Osama Bin Laden Dead.
First reported on social media.
People singing the national anthem in front of the U.S. White House is an occurrence that happens more than people realize, but it is usually part of some organized protest. Rarely, if ever, does it happen spontaneously like it did on the evening of May 1, 2011. Rarely, if ever, do we see a spirit of bipartisanship exist in our nation's capital like we did on September 11, 2001.
Maybe Osama being caught and killed will bring it back at least for a while. The speed of delivery of news is now such that moments like we witnessed in front of the White House and in New York at Ground Zero become crowdsourced. Through the delivery of social media updates and pushed news content through social media and smart phone technology, we get news instantly. Can this help to bring about some working level of bipartisanship in Washington, D.C.? Or not?
It turns out that many of these people out celebrating in front of the White House were tourists. According to the raging river that is Twitter, when it comes to news these days, many of them rushed to the White House from nearby hotels, bars and other areas because they had been notified through one form of social media or another that "Osama is DEAD." As the night wore on, the crowd was more of a mix of local students and tourists. My point here is that random people who did not know each other were compelled to the gates of the White House, and it turns out to Ground Zero in New York, to spontaneously celebrate. Social media played a big, if not huge part in those "random" gatherings. Indeed, this story was live tweeted (broken in old news terminology) by accident by Sohaib Athar http://twitter.com/#!/ReallyVirtual who lives in Abbottabad, Pakistan and now has over 11,000 followers and growing.
At the speed of Twitter, the world found out that Osama bin Laden was dead, he had been hiding in Pakistan and was killed in Pakistan, and U.S. forces were directly responsible for his death by shooting him in the head. On top of that, we learned that President Barack Obama would not only address the world the same evening and had been briefed prior on the successful outcome of this mission.
In the old days, Washington, D.C. ,was a sleepy, backwater town. When I went to school in the 1990s, there was at least one way beyond "sources" that journalists could figure out if there was something going on: It was called the Dominos method. If a certain government building had lights on at night and was receiving pizza deliveries in the off-hours, then that agency was brewing something big.
Flash-forward to 2011: All this news was shared before Obama ever made his televised address. Instead of waiting for pizza deliveries, we search the tweet stream. Twitter can show us in real time the fascinating conversations between people across the globe that are sharing the breaking news. Apparently in this situation, that blogger in Pakistan, Sohaib Athar, who was upset about the noise of the U.S. helicopters, was tweeting about it and complaining about it. He ultimately posted this.
Let's take a look at two political hashtags on Twitter, #Tcot and #p2. The first is famous for having been one of the online staging grounds and organizing hashtags for the Tea Party on Twitter. TCOT stands for Top Conservatives on Twitter, which is both a self-named hashtag and meaning for the acronym. The second is a group of online progressives that started calling themselves P2 as a way to shorten progressive with new progressive. One hates liberals. The other hates conservatives. These two hashtags usually denote tweets that would be in contradiction with each other. On this night, they were almost united due to people applying both hashtags to tweets in a form of bipartisanship. Here is one of my retweets with such hashtag usage and a sense of humor thrown in.
This idea of bipartisanship was something I saw very prominently being asserted across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I would put forth that with the speed of events happening as fast as your broadband provider allows your Internet to achieve, we have to transcend beyond partisan politics. It is time to call for non-partisanship of the type witnessed a decade ago on and after 9/11, and of the type witnessed online on May 1, 2011. This non-partisanship needs to be devoid of angry rhetoric, wicked namecalling and frustrated politicians getting exasperated with each other. Non-partisanship means putting aside differences, and collaborating on successful solutions to our nations challenges. Maybe the speed of world events will help to push that further beyond one day. Or not.