Gil Scott-Heron said “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” I’m not sure this was what he was talking about, but based on what’s come out of London with the subway and bus explosions, he needs to rewrite the song.
The advent of cellphones with still and video cameras and the proliferation of fixed security cameras has changed everything. Not only did we see still images from the tunnels of the London subway system, we saw video too. It won’t surprise me if, as was the case in Spain, higher quality images from security cameras come out later.
The quality of the hand held cameras isn’t all that great, but it will get better with time. Actually, the quality of the video is inconsequential. The mere fact that we’re all able to be eyewitnesses is what’s important. We saw that demonstrated during the Gulf War when jumpy, pixelated videophones were the only live way out.
This trend of every significant human event being documented was even more evident in the pictures that came out of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand during the December tsunami. With many of the cameras connected to the Internet, these photos are available immediately.
Today convenience store robberies… gas station fires… even police traffic stops are all seen on TV – and seen often.
How will this affect us? Recently, while watching a baseball game on ESPN, a fan ran onto the field. The cameras immediately left the field so as not to encourage others.
Will all of this coverage encourage more terrorism? It’s possible.
On the other hand, there are many who believe the major factor in turning public opinion away from the Vietnam War was the constant images on the nightly news. Could images of carnage stop the violence we saw yesterday in England? That’s possible too. Or it just might serve to galvanize the resolve of those targeted.
This will be much easier to judge in hindsight. All I can say now is, things have changed. This genie is not going back in the bottle.