Today, I was Cynthia Hardy’s in-studio guest on OnPoint on WACH Fox. The subject at hand: Rodney King – Twenty Years Later. While the other guests, which included SC SLED Director, Reggie Lloyd, discussed police brutality and the improved climate on race relations, I focused on how social media would have changed the Rodney King incident if it had happened today. This is what I think would be different today with the prevalence of social media.
NOTE: OnPoint on WACH Fox will air Sunday, March 6 at 9:30 and on WACH Fox 57. Please tune in or TiVo it!
Video Availability: In 1991, only one video account was available. Today, tens of videos camera probably would have captured the footage. Nowadays, everyone (and their mama) has a video camera on their cell phone or a small hand-held video camera. I personally am never without my little bloggie.
The new increased availability of video cameras is even more significant because not only would there have been multiple accounts of the incident, they would have been from multiple vantage points. That way, there would have been no ambiguity about the number of blows that were dealt.
Video Quality: Looking at the 1991 Rodney King footage today is actually kinda painful. It’s grainy, colorless, and downright not cute. Today, the footage would be in full-color and probably high definition (HD)… making it seem even more real.
Video Display Platform: George Holliday, the man who captured the footage said, “Coming from Argentina, it’s different over there. If a criminal commits a crime, you know, the police take him in and they take care of him. For me, that’s normal because that’s the way I grew up.” But he was curious about what he had witnessed, so when the L.A. police would give him no details, he called local television station KTLA.
Had that been today, the video would have bypassed the TV station altogether and would have gone directly to the people via facebook, YouTube, twitter and other social media. News stations no longer have a lock on news. In fact, many stations go to social media networks to get the footage they need for their stories. This is a HUGE change in the way we live and get information.
Life After Rodney King: Today, George Holliday lives a life of seclusion as a plumber. He wants to remain out of the spotlight. With the advent of social media, many people crave fame, or infamy, any way they can get it. Today, internet stars are made with videos much the Rodney King footage. Remember Antoine Dodson? His ‘hide your kids, hide your wife’ video went viral, and he rode it all the way to the bank. He even used that video to buy himself a home in a safer neighborhood. And Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice. That one obscure video took a man from begging on the corner to super-stardom in a matter of hours. So indeed, video of Rodney King-magnitude today could propel someone into internet super-stardom.
Final Verdict Outcome: Here is the million dollar question: would the officers still be acquitted today. Long story short… maybe, but probably not. I think the makeup of the jury (all white jury and white officers) had just as much to do with the verdict as did the video evidence.
But today, the racial climate is much milder. So I believe that even with an all-white jury, the verdict probably would have been guilty on some accounts. But, I can’t dismiss the fact that an acquittal is still a possibility, even today. Either way, I can’t deny the progress that race relations and anti-police brutality have made. And social media definitely has played a role in both.
What do you think? Would the verdict still have been Not Guilty if the Rodney King incident had occurred today?