Why social media loves chaos

Last month, a climate activist attacked the Mona Lisa with cake. The vandalism, which went viral, doesn’t tell us much about climate change, but it says a lot about the enduring appeal of chaos

“Complete disorder and confusion” is how chaos is defined in the dictionary. It’s a pretty apt description of what occurred in the Louvre in Paris on May 29, when a 30-something ‘climate activist’ touting a wig and some potentially misguided ideas disguised himself as an old woman in a wheelchair, and attempted to vandalise the Mona Lisa with a slice of cake.

After his bodged endeavour to smash the bulletproof glass that protects Da Vinci’s masterpiece failed, he settled for smearing said glass with cake, before tossing a bunch of roses at its feet, and removing his disguise, Scooby Doo-style. As he was carted off by security, he turned back to a crowd alit with phone cameras. “Think about the Earth,” he declared in French, “there are people who are destroying the Earth, think about it!”

The stunt went viral. Google searches for ‘mona lisa cake’ and ‘mona lisa attack’ have skyrocketed, while videos of the moment have blown up across platforms. The monolithic discussion around climate change, however, has rumbled on unchanged. Does this mean that the attacker failed?

In terms of activism, probably. That said, we can still learn a lot from how the story unfolded online. Because while the attack may not be a case study in excellent activism, it’s a great example of how to draw attention on social. And it all comes back to chaos.

DESIGNER

LONDON