep lots as in my own neighborhood, and perhaps to survey their occupants as well. Where profit margins are concerned, the bleeding edge is worth the risk.
There’s no lack of risk with hacking. But for developers and real estate speculators, hacking of all forms is a great way to offload risk. For speculators who sometimes walk fine lines between legal profit and criminal racketeering, mobbing can be a way to achieve the goal of turning over properties for speculation while remaining shielded, even practically indemnified, that is, if the victim swallows the mobber’s line.
To learn why real estate speculators are mad for mobbing, read The natural alliance between tenant clearing and hacking (part 2), to be published in the next day or two.