The camera is running—you can start existing | Bleader

Friday, January 20, 2012

The camera is running—you can start existing

Posted By on 01.20.12 at 10:00 AM

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Marlborough Diamon
  • Marlborough Diamond
If a tree falls in a forest but it doesn't show up on YouTube, did the tree actually fall? Or should we ask, OK it fell but what was the point?

As pundits discuss the troubling behavior revealed in recent videos, they cannot help but wonder about the videos themselves: Why do they exist?

A video of an attack on a teenager in Armour Square leads to the arrest of seven other teenagers. The video was posted on YouTube and created a "viral Internet sensation," according to the Tribune, which asked a communications professor from Purdue to comment. "In the electronic age, the idea that we can share information instantaneously really transforms our basic identity from a private person to a more corporate person, a person who is a part of a group," professor Glenn Sparks told the Tribune. "In order to be significant, the behavior has to be out there and readily available for everyone to have access to."

California psychologist Pam Rutledge told the Associated Press, "Medieval warriors putting the heads of their enemies on sticks, scalping and even school yard brawls in the '50s—they're all ways of displaying that dominance in public. These new tools—the Internet, YouTube—just let you spread the word much farther."

Speaking of corporate people, and speaking of warriors, in Thursday's Tribune columnist Leonard Pitts tries to make sense of a video that he says "has sparked international outrage." It's the one of four U.S. marines pissing on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters. "War is a form of madness," Pitts writes, offering the marines a modicum of sympathy. But "this is not to suggest those Marines ought not be criticized—not only for doing an awful thing but also, frankly, for being dumb enough to allow it to be recorded and posted online."

Pitts is old school. He's of the generation that believes the evil a man does lives after him but for now it's unbecoming to boast. He would understand and appreciate Joseph Scalise and Arthur Rachel, a couple of old mobsters described elsewhere in the Tribune in connection with a recent run of strong-arm robberies and the 1980 heist of the Marlborough Diamond in London. Tribune reporter Annie Sweeney tells us that when an FBI agent flew to London to grill the two suspects, he got nothing. Scalise wouldn't answer questions. Rachel wouldn't even sit for an interview. And the Marlborough Diamond has never been seen again.

If Scalise and Rachel were starting out today on their life of crime, would they be so taciturn? Of would they take a modern view of mayhem? Would one carry a gun, the other a camera? And until a video surfaced of the two mugs, in the Arab robes and fake beards they donned as disguises in London, strutting out of the jewelry store with their booty would they feel they had not truly consummated the deed?

That sort of self-incriminating showmanship makes no sense to Pitts, or to a lot of other people. But to some it's part and parcel of existing. And maybe it is old-school. To the old Greeks and Romans, didn't renown beat survival?

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