With everything that happened this weekend, I read a lot of posts about violence in society increasing. Except it’s not… not really. Technology has just made it so we hear about it faster and it reaches the world much faster. Also, with the age of everyone having a camera on their phone, we get to see it live…
Imagine how different everyone’s perspective of the Watt’s Riots would be if half the crowd had been able to Tweet it or Facebook it live. Or the clashes during the Civil Rights Movement? Or Tiananman Square?
Sadly, in the history of the world, violence has been a very real thing. It’s not new. It’s not an increasing trend. It isn’t even for new or different reasons.
It’s all about digital cameras and the ability to stream. They have changed the way we view the world because before they were invented, news was happening to anonymous people who might appear in a 30-second news segment describing what happened… But now, we can watch it live and that 30-second segment has become a 4 minute video with screaming and crying and chaos and confusion.
But now, we can watch it live because every person with a cell phone has the ability to get the video that every news reporter drools about getting. Here’s a great example of what I mean:
Someone once asked me if Zodiac were active today, would he remain uncaught. The answer is no, because there would be video of him. 3 teens saw the murder of Paul Stine and called the police while the crime was in progress. The cops actually stopped a guy walking down the road, but the description of the perpetrator was wrong and he was released without getting his information. Today, those teens would have been recording it on their phones, the police car would have had a dash cam and recorded video of the guy they stopped and questioned, and there’s a good chance at least one of the cops would have had a body camera on and gotten good closeups of Zodiac.
It’s when you apply that logic to events like what happened this weekend in Charlottesville, that you realize violence isn’t new, it’s how we are feed the news that makes the difference.
Can you even imagine how horrified modern viewers of Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Egypt would be if they had our technology? Or the Tudors? Medicis? Borgias? Hapsburgs? The French Revolution? George III? Imagine 4000 Russians with camera phones streaming the Russian Revolution… Or Emmett Till wearing a body camera the night he was murdered.
Executions and murder used to be forms of entertainment (and we complain about modern youth being desensitized to violence). If anything, society has actually become a little more civilized and less violent.
As a historian, I have noticed a shift in perspective in the last ten years or so. I think we are finally becoming more sensitive to violence as a whole because now it’s not just some random people we know nothing about… Social media and the ability to stream violence while it happens has made us more aware of it and the victims because now they aren’t just names and tragic events… we can stream them and see the outcry on their friends’ Twitter and Instagram accounts. However, since we have become more sensitive to it, it does feel like it is happening more and more frequently.
Ok, enough… It’s my birthday. Tomorrow, a special post about Demonic Dreams.