Has it finally come down to this? Has our society reached its lowest point ever?
As I'm sure everyone knows, a young television reporter and cameraman were shot down Wednesday in the middle of a live interview in Virginia. The reporter screamed and turned to run as the camera fell to the ground. The cameraman basically filmed his own murder, as well as the reporter's, and captured the suspect's face in the process.
A few hours later, the story got even more disturbing. Several hours after the shooting, a Twitter account began tweeting, singling out the deceased victims with the statement 'I filmed the shooting see Facebook.' His Facebook account showed the recorded video with the gun barrel aimed at the victims.
A murder designed to be carried out in social media. A horrifying live execution by a disgruntled ex-employee who uploaded the graphic footage to his Facebook and Twitter accounts, all while being pursued by the Virginia State Police.
A shooting to be carried live without warning. And if you missed it; a replay posted on his social media accounts. In this selfie age of posting our lives online perhaps we shouldn't be surprised it would eventually happen. Armed with a gun and a body mounted camera, he lay in waiting for the right moment to open fire. And when he did, he recorded it all the while. Twitter and Facebook removed the footage as soon as they were made aware of it, but by that time it had gone viral, and it lives on in all its horror.
This wasn't a movie or video game. It was another senseless slaughter of innocent people by a disturbed individual who should never have been able to buy a gun. We've seen it before with Columbine and Sandy Hook, however this is the first mass murder designed for social media. Very disturbing.
Roy Peter Clark of the Pointer Journalism Institute stated online:
"The tools of the digital age, like all technologies, are morally neutral. They can be used to inform, inspire and console. And we learn again today that they can be used with murderous rage to blot out everything that is human and decent."
Social media has been used in the past to provide evidence of a crime, but it seems to have crossed a new line where it is now part of the motive in committing the crime. The gunman clearly knew he would reach a wide social media audience with this final act.
The corporate media itself used to be primarily responsible for reporting news and other information in real time. This crime however demonstrates that the power is no longer in the hands of the corporations, but in fact it is distributed across all individuals around the world.
Social media companies have a responsibility in how they address violent content, but so do we as individuals.