Monday 23 July 2018

Will we always be one step behind agents of chaos?

Do we change our way of life and stop gathering, chatting and people-watching? Making society secure is very difficult

STREET MEMORIAL: Flags, messages and candles placed after the deadly van attack on Las Ramblas, one of Europe’s most famed boulevards. Photo: Manu Fernandez
STREET MEMORIAL: Flags, messages and candles placed after the deadly van attack on Las Ramblas, one of Europe’s most famed boulevards. Photo: Manu Fernandez
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

I was looking at dead people on Las Ramblas presumably before their loved ones even knew they were dead. In my defence, I stopped looking once I realise what it was. Many people's understandable response to anything these days is to whip out the phone and start filming, and then post it. Presumably people feel that it is important to document these things, to show people the true horror, to bear witness. But then, you wonder, does it spread the virus of 'terror'?

We saw a similar phenomenon in Charlottesville last week, and in this case the witness footage seems to have been useful in ascertaining what exactly happened. You can argue that in an era of fake news, documenting everything is the only way to try and tell the truth.

But sometimes it can feel like it just adds to the general sense of chaos. This has felt like a summer of chaos, and in ways that chaos feels bound up in the technology we all have in our pockets now. Everything is instant and amplified. Trump takes to Twitter immediately after Barcelona with his usual bizarre outbursts. Footage of dead, dying and injured human beings is zapped around the world. And the demands for "Everything Now" mean that there needs to be instant updates. Haywire information of hostage situations and pictures of culprits who may not be culprits are seized on. It is as if getting the story fast, and reacting fast, gives us some illusion of control over it. But even while the world was trying to figure out what happened on Las Ramblas, there was more in train at Cambrils. The news may happen in real time now, but we will always, it seems, be that crucial bit behind. We can all react quickly now, but just not quickly enough to stop it happening.

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