After #Ferguson, don't fucking tell me Twitter doesn't matter—
Liberal Librarian (@Lib_Librarian) August 14, 2014
I haven’t written much about Ferguson since my last post, mostly because I can’t believe that in 2014 we’re reliving the 1960s.
But, this is something I haven’t done in the string of nights of unrest. I haven’t once turned on our vaunted mainstream media. No CNN, no MSNBC, heavens no Fox News. I’ve relied solely on Twitter to get information.
“But LL,” someone will say, “Twitter? People writing from their parents’ basements?”
Here’s a bit of what Twitter has produced.
Elon James White (@elonjames) August 20, 2014
Fairness? White rancher in Nevada REFUSES to pay grazing fees & backs govt down! Black citizens in #Ferguson protest LEGALLY & get gassed!!!—
Michael Terry (@michaelterry337) August 19, 2014
Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) August 19, 2014
thefieldnegro (@fieldnegro) August 19, 2014
Bob Cesca (@bobcesca_go) August 19, 2014
And these are just a few. People on Twitter sharing information from MSM sources. People on the ground tweeting observations. Bloggers writing explanatory pieces. A complete picture on the siege of Ferguson available just by firing up your Twitter feed and viewing sources.
The People’s View very own Allan Brauer did what no one in the MSM seemed to want to do and exposed the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s reporter Christine Byers’ possible conflict in her tweets claiming that she had at least “a dozen” witnesses corroborating Officer Darren Wilson’s version of the Mike Brown killing. He’s not a paid journalist. He’s a writer on a small blog. But with a few emails and phone calls, he did what the mainstream media is supposed to do: ask hard questions, probe claims, see if the narrative holds up to skeptical inquiry. Someone unpaid, uncredentialed, doing citizen journalism. And getting a response from the reporter’s newspaper, disassociating itself from her tweets.
I’m not casting a curse on the MSM, though it often deserves it. It has resources that the Allan Brauers or the Liberal Librarians of the world don’t. But resources without vision just make for flashy graphics and breathless gossip.
Jake Tapper received accolades for his castigation of the police response to peaceful protests. On live television, he did something few mainstream reporters do: question police tactics and authority. For that he should be, even if grudgingly, commended.
But he had spent the bulk of the day reporting on the leaked portions of the coroner’s report, the part where Mike Brown was made out to be some drugged up madman intent on killing an innocent police officer. I’ve smoked pot. It has never made me want to wreak havoc. Was Mike Brown’s chemical makeup that much different than mine?
And how long did it take for the Jake Tappers to make it to Ferguson? Even my praise of him was, well, let’s be frank, snarky. I don’t generally opine that a journalist has “found his testicles” out of admiration. If not for Antonio French, if not for the live streamers, if not for the Tweeters, we would have known next to nothing.
WE ARE THE MEDIA. Folks on the ground with Twitter and smart phones are reporting. And I know, the MSM will say “But can you believe them?” Well, one person, no. But the crowd, all reporting, all their accounts in sync, yes. All the folks on the ground corroborate each other. That’s the media. I’ve been saying this for a few days now: we are in the middle of the second Internet revolution. It began with the Arab Spring, and has just been gaining momentum. The CNNs, the MSNBCs, the networks, they have their place; but they’re no longer the gate keepers.
For every Richard Engel reporting from Gaza City, there were dozens of Palestinians on the ground tweeting the horror Israel was inflicting on them. They were the voices to which I listened. Their testimony was much more powerful than that of any reporter’s. The reporter—assuming he or she wasn’t erased by a US-supplied Hellfire missile—would move on to the next war zone. The civilian would have to stay, trapped in her ghetto, getting out to the world the sheer terror of living under Israeli siege.
Likewise in Ferguson, MO. Jake Tapper and Chris Hayes will go back to their air conditioned studios. I would like to think that what they have experienced on the streets of a Midwestern town under lockdown will stay with them. But although I am an optimist, I’m not a fool, and I wager that this too will fade away as another “interesting” experience. But the people on the street, the residents live streaming and tweeting, they will have to continue the fight for justice. They’ll still be there, bearing witness and struggling for a decent life, long after the network cameras are gone. They are the journalists whose voices matter, because they come from and speak for the community.
We ARE the media. We are in the middle of the second Information Revolution. The people with satellite uplinks and klieg lights will still have their place. But they will not be the main witnesses. All of us can hold power to account. And we must, if we are to have any kind of decent life.
Mike Brown should never have been killed. His young life was snuffed out for no good reason. But the reaction to his murder is proof that humans still strive for justice, still strive for freedom, despite what those in authority will.
Walter Cronkite narrated the Civil Rights struggle for middle American homes in the Sixties. Today, it could be me. It could be you. And that is power.