Universal Media Coverage & Our Sense of Place

handsThere are two horrible things that happened in the last week.  The first being the tragic events at the Sandy Hook Elementary school, which I will not repeat.  The second being a group of professional trolls who seeks to exploit this tragedy for their own religious-litigious ends in their usual fashion.  I do not name them, because I do not wish to increase their notoriety.

Both of these incidents brought me back to thinking about my November entry about the racist teens on Twitter*.  In that post I talk about how beneficial this new, deeply connected world is, and how ultimately this can lead to the dissolution of racism by popping the bubbles of isolated places.

In light of this last week of events, I can also see the flipside.  Over at Quartz, Lenore Skenazy wrote an excellent piece comparing the abundance of media coverage now to that of an incident that took place in Michigan in 1928.  The salient piece of her article is this:

“In 1928, the odds are that if people in this country read about this tragedy, they read it several days later, in place that was hard to get to,” explains Art Markman, author of “Smart Thinking” (Perigee Books, 2012). “You couldn’t hop on a plane and be there in an hour. Michigan? If you were living in South Carolina, it would be a three-day drive. It’s almost another country. You’d think, ‘Those crazy people in Michigan,’ same as if a school blows up in one of the breakaway Republics.”

Time and space create distance. But today, those have compressed to zero. The Connecticut shooting comes into our homes–even our hands–instantly, no matter where we live. We see the shattered parents in real time. The President can barely maintain composure. This sorrow isn’t far away, it’s local for every single one of us.

For good or ill, she’s right.

On September 11, 2001 I lived in Seattle, Washington.  My mother called me at 6:00 a.m. and me, being a graduate student, had been out till the wee hours at the pub.  I was groggy, and asked her if she remembered the three hour time difference between Washington and Ohio.  She told me to turn on the television, and I did.  Every channel was playing the video.  I don’t even need to tell you what it was, because we all saw it. Every single person who was alive at that moment in the United States remembers that moment.  And for three solid days I couldn’t tear myself away from the coverage.  I was shaken, traumatized, and I was 3,000 miles away.  When Fox finally broke the 24/7 coverage and played a commercial I broke down in tears.  A truck never made me so happy.  Reruns of Friends came back on and I felt like I wasn’t going to die of perpetual grief.

We are becoming more and more deeply interconnected on a global scale.  This amplifies the experience of tragic events to national and international proportions.  With Twitter reports from people at the scene of these events, something will come to you immediately with the cache of personal experience.

In thinking about the trolls, I have been telling people time and again, don’t feed the trolls. The more you try to fight them, the stronger their resolve. And this latest iteration of their trolling made me long for a media blackout.  Such a thing is no longer possible, if it ever really was, because now everyone is the media.  Again, for good or ill.

All this makes me feel that yes, we are one. Your flaws are everyone’s flaws, your pain is everyone’s pain, and your joy is everyone’s joy.  We are one people, on one planet.  Different as snowflakes, but all connected.


* In the wake of the Connecticut event, the President pre-empted Sunday night football coverage to deliver a message to a grieving nation.  Racist jerks responded on Twitter and Deadspin (a sister blog to Jezebel) had that coverage.