The riots of spring.
With the spring, the usual noise of useless information, that comes to us through new technology, turns to more informative and socially conscious matters, and to the stirrings of malcontent. Along with the buds of May, we see, here and there, scattered about in virtual spheres of influence, man’s inhumanity to man; exposed, raw and confrontative. Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere show us unfolding events that we could not have known was happening prior to the information age we live in. Sure, we have seen these stirrings before. In my case the scenes of the student riots in Soweto in 1976, and the photograph of the Napalm Girl in Vietnam, stand out.
The power to communicate in those images was diminished by their lack of immediacy. The iconic images of our lifetimes have, until recently, been viewed after the fact. And so, because of the delay, we could stand back and declare that what is past is past, and we can postpone our responsibility.
As we know, the Arab Spring changed all that. It came to us in real-time, and in April, 2010 the Egyptian government declared the repeal of an emergency law that had been in place since 1963, allowing the government authority to suspend constitutional rights. That month the Syrian government launched the first of what became a series of crackdowns. We have watched the decent into mayhem ever since, and as we watched, the voices of decent have risen up.
When almost everyone has a camera in a phone, and has the ability to post their photographs instantly on social media, without concern for publication deadlines, quality or censorship, we are exposed to a wide variety of images that are happening in close-to real-time. As Americans protest police violence against black and other communities, the story trends up and goes viral almost as it is happening. The television networks chase the story. They don’t cover the story, they cover the event. Seldom do they analyze the root cause, but they air, over and over and over the same sensational clips. Later, they hire paid pundits to weigh in. Meantime, the on-line analysis is crowd-sourced, frequently skewed, and inaccurate. All opinion is welcome, yet the silent majority remains silent, and their silence is taken as conservative and frightened. I was struck by the Baltimore protester who pointed out to Garaldo Rivera that Fox didn’t come to report on what’s wrong with living conditions for blacks in Baltimore, they came to report the “black riots”. The protester even asks that the cameras covering his outrage be turned off. “This is not for YouTube,” he says. (although he must know it is.) But Rivera refuses to engage him. No conversation. Point made: television broadcasts, it’s a one-way street. The point of view (see video below) is one that no network would ever cover, yet the video has been viewed over a million times.
Regardless, the discerning reader must find perspective and compare what is happening as Ferguson, Baltimore, and other cities explode.
The conclusion becomes clear:
POLICING HAS TO CHANGE.
Because we are all watching.
Our watchfulness blocks, what before, was censored, obfuscated and doctored for public consumption. Instead, a barrage of video and photographic material boils to the surface from a wide cross-section of a population who cared enough (for good or questionable reasons) to be there to record the event. It is not reporting, but it is a report, and it is plentiful. Even police departments are beginning to adopt uniform cameras, and in some cases have incriminated themselves.
I am grateful I live in an age where technology leads to transparency. Yes, we need to manage it better so it protects people’s privacy, but it should never be managed so that the truth gets swept under the rug.