Open mouth and spark a spike or Osama bin Laden wanted dead or alive
G. R. Boynton
"AG Holder: We'll read miranda rights to Bin Laden's corpse, http://bit.ly/9opKoe" 3/17/2010 8:02 AM
VivaLaEurasis_ "On a scale from Anne Frank to Osama Bin Laden, how good was my hiding spot?" LOLOLOL, 3/18/2010 3:44 PM
Attorney General Holder was testifying before a congressional subcommittee (House Appropriations) about trials for terrorists and was asked about Bin Laden. The Republican committee member was quizzing him about handling 'terrorists.' Holder was arguing for the US court system. The Republican wanted war and that would be clear if terrorists were tried by military tribunal. Holder said terrorists, including Bin Laden, would be treated the same way other mass murderers have been treated. Finally, exasperated, he said let's get real here. The chance of capturing Bin Laden alive is infintesimal. We will be reading miranda rights over a dead body.
And that exploded across the microblogging landscape. His testimony began some time after 2:00 p.m. There was an opening statement and the questioning began -- both taking a reasonable amount of time. At 3:13 the first micro message from the testimony landed on Twitter, and the explosion began.
The figure shows the number of twitter messages containing Bin Laden from February 23, 2010 through March 18.
Aside from the spikes there is an average of roughly 400 messages a day referring to Bin Laden. But there are two big spikes. One, on March 10, was just under 1500 messages and the second was the 16th and 17th of March. The 10th was celebrated as Bin Laden's birthday by persons like VivaLaEurasis_ who enjoy playing with the reputation of Bin Laden as with any other global celebrity [see also Bin Laden as Global Celebrity]. Messages jumped to 1848 on March 16 and 1746 on March 17 in response to Holder's statement and subsequent actions.
The news media love conflict so the next day, the 17th, they called General McChrystal in Afghanistan, and asked about capturing Bin Laden. The Washington Post reported
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said Wednesday that the military would "certainly" try to capture Osama bin Laden alive and "bring him to justice" -- contradicting remarks by a top Obama administration official. (Whitlock)
Holder's statement was an estimate of the likelihood of capturing Bin Laden alive [see NPR account] and McChrystal's statement was about intention so there was no 'real' conflict. But conflict makes the media happy so that is how it was interpreted. And microbloggers made hay as well.
McChrystal was not as big news as Holder, but microbloggers did enjoy the controversy.
This is a small story in the gigantic flow of world affairs. What is the point of calling attention to it once its day is well past?
The standard construction of microblogging: 50 million messages a day, that is a lot of messages, there are a few trending streams of messages mostly about entertainment, and otherwise they are messages about what the messenger ate for breakfast or other equally illuminating subjects. This surface construction of microblogging is both correct and radically incomplete.
This story is an example of important political action taking place within that 50 million message stream. The society is constituting its self understanding. The Republican member of congress is projecting a self understanding of war. In war there are no holds barred. Suspects must not have rights so they can be held indefinitely and tortured when needed. This is war. In war spieing on persons who would assimilate Anne Frank and Osama Bin Laden is justified without court order and without need for further justification. So the FBI produces manuals on how to spie on social networks [Kirkpatrick]. Holder would construct the situation as mass murderers. We know they exist. We know we must protect ourselves from them. We also know that when we refuse them the right to a trial in which their guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt we also lose our own rights.
So the argument goes. No one manufactures the societal self understanding. No one is in control. The self understanding emerges from this and many other flows of communication in which the self understanding is being contested and played with. And that makes examining these streams very important for those who would understand our politics.
G. R. Boynton (2010) Bin Laden as Global Celebrity.
House Appropriations (2 p.m.): Commerce, Justice, and Science Subc. On the FY 2011 budget request for the Department of Justice. Eric Holder, Attorney General, Department of Justice. July 16, 2010.
Marshall Kirkpatrick, How US Government Spies Use Facebook, ReadWriteWeb March 16, 2010
NPR account, http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/03/ag_eric_holder_bin_laden_wont.html
Craig Whitlock, U.S. commander says bringing bin Laden to justice remains goal, Washington Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, March 17, 2010; 2:05 PM