26 November 2008

Breaking news

Holy heck! I have been feeling that earthquakey shift in my consciousness again tonight: The definition of news has just changed for the good. I've been mentioning Twitter: well, I just picked up my computer for the first time and found that a bunch of scary stuff is going down right now. A thousand people may be dead in Mumbai. (**Edit: Now I'm hearing possibly 100 dead, 600 injured.**) The Indian Army has gone into the Taj Hotel, where they had found unexploded grenades, and terrorists were supposedly on the 18th floor, all this information broadcast in blurts from mumbaiupdates since about two hours ago. Just as I was getting up to speed on the situation, I saw the post stating that the Indian government wanted to stop the broadcast of all tweets containing the text "#Mumbai." (People agree to post with a "hashtag" in front of a topic to make it show up as trends; one can search for the string "#mumbai" and get all the news before it's even fit to print.)

It felt eerie and unsettling to tweet a query to someone who seemed to be in the middle of this maelstrom (**Edit - but who I later learned was in Boston **) and ask directly whether the government's fear is of endangering civilians or is there a possibility it could mobilize aid more quickly? Thirteen minutes ago an update came: "This is exactly what #Mumbai doesn't need: a certain tv station following the configuration of the police. That's what I'm getting at" and then a few minutes later came: "SUCCESS - the NDTV website is no longer broadcasting live video from the #Mumbai front. Thank you NDTV." So security is the issue, and too much news can be harmful, apparently.

Yet it's a torment to know this is happening right now. We can tweet about blood drives, and I can post on Facebook and hope my messages go out across those six degrees, but that's still halfway around the world. I suppose that distance feels a little more spannable with Twitter, but it's still vast.

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