Tuesday, September 18, 2007

University of Florida / John Kerry Incident: Is Seeing Believing?

Today's classic example of social media's rapid influence of public opinion:

I'm sure you all know the story already about the University of Florida senior student Andrew Meyer and what happened during a Q&A session with John Kerry at the school.

But whether or not you believe the police officers' reactions was warranted or not, what's interesting from a social media perspective is how fast this story has blazed across the interwebs via the YouTube video that shows what went down (there's many videos posted from different angles, check them out).

When you watch the video, his screams of pain and cries for help makes you immediately think "omg police brutality!!," but really - do these videos tell the whole story of what transpired before the tapes started rolling?? Apparently many students on the Facebook page calling for a protest believe that despite the sympathy the video creates, Mr. Mayer had broken the rules established about going over time and using profanity.

"What these videos leave out is that Meyer was going to be arrested BEFORE he even asked the question, it had nothing to do with freedom of speech. I was at the forum, and when he was informed that the time allotted for Senator Kerry to answer questions was over, he refused to leave the microphone and the UPD began to attempt to escort him out. He began screaming at Senator Kerry, who, trying to avoid a scene, said he would answer Meyer's question. Even if Meyer had behaved like a perfect gentleman when he asked his question, and not used profanity and raved like a lunatic, he STILL would have been arrested for his prior actions, which were not caught on tape.
Meyer's arrest was completely justified, as can be noted from the applause when he was being escorted out." -Kenny Maskell (UF), on the Facebook event protest page
On Andrew Meyer's personal website, his friends posted all the links to the media stories as well as link to the Facebook event to protest against police brutality.

So whether or not you think the actions taken by the police were justified, this is a strong reminder of the power of social media and the Internet to influence public opinion and spread stories and events in a matter of hours.

9/19: Update: Thank goodness the blogosphere is picking up on this.

1 comment:

Dustin said...

Hey Megan, I believe that the youtube videos of this incident highlight a common phenomena in mainstream media: stories can be manipulated to provoke sympathy or disdain based on the content that is released. If the videos had shown the preceding events, then the general audience would have a much different reaction and a greater understanding of this supposed infraction on civil rights. Every day stories are spun by news sources and distributors in hopes that their audiences will sympathize with the view these sources broadcast on a given topic, allowing them sway popular opinion.