Every place has its unique sounds. And not unlike a scar, these sounds become part of the fibre of that place. They’re the sounds without which a Place would be just another place with meandering, no-name streets.
On Monday I was reminded of Israel’s sounds and how hard they are to drown out once heard. All it took was a sound that lasted for two minutes. A sound so powerful that it brought the country to a standstill. WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Sirens are part of Israel’s sounds. If you’re here long enough you’re bound to find yourself stopping, standing and listening for two minutes as a war-like cry commemorates something or other. Monday was Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The day marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. It’s a time when all you need to do is take a look at all the cars stopped on a usually busy highway to feel a people united in remembrance of the atrocities of the Holocaust.
At 10am the siren sounded. I stopped working. Stood at attention as though waiting a command. From my office window I saw others who did the same. I’ve seen films and many photographs which capture what life was like during the Holocaust. I’ve read about it. And have even been to one of the biggest Holocaust museums in Israel, Yad Vashem. And yet for those two minutes I couldn’t focus on any of that.
My mind was elsewhere. In Pakistan Where the battle between Secret agent Obama and another agent who goes by OBL was fought. Secret agent OBL. Could it really be? I thought as I reflected on the news. Osama bin Laden … dead. Just like that. With one final full stop. And on this day of all days. It wasn’t that I was in any way a supporter if OBL. Or that I’m sorry I missed the ground zero Osama Bash. It’s simply that those two minutes of silence weren’t enough to silence my thoughts. And it seems the Twitosphere felt the same way.
Twitter seemed to erupt with Tweets about the assassination of OBL yesterday. There was detailed, live reporting about the assassination from a citizen journalist, who goes by the handler ReallyVirtual, on Twitter. Without realizing it, ReallyVirtual live-blogged the US raid on Osama’s compound. It didn’t take long for that news to go viral. I don’t think Twitter has ever seen something like this. The number of tweets this generated within 24 hours falls just short of the total number of tweets on Japan and Kate and William’s Royal wedding.
And the statistics say it all. According to NetBase Solutions Inc., a social-media analytics company:
- There were a total of 1.2 million mentions of the Osama assassination across all social media platforms.
- The news generated over 3000 messages on Twitter per second. The highest rate of messages ever posted on the site in such a short period.
As for Yom HaShoa, well that barely made an impact online.
Perhaps it’s because Osama is part of a very recent commonly shared history. Everyone has a this-is-where-I-was-on-9/11 story. 9/11 was something the world stood by and watched with bated breath. And that’s all due to agent OBL.
But who cares about the Holocaust? It’s become something almost fictional that one learns about. Something the human mind can’t quite comprehend. Perhaps that’s it. The assassination of agent OBL is the perfectly scripted scene of a soap opera complete with the glitz and melodrama that leaves you wanting more. This is the stuff that sells newspapers and has spawned a memorabilia business.
The Holocaust, however, leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth. It’s a chunk of reality no one really wants to take a bite of. A reminder of what humans are capable of. And that’s not something anyone wants to think about for more than 2 minutes let alone Tweet about. How can one make sense of 6 million lives lost? And so we turn our mind to other things.
I remember the first time I was told a Holocaust joke and how unimpressed I was. But you’re a Jew, I thought. I was shocked. I now understand. There are some things the human mind can’t fully comprehend. And so Holocaust jokes and stories like those about the fall of agent OBL are far more appealing and easier to digest. And that is why they create such a stir on Twitter.
Twitter and other citizen media platforms are therefore not always a reflection of what’s meaningful. But they do give us interesting insight into the issues that make people tick. These are powerful tools which serve as barometers and indicators of what is important to a majority. This is the world according to Twitter.