Two Gallants and fan journalism

By now everyone who pays attention has heard about Saddle Creek band Two Gallants‘ violent and disturbing run-in with Houston police at their show there the other week (if you haven’t, google this for summaries). Aside from issues about the enthusiasm with which some law officers whip out their tasers, it’s interesting because of the role of fan communication in its aftermath, as addressed in this Minnesota Daily editorial:

News coverage of the event has been scattered and varied from sources ranging from the Houston Chronicle and Rolling Stone to MySpace and community journalism efforts, such as first person accounts and digital videos posted online. These efforts had a huge impact on spreading news of the incident and gaining more media attention.

Some MySpace pages about the incident seem to have mysteriously disappeared, though the Two Gallants page seems to be working just fine.

I follow political blogs pretty closely (well, some of them anyway) and one thing that has become a recurring motif is the fear that strikes the hearts of politicians when they realize that YouTube can be used to put up videos of all the stupid things they say and do off the record that are captured by anyone who happens to catch it with their camcorder. The moments they turn their back on the mothers of soldiers, cuss people out, and otherwise act very unpolitic get posted and the blog networks make it viral, ensuring that anyone paying close attention gets to see it. It’s an amazing transformation in control, because reports from those present are one thing, but videos have an impact that’s hard to beat, and now that every digital camera (and many mobile phones) record video and YouTube makes their mass distribution easy, every moment that isn’t poised is fair fodder for your destruction.

What we see in the Two Gallants incident is the same thing, only this time it’s the police (or the band, depending on where you stand) instead of politicians, and it’s music fans instead of political junkies. Nearly 500,000 people have watched this video of the incident. It’s given rise to a lot of discussion about the limits of police power, what to do in incidents like this, and, of course, lots and lots of flame wars. Not the highest level of civic discourse, but still a lot more than there would have been had there been no cameras or YouTube.

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