Today comes a chilling reminder that horrible news does not mean something like a writers strike, and that television is not to be taken literally. A school shooting in Finland left at least eight dead, including the killer. The photo CNN and other outlets are using is from his video manifesto posted to YouTube, and the t-shirt he’s wearing proves that having common affection for a particular TV show is not necessarily a heartwarming bond.
Media reports are playing up the YouTube angle, of course, because as the AMPTP would tell you, this Internet thing is new and scary. But as Greg Sandoval of CNET News points out, that’s as ridiculous as blaming the US Postal Service for the Unabomber.
Danah Boyd is an academic who studies social media, and posts more casually about it on her blog, Apophenia (which, coincidentally, means basically what my blog title is trying to convey – “making connections where none previously existed”). She’s written frequently about the media’s demonization of the Internet. One of her best starts there but gets into the idiocy of pointing fingers at things like YouTube instead of the root issues. Growing up in a culture of fear: From Columbine to banning of MySpace was written two years ago, but not much has changed:
Post-Columbine, we decided to regulate the symptoms of alienation rather than solve the problem. Today, we are trying to regulate youth efforts to have agency and public space. Both are products of a culture of fear and completely miss the point. We need to figure out how to support youth culture, exploration and efforts to make sense of the social world. The more we try to bottle it into a cookie-cutter model, the more we will destroy that generation.
Today, Sandoval writes his Perspective: In Finland shooting, fallout for YouTube?:
So what’s YouTube’s role? YouTube is a tool anyone can use, not an edited newspaper. It’s policed by the community that uses it. If something is indeed offensive, it can be removed. Yes, it’s a change from the old days, when a few people controlled who gets to speak at the bully pulpit. This is the democratization of information. No one gets to control who gets to say what anymore.
The finger-pointers would seem to want to control what troubled teens like Pekka Eric Auvinen post to YouTube instead of wonder why he would post what he did and do what he did and look for meaningful solutions to prevent the motivation for both. The Internet might be a wilderness, but if someone’s crying into it, it’s not just because it’s there.