The Situation in Ferguson is Surreal...

In New New Media, Paul Levinson writes perceptively about social media and citizen journalism. He analyzes the social context of events such as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wallstreet movements. Last night, my Twitter timeline blazed with dozens and dozens of tweets on the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. 

Images of armor-clad tactical police units demanding identification from American citizens in a suburban McDonalds are, to say the least, unsettling. Part of the definition of surreal, at least as it applies to politics, is that notion of building an unsettling atmosphere. To see the very symbol of American homogeneity (those ubiquitous Golden Arches) being invaded like a drug house on the other side of the tracks was astonishing. 

It just went downhill from there. Police units firing rubber bullets into crowds and lobbing gas grenades into packs of American citizens. Arresting journalists for taking pictures of the demonstrations.


Twitter delivered the crazy directly to my couch, in more ways than one. Sure, there was great reporting from legitimate journalists. There was also rabid, angry race baiting and the same kinds of ignorance that caused Zelda Williams to flee social media altogether.

What a double-edged sword. At the same time that folks are using new media to create some form of social justice in a terrible situation, a large and vocal faction has thrown civility right out the window. At least, in the days of print primacy, writers had to sign their names to the letters they wrote to the editorial pages...

The President needs to say something more equivocal on what is taking place there, and the images and stories coming out of Ferguson deserve to be reported. There seems to be a lot of blame to go around in this situation:
County Police Chief Jon Belmar, though, said his officers have responded with "an incredible amount of restraint," as they've been the targets of rocks, bottles and gunshots, with two dozen patrol vehicles being destroyed.
Restricting the flow of information, however, is not a justifiable reaction by law enforcement (the journalists were, however, released without charges). I hope this all ends soon, and with no more loss of human life. This community needs answers, and it needs to heal. The sooner, the better...

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