With the anniversary tomorrow of the Rodney King beating by LAPD officers in 1991, media analyst Dan Gillmor observes upon the changes reflected in the world-wide consumption of the video by George Holliday. Gillmor also considers the Zapruder film of the John F. Kennedy assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963 and the street killing in Tehran of Neda Agha-Soltan. Excerpt:
Twenty years ago tommorrow, a media shock wave hit Los Angeles and the nation: the Rodney King video. As a bystander captured the incident with his home video camera, several LA police officers beat King repeatedly while other officers stood by and watched.
The video, or more accurately its broadcast across America, set in motion consequences that have reverberated through the years since the beating. Among them: the Los Angeles riots, after the acquittal of police charged with assault, and the poisonous relations between LA police and many of the city’s citizens.
Another impact, of course, was the recognition — which grows more and more prevalent — that anyone with a video camera could become more than a witness to the events of our times. The camera-bearing citizen, in this case a man named George Holliday, was becoming an integral part of how we remember these events.
Holliday’s act was one of citizen journalism. It wasn’t the first, however, even though it was a milestone.
* Update: LAPD now works in a YouTube world, says the L.A. Times.