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.