A few observations about Obama’s announcement on Sunday.
How Did You Hear About It?
Thanks to the Chromed Bird plugin, my browser lit up around 10:20pm with news about the live statement. (I was watching Mesrine on Netflix streaming, which is oddly fitting if you’ve seen the film.)
By 10:30pm, Twitter was rife with rumors about bin Laden. There was a palpable sense of news outlets trying to scoop one another, and several smart Twitterers speculating wildly. I for one tried not to participate in that part of it, as I don’t see the point of adding more noise. Remember, this is also the platform famous for how easily false reports of celebrity deaths circulate. By 10:45pm it seemed certain. The Times and several others had heard from a senior official that Osama was dead.
And yet it was fascinating to watch Obama’s live talk at 11:30pm, in the least unmediated format I could find (whitehouse.gov). All of the speculation, rumors, and false predictions fell away, and we were given direct reporting of the day’s events. No matter how you received the news, it had the force of history. But I wonder if it was that much more affecting (to me) because it was directly addressed. This felt different from the “communal experience” of last year’s World Cup (or, for several people, the Royal Wedding).
Sohaib Athar unknowingly live-tweeted the Abbottabad strike. Here’s what his follower graph looks like:
…Which I’m sure will hockey-stick even more over the next few days.
First Twitter, Then Everywhere Else
Many are calling it Twitter’s “CNN moment,” when the service came into its own as both the first and the primary news source for millions. Here’s their own look at the 3K+ tweets/sec on Sunday night:
World historical events to tend to hold a mirror up to our media landscape as it exists right now. I for one enjoyed David Remnick’s brief on how this fits into Obama’s longstanding approach to foreign policy, and I’m looking forward to the longer New Yorker piece to come. Rounding out the ecosystem (and no less central than all those Tweets and FB updates) will be all the 300pg+ books rushed into production. The best-timed of the lot, no doubt, will be Thomas Dunne’s Seal Team Six, a book already written (!). But there’s also space for a veteran historian or journalist to write a definitive account. (Who will it be? I suspect we’ll find out in 2012.)