On August 12, 2017, there was a “Unite the Right” rally.
The goal of this rally was to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia. Robert E. Lee was the commander of the Confederacy, a true war hero of the South, a white supremacist, white nationalist icon. People from thirty-five states gathered to oppose this removal, allegedly symbolizing the disintegration of white history.
However, this seemingly positive rally took a turn for the worst. Recorded on mobile devices, posted to youtube and live streamed on social media, two separate attacks took place, First, there was an attack on Deandre Harris, an African American counter protester. Six men attacked him, kicking him to the ground and beating him with wooden sticks. This controversial attack landed Harris with some spinal injury and head lacerations. Controversial because it isn’t clear if Harris instigated the protestors or if they just outright beat him because he was counter protesting and black. Second, a car smashed through a group of counter protestors, murdering Heather Heyer, a local paralegal and wounding others Alexis and Noelle Morris. Henry Jenkins, a writer and Professor of Communications at USC wrote the book Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. In this book Jenkins illustrates the idea of “Convergence Culture” that speaks to the idea that different types of media, such as newspaper, radio, and the internet are all merging into one media.
This “convergence” can have positive and negative effects. Jenkins claims that, “When people take media into their own hands, the results can be wonderfully creative; they can also be bad news for everyone involved.” The results of social media can be wonderfully creative when used to identify criminals and report them to the police. Shaun King is WHO “By using social media to highlight, amplify, and discuss news of police brutality, racial discrimination, and other civil rights issues, King has become an indispensable source for extending crucial conversations about social justice and equality.
” (Facebook) King uses social media in a wonderfully creative way to identify and report crime caught on social media. Social media is a creative way to distinguish criminals because it does not only rely on the reporters or journalists that were on sight, but uses a largely accumulated following across the nation, as well as friends, family, or peers that may be able to identify these people. King has over 900 thousand Twitter followers, 170 thousand Instagram followers, and about 1.5 million Facebook followers. King acts as the main detective and calls attention to his followers, “ALL HANDS ON DECK. White Supremacist #1. This man is wanted for the felony assault of Deandre Harris” then asks them to identify him, “Who is he? Where is he?” and lastly encourages followers to spread the word, “SHARE!” (Instagram, Aug 27). Four men of the six that were accused of beating Deandre Harris were facially recognized and singled out, now identified as: Dennis Mothersbaugh, Michael Alex Ramos, Dan Boreden, and Jacob Scott Goodwin.
Mothersbaugh was identified I don’t know how but extradited from Indiana back to Virginia, with the help of (Vernon) police department. Ramos was identified by his facebook friends and once his name and image got publicized, he turned himself in to the local police department. Boreden was identified by school peers and arrested. Goodwin was not able to be identified and is still wanted. King also worked with and encourages the Federal Bureau of Investigation & local police, such as Charlottesville Police Department and Virginia State police to issue warrants for the clearly identified criminals. This method was done on and off social media, as seen on his Instagram and Twitter posts tagging law enforcement as well as screenshot email confirmations from department chiefs.
King has promoted an online funding website, youcaring.com, for the victims of the Charlottesville attacks. He has also advertised a different account for the same website that is providing monetary rewards for the successful identification of the white supremacist criminals. “…we are creating cash rewards for the positive identification of these four men” The total value raised for the identification of these men exceeded $45,000 with over 6.3 thousand shares on Facebook. This incentivizes peers to reach out to King or the police with the first and last names of the wanted men. The Washington Post recognized King’s overwhelming efforts to condemn these white Neo-nazi criminals and Ian Shapira decided to write a column on it.
This shows how social media can influence traditional media. Through Washington Post, King’s efforts received even more attention.