My drive home tonight was interrupted by about a dozen police cars zipping north with their sirens blaring. As soon as I got home I turned on the local news to see what was happening. All three stations were on full alert, and for good reason: a suspect had shot two police deputies, jacked a car, and sped away northward.
That is a legitimate reason for excitement, but from there things went a little loco. It was as if the insanity of the suspect leeched into the air around the crime scene and particles were inhaled by nosy bystanders.
A message board for one of the news stations featured a post about a woman who was recording the crime scene with a phone – she claimed she was tackled by police who wanted her to stop. One: If officers tell you to stop doing something, they probably have a good reason. Two: What’s more important, shooting a grainy, wobbly video on your phone of some incident you’re not even involved in, or letting the police do their job?
The other idiotic onlooker that got to me was a man who watched the police cars pass him, then drove after them in pursuit to see what was going to happen. The local station featured him as a “witness.” One: No, no, and no. Two: NO!
I think this secondhand insanity might be related to the way social media fosters an egotistical mindset. These people (and others) were concerned mostly with what was happening to themselves. They wanted to be involved in the spectacle of it all. The information they were gathering to “share” wasn’t the primary objective.
I don’t have anything against social media and sharing in general (this is a blog, after all). Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – all good things. What I do have a problem with is self-centeredness and tunnel vision. If you can’t see why driving after a police pursuit is A BAD IDEA, then you have a problem.
Being a spectator is fine when it comes to specifically designed amusements or entertainments: a baseball game, a concert, a movie. But individuals get it into their heads that the world is specifically designed to amuse them, and a crime scene is just another spectacle to ogle. They might justify it with the “sharing information” excuse, but at some point that falls flat, especially when that isn’t their job.
Just drive home and watch the news. You might not get your amateur video coverage on YouTube, but at least you won’t be tackled by a police officer.