English 738T, Spring 2015
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The Complexities of Modern Subjectivity in Reporting

Posted by Denis Dodson on Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 at 3:14 am

It is currently 2:51 am, and I devoted the entirety of tonight to following the incidents occurring in Baltimore, particularly with an emphasis with Twitter.  Obviously, Ferguson was at the fore-front of my mind, and how each of these two separate events might somehow intersect.  And it is just about to turn to 3am, so excuse if this is complete rambling, but I am very interested in how each of the “sides” to the Baltimore incident handled the reporting of the incident.

I am not experienced with Twitter, but the top post for “#BaltimoreRiots” states the following, “By my count so far, five journalists attacked in #BaltimoreRiots -some injuries-photos…” and then linked to an outside post which I will not attach.  This, to me, isn’t surprising in the slightest.  Being behind cameras at a heated event is, of course, dangerous.  However, while watching a livestream of the event, on the street at around 1:16am, two events happened on camera roughly 30 minutes apart:

1.)  The cameraman who was livestreaming was told to “Get outta here take a picture.”, and was hit with a glass bottle of alcohol by a Baltimore resident.

2.)  Swat teams flashed strobelights at the cameraman’s equipment, in an attempt to disrupt the recording.

These two incidents, immediately following each other, are incredibly interesting to me, primarily in regards to our readings for class.  In an example of both Frankenstein and Caleb Williams, we have documentation and reporting through narration.  Each of these works seem to hold subjective reporting in extremely high regards, emphasizing the writing of journals in order to document history, regardless of subjectivity.  However, objective documentation in the form of recording seems to be completely unwanted tonight by both sides of the conflict.  And yet each side takes so readily to Twitter to document their feelings.

I would argue, therefore, that Frankenstein and Caleb Williams offer very unique insights into tonight’s conflict – in both of these stories, the reporting is purely subjective.  Likewise, Twitter is also purely subjective.  It seems that the “attacked” medium, livefootage, is unwanted as a purely objective form of documentation.  I am therefore curious what use objectivity has in the complexities of the works we have read for class.  Can we only arrive at the “truth” of these situations by delving into the subjective rather than the objective?  Is there even such a thing as the objective in regards to both journal or footage keeping?

The livefootage was archived, and readily available upon request.  However, the site is very aflame with spammers and racial remarks, so it is a very “Not Safe For Work” environment at the moment, so I will refrain from posting it anywhere on this site, just in case. Now, to sleep.  If none of this made sense, expect edits in the morning!

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2 Responses

  • Kayla Harr says:

    The point that individuals on both sides of the conflict demonstrated negative responses to potentially objective documentation is a great observation. I would question what it means for any form of documentation to ever be completely objective, and suggest that perhaps those reacting negatively to the filming did not perceive it as objective, but in the interest of discussing a question I find quite compelling in your post, let’s assume that the live footage is objective.

    What I find intriguing about the distinction you’re discussing between Twitter representations of the events, which both sides were enthusiastically posting as a form of subjective documentation, and unedited live footage without any particular commentary or focus, which both sides seem to have perceived as a threat, is that it demonstrates preference for crafted, or perhaps even simulated versions of reality. The real in its unedited form is undesirable, not just because it is unproductive as it does not convey a particular political position, but because it is potentially dangerous. The function of media (both social and news, though such distinctions are narrowing) is to represent reality to the audience. However, because objectivity dissolves as soon as decisions about what to represent and how are made, media ultimately simulates a representation of reality as the real itself. In a conflict, both sides create their own competing simulations to attack and discredit the opposing position. It would seem that those who object to objective documentation do not wish for the exchange of simulations to be disrupted. I’m reminded, (probably only because I’m writing a paper on it), of a line from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets: “human kind / Cannot bear very much reality.” It seems that those you observed attempting to obscure or discourage the live footage displayed just such a resistance to the peril of unfiltered reality and its potential to reveal the constructedness of simulation. It’s a resistance that I would argue we have encountered in The Matrix, Blade Runner, Frankenstein, and other texts in which characters demonstrate preference for virtual, imagined, dreamed, or otherwise limited forms of reality.

    • Denis Dodson says:

      “The real in its unedited form is undesirable, not just because it is unproductive as it does not convey a particular political position, but because it is potentially dangerous”

      That is a fascinating observation. And I believe you are 100% correct in stating that, as soon as any discussion enters an “objective” situation, it loses its objectivity, creating simulated realities. If I recall correctly, there was even a push on twitter to focus on the truly peaceful protests that were happening around the city, but were overshadowed by the violent protests. What I have been considering is whether the focus on the violent necessarily a form of alternate reality to the situation as a whole. Does having a truly peaceful protest existing, though ignored, and having the situation as a whole defined as “violent” become problematic? I am not even entirely sure.

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