Duck! and Gather

Archive for August 2007

With my energy low after a day of hard labor, I was trolling some sports related sites. One page linked to a video by a fellow who calls himself “Jimmy Justice“. The previous link takes you to his page on YouTube. Essentially, Jimmy Justice is a New York City resident who takes video footage of traffic enforcement officers who violate the traffic laws in the course of their personal business (e.g. parking in front of a fire hydrant while having lunch). Mr. “Justice” confronts these violators with anger and sarcasm, and posts his videos on YouTube.

I was curious to see whether this fellow had emerged into the mainstream media since the sports site on which I had heard about him is mainstream. A quick search on Google news confirms that, indeed, Jimmy Justice has made it to prime time.

I followed the first link in those news results to a story on Jimmy Justice by MSNBC. Reading the comments to that story, it struck me just how different those MSNBC comments were from the comments on Mr. Justice’s YouTube page. Essentially, most of the MSNBC commenters condemn Mr. Justice; conversely, most YouTube commenters applaud him.

This different treatment of Jimmy Justice strikes me as evidence of a crisp generational gap. The older generations who came of age in the 1950s through 80s, grew up in a rigidly hierarchical world that offered few viable alternatives. The brief flowering in the 1960s of fluid, community-based social organizations was quite dead and buried by the 1980s. So to this older generation, the world seems rigidly hierarchical. One application of this worldview holds that cops need special authority to do their jobs, and as such, they always have this special authority (even when having lunch) (or, equivalently, cops always suck and thus always deserve their comeuppance).

The newer generations which have and are becoming of age in the days of the Internet don’t hold this rigid hierarchy in mind. Rather, they see reality as comprising fluid, shifting hierarchies that change from one moment to the next, and from one perspective to the next. If you’ve ever seen link graphs of the Internet, that description would fit the graph. That description — fluid and shifting — would also describe the philosophical holon nature of reality.

Jimmy Justice is a paradigm example of the emergent Internet meme of reality. First, the subjects of his videos focus precisely upon the spaces between shifting hierarchies (e.g. just because you’re cop doesn’t mean you can do an illegal u-turn to buy groceries). Second, his emergence as a person elevated in the hierarchy of “public import” is due solely to the dynamics of the Internet. And his certain downfall (he’s just a little too angry and he seems possibly interested in “making a buck” off of his surprising fame) will also come by way of the Internet.

What’s interesting to me is that old media (like MSNBC) is plugging into this Internet driven fluidity for reporting the news. Reading the comments on the MSNBC page, it seems clear that the older generation simply cannot grock this strange new world.

Thus we have a preview of the next great social turning in America. The optimistic, can-do young folk of the 1950s seemed to their parents to be too frivolous to handle the sort of world the parents had faced (ie. Depression and WWII). Then the hippy drug-abusing, free-love, flower-children of the 1960s and 70s seemed to their parents to be misguided and disrespectful. Then the ambitious, venal, money-hungry youth of the 1980s and 90s seemed to their parents to be a tad ambitious, venal, and money-hungry.

Now we have the youth of the 00s with their understanding of the fluidity of reality. What do the older generations think of this youth? Read the comments on that MSNBC page to get a picture.

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August 2007
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