I am a regular user of Twitter (@tfooq), and I’m intrigued by the medium’s potential. But following users like @notq, @theuptake, @coldsnaplegal, @webster and @mnindylive completely opened the RNC to me in a way no live media experience ever has.
Many users around the protests, mostly interested in keeping track of police brutality and helping the protesters keep track of police movements, would send out Twitter posts with bits of information or commentary on experiences. Nathan Oyler (@notq) was one of the best people to follow because, sitting in his Arizona home, kept track of the massive amount of RNC protest-related posts (while also watching the live video from The Uptake) and re-posted each interesting bit. When the action on the group heated up, this was not a small task. Here is an example of just a couple minutes:
The following are posts by Twitter user @notq:
Shot after shot protestors being pounded with gas. Cannot see close enough to give details.
“Firebombs! They grabbed me and said move!”
hitting us over and over. Split us up firing flashbangs into other group.
Chants are back..”who’s streets..our streets!”
people are starting to not be able to see to tweet.
A friend emails: “isn’t using snowplows to block peaceful protesters the mn nice version of tiananmen square?”
tear gas all around the capitol. stay safe.
crowd mostly scattered. They are firing grenades at individuals.
Reporters form the Daily Planet and the Uptake in custody at Ramsey County detention center
cpatton this is fucked no reason for this
Are we no longer Americans? Are we no longer people?
“It’s all happening in the Sears parking lot right now”
i’m just putting in reports, none of this is me, this is all people on the ground.
is natl media covering this?? THIS IS A BIG FUCKING DEAL
police calling for more masks! They are gassing he small peacful crowd. More flashbangs.
Uptakers minus Corrine and friend in car and safe in sears parking lot. Attempting to get to the office.
Ppl are told to go on bridge..everyone is afraid if they do they will be arrested
Several people have been writing about @notq (including this one by Nancy Scola at techpresident.com). What fascinates me is not just the insight it gave me as a follower of the events from my home in the then-recovering Denver, but also the ability of the medium to help those on the ground.
As a protester of the DNC in Denver, I remember turning around to suddenly find a large group of riot cops trapping us into a city block around 15th and Colfax. The first thought I had was, “Man, we should have radios.” After all, they not only have the weapons, but they have the radios. We can have radios and still be peaceful protesters.
But what about iPhones or BlackBerries? I guess it’s kind of unlikely for an anarchist to have a $100/mo data plan and an iPhone, but they proably should. If we had the kind of information delivered at the RNC, maybe we would not have been taken down so quickly.
But who all is following the tweets? Besides medics, protesters and journalists on the ground and people like me following from home, surely the cops, FBI, Secret Service, Halliburton, whoever cares are following also. Like ideal journalism, very good, specific, live citizen journalism like this puts information into the open. It makes the events transparent to all with access to it (so, people with fancy phones or computers). I felt that between The Uptake and the people I followed on Twitter (and my personal experience in Denver) I really had a good grasp on what was happening at the most intense events of the week as they happened.
This brings me to corporate “journalism”. I did like some of the coverage coming out of the Pioneer Press (but the Star Tribune had no concept of what was happening). The PP really seemed to want to get the word out to their readers (which would have included the Republicans at the convention) what was happening in the streets while they were schmoozing at some expensive party or doing whatever it is they did in the Xcel Center. Sure, they trusted the police more than I would have liked them to (they lie constantly, after all), but I guess that’s standard “balanced” journalism or whatever.
But other corporate press had nothing. More coverage inside the staged, phony convention, and no or next-to-no coverage of the real people in streets getting their asses blown up by a $50 million army of violent, heavily armed police. But Cindy McCain’s outfit totalled $313,100! (OK, that is pretty ridiculous. Didn’t they just get ripped on about some houses they lost count of?) Oh, and Sarah Palin. Do you think she has enough experience?
What a joke.