Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Wisdom of Crowds?

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, there's been much discussion about the morality of the spontaneous celebrations that broke out in several American cities, most notably New York and Washington, DC, the two cities most closely associated with the 9/11 attacks.  I too had an immediate reaction when I saw the crowds cheering, but my thoughts went not so much to whether it was wrong--or just bad form--but rather to whether it was wise.  Others have since made this point, but I'm sure this footage is being viewed, re-viewed, shared, and stored by some we'd rather not have seen it.  While I understand, empathize with, and even share the impulse that led these folks into the street, a second chance to think on it beforehand would have served us well down the road.

The footage also led me to wonder what the British were doing.  They too have much reason to celebrate bin Laden's death, but they also have much more experience living with terrorism.  I wrote several London friends and colleagues, and none reported hearing of or seeing any kind of public celebrations.

Looking at the pictures of the crowds and observing their youth, I'm left wondering how much of this was a social media celebration--a strange and more trivial bookend of sorts to what we've seen in the Arab Spring.

And circling back to the title of this post, it also bears noting that most of us didn't take to the streets.  In the new media age, however, that basic fact is just context.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The death of bin Laden was both desirable and disturbing. Those who demand pictures of the dead man distress me. It seems that Americans have an unending and morbid "need" for blood.

Think of all the murder shows on TV.
"Mystery" TV once took place in the courtroom; now it's on the table in the morgue.