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September 18, 2013

Times Square Tweet Carnage: Where We (and Twitter) Are Now

A little over a year ago, I wrote about pictures of the Empire State Building shooting that were posted to Instagram. My take at the time (“Instagram and Murder”) was that the making and posting of those photos were largely a personal and unselfconscious process motivated by the instinct to make something surreal feel more real.

In the time between the Empire State shooting and this incident with a crazy man and the slipshod police shooting of bystanders last Saturday night, certainly Twitter and Instagram have evolved in their cultural roles — and certainly not in the direction of innocence. Today, Twitter is a much more commercial, more exhibitionistic, more promotional and attention-seeking vehicle than it was before. It is much more of a gawking and tabloid territory, the happenstance procurement of a slice of trauma or celebrity functions as much or more like a trophy, the posting and engagement less an act of witnessing than voyeurism.

I’m not saying, by the way, that the citizen-photographer,” Ms. Nesbeth, wasn’t well intentioned, or her photos weren’t also seeking to witness and find sense. There are elements of this in her feed too.

What differentiates the Empire State and the Times Square shooting photos especially, however, is that both Mr_Mookie ((Muhammad Malik) and Ryan Styrin, who captured the former photos, were largely unaware of creating a piece of media or an artifact of cultural significance. When later interviewed, in fact, both expressed defiance over the suggestion of the images as a commodity.

What a far cry from Ms. Nesbeth’s first tweet:

Omg just witnessed NYPD gun down a pedestrian in Times Square @CNN

(photos: Kerri Ann Nesbeth ‏@knesbeth/Twitter – 14 September. caption 1: Omg just witnessed NYPD gun down a pedestrian in Times Square @CNN caption 2: This cannot be happening in front of me @CNN

  • bks3bks

    Normally the NYPD had to fire many more shots to wound two innocent bystanders so their marksmanship is improving, but as the seriously wounded woman was in a walker they only get half-credit.

  • bystander

    Maybe I’m totally missing the point, Michael. I don’t “do” Instagram, or “do” much more with twitter than follow a narrowly select group of people… So, I tend not to feel “over exposed” to the images/chatter that gets circulated. I’m wondering – given my constrained experience – whether its the medium which produces the commercial, exhibitionist, promotional, attention seeking submissions, or the people deploying it. I get that twitter allows individuals a much longer reach than they would likely have otherwise. And, I get that the opportunistic, coupled with folks inclined to gawk and gape, a shallow/grasping environment can be created. Still, is it the individuals using the application, or the application itself which generates this environment? Are you arguing that if twitter and Instagram didn’t make it so easy to do, that this environment wouldn’t exist? [Mutters to self: Not sure I said that well.]

    more exhibitionistic, more promotional and attention-seeking – See
    more at:
    more exhibitionistic, more promotional and attention-seeking – See
    more at:

    • bystander

      Okay. Mystery solved. Memo to self: One cannot do copy and paste into the BagNewsNotes comment windows. Now I understand the origins of all the weird stuff that showed up in my comment months ago.

  • jesse08

    Can someone tell me how to view this site without the left side of the page being obscured by the next and share links?

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