Thursday, June 18, 2015

Over-Awareness of the Camera

Behind makeshift barricades in the basement of a small church there will be 18 people, 17 of which will be hostages of an assault rifle-toting, 21-year-old schizophrenic full of sweet red wine and homemade speed.

The cops surrounding the church know he has already killed at least three people. Unbeknownst to the specialist negotiating with him on the telephone, the hostage-taker will have his finger on the trigger of a portable nuclear device.

To buy time the culprit's demand that CNN broadcast his message to the world will be met. His laptop will transmit his image and voice as he announces: "I am the Looney Tunes Bomber, my presentation will be a short subject." Then he will hurl accusations at a list of people, some of them celebrities. The final minute of his rambling performance will be consumed by a rapt audience of millions of viewers. 

After chuckling, “Tha, tha … that’s all folks,” the wannabe celebrity will set off the first nuclear bomb to be used by a terrorist.

It will blow Boise, or maybe Baltimore, off the map. The first video of the suicidal bomber’s diabolical stunt will go up on YouTube less than a half-hour after the appearance of the mushroom cloud.

Somewhere, in Rio, or Tokyo, or elsewhere, a heart will be beating faster in the chest of another angry child abuse victim, a boy who will be inspired by LTB’s bloodthirsty audacity. Instantly, he will decide to somehow set off an explosion to overshadow it.

In 2015 we are watching a generation grow up with an awareness of the camera that goes far beyond previous generations. And, we are witnessing a snowballing of the ability of anyone to transmit words and images about love, hate, religion, style and politics, by way of the Internet, to a worldwide audience.

It’s anybody’s guess where the current generation’s insatiable thirst to record and share voluminous records of their everyday lives will lead ... good or bad. We do already know that revolutionaries everywhere are relying on social media in a way that is mind-boggling.

Meanwhile, more and more we are seeing news stories that are tantamount to stunts staged for willing cameras. While it's fashionable these days to scold the press for its tasteless and excessive coverage of certain events, it's not entirely the fault of media executives and editors. The stories they encounter, in some cases, have been planned and packaged by people who are damn good at planting a story.

A precedent-setter in this area occurred in 1979 with the shameful cooperation that developed between news-gatherers for television and the Iranian "students," who demonstrated on a daily basis in front of the American embassy during the hostage crisis that sabotaged the presidency of Jimmy Carter. Now we know that much of the feverish chanting and fist waving was done on cue. Now we know the camera shots were pushed in tight because the angry horde yelling, "Death to America!" was only a dozen souls deep.

Today, it seems cultural and religious grievances are routinely becoming more heated, here and abroad, by provocative or slanted news coverage. Moreover, much of the reportage these days actually seems designed to inflame situations being covered.

On top of that, in America, the press scrutiny of angry the anti-government firestorm being stoked by some for political gain is surely helping to push some alienated militia types closer to the edge -- the sort that sees Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh as a hero.

Speaking of McVeigh, the future’s bomber in the church basement will have already seen how plenty of sullen murderers have been made into celebrities by the press. So his last thoughts might be about who he hopes will play him in the movie about his precedent-setting stunt.


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