Liv­ing in a time of Twit­ter and mass mur­der in the U.S.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - A view of San Fran­cisco head­quar­ters of Twit­ter

On nice days, YouTube em­ploy­ees would en­joy their lunch hour in the en­closed court­yard at the com­pany head­quar­ters in San Bruno, Cal­i­for­nia. On April 3, that lunchtime rou­tine was shat­tered: A woman en­tered the court­yard from the park­ing garage through an un­locked gate and opened fire with a 9 mm hand­gun. She wounded three YouTube em­ploy­ees – one re­mains hos­pi­tal­ized – be­fore tak­ing her own life. The shoot­ing un­folded in real time on so­cial me­dia and cable news, cap­ti­vat­ing pub­lic at­ten­tion. The in­ci­dent and its after­math il­lus­trates two points: how me­dia cov­er­age of such shoot­ings cre­ates more vi­car­i­ous than ac­tual vic­tims and how that cov­er­age makes the United States ap­pear to be more dan­ger­ous than it ac­tu­ally is.

The Big Pic­ture

Only 25 per­cent of all mass pub­lic at­tacks in the United States are ide­o­log­i­cally or po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated terrorism. Most at­tacks are mo­ti­vated by work­place or per­sonal griev­ances or men­tal health prob­lems. How­ever, no matter the mo­tive, the plan­ning cy­cle is sim­i­lar for all these at­tacks, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to see at­tack de­vel­op­ing and to take steps to dis­rupt it.

A sig­nif­i­cant part of the an­swer lies in the tech­no­log­i­cal changes that have rev­o­lu­tion­ized the way Amer­i­cans re­ceive news. In 1980, the in­ter­net was vir­tu­ally un­heard of, cable TV news was in its in­fancy, and most peo­ple re­ceived their news from news­pa­pers and net­work tele­vi­sion. In 1980, an in­ci­dent like the one at YouTube would barely have reg­is­tered a blip in the global news me­dia. It would not have been spec­tac­u­lar enough to merit more than a few sec­onds on the nightly news, or a few short para­graphs buried in­side the na­tional news­pa­pers. Fur­ther­more, by the time the in­ci­dent would have been re­ported by the me­dia, it would have been long over, the at­tacker dead and the number of vic­tims known.

Com­pare that 1980 news cov­er­age with that of April 2018, when Twit­ter and other so­cial me­dia plat­forms de­liv­ered the news of the

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