remote-control witnesses, all

The stories of hostage-taking in France have unfolded on Twitter this morning.  Or, perhaps, I should really say “unravelled”.

Twitter is a hit-a-second medium at the best of times: not good for ageing hearts I guess.


I found myself on the point of tweeting – and then self-censoring the tweet in question – that there were indeed times when we didn’t need the oxygen of publicity.  The nearest I’ll ever get to siding with any of Thatcher’s touchstones.

I did tweet this:

Mind you, I suppose I’d be accused of only fearing for my white supremacist and patriarchal privileges.  And, you know, you could be right.

The problem in part, of course, is the construct that is our media.  Our relationship with information is mediated as never before.  They say, of course they say, that social networks provide a corrective: I have, however, been as confused and fooled by individuals who’ve communicated with me on such networks as I regularly am by the mainstream invaders of the same.

So we occupy in this construct the supposed position of privileged witnesses.  Yet we control not the frame, not the direction of the camera lens; neither, in the simple writing, the adjectives nor the verbs chosen to define.

We are not real witnesses; we are, instead, vicarious voyeuristic souls.  We’re zapper witnesses: witnesses via remote control.  It was always kinda that, I suppose: but we had the long read then; cuddling up with our papers then; thinking beyond the narrative and making our own corrections amongst friends and fam then.

Or not as the case may be.

It often depended on the household.

Even so, a different then in many ways.

Now we are tugged here and there by the manipulators.  The manipulators are the ones who we know well; but there are new ones too.  The information is as freely available to the bad guys as it is to the good guys.

It even allows the good guys to feel they aren’t, and the bad guys to feel how alike to the good guys they might be.

Or not.

Depending on how thoughtful the good guys really are.

In the end, as zapper witnesses, we get a taste for no unmediated reality at all.  And whilst our keyboard warrior-like behaviours reflect our desire to do good with the minimum of effort, few of us really exist outside the white tent of forensically self-interested examination which these media constructs persist in putting up around our perceptions.

As Chris concludes:

It’s in this context that we should remember one of Marx’s insights. Ideals, he thought, triumph not because of their intellectual strength but because of their political power: capitalism, he thought, would be overthrown not by sweet reason but by the power of the working class. The problem that we supporters of freedom have is that whilst we have right on our side, we don’t have might.

And those with might on their side, meanwhile, sell us a freedom riddled with the inconsistencies of such mediation.

Or, put more simply, because of their plain and flat – very human – desires to remain at the top of their respective ecosystems … that’s where they stay.

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