Feeds

Saddam's YouTube smash

User generated content at the gallows

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Opinion WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

"User Generated Content" finally scored a smash hit in 2006, although we had to wait until the year's end to see it.

But thanks to a minute of grainy, camera phone footage, the truly shambolic nature of the execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was disclosed for all to see. The footage that the networks wouldn't show is the weekend's hit on YouTube.

From creation to distribution, this is a landmark event for people-powered media. So why aren't the usual technology evangelists - who see every natural disaster is an opportunity - trumpeting it this time?

These ambulance chasers rarely miss the chance to trumpet the power of networked technology: the Madrid and London terror bombings, and the Asian Tsunami, were all touted as heralding a new media epoch - with buzzwords such as "gatekeepers" and "democratization" thrown around with abandon.

New media pundits belong to a cult of disclosure - the more information we have available to us, the wiser we will all be. If we could only publish everything, and make it instantly accessible to everyone, we'll have reached a higher state of consciousness. For example, this belief is beautifully illustrated by the claim that "Widely Available, Constantly Renewing, High Resolution Images of the Earth Will End Conflict and Ecological Devastation As We Know It" - that one (if you hadn't already guessed) comes from a Google marketing guy.

Saddam's execution - a YouTube hit

YouTube star Saddam

In which case, you'd think the Saddam's YouTube sensation would fit the bill perfectly. The footage records a preternaturally calm dictator facing a braying mob of hooded executioners - proof enough that in Iraqi, a police or army uniform is daywear for sectarian militias. Nothing quite brings home the chaos of law and order like this grisly spectacle. So hasn't YouTube done the world a favour?

Perhaps the guarded reaction should to be welcomed with some relief. The haunting footage is less grisly than much of YouTube, which already hosts a spectrum of personal violence ranging from school beatings to roadside bombs. What may, we hope, be giving the technology evangelists cause for circumspection is that sometimes this kind of full disclosure doesn't really help us at all.

Whether you think the dictator should have been hung, or merely left to rot in misery, you probably didn't want to see him outclassing his executioners. Thanks to a cameraphone and YouTube, we heard his brilliant one-line riposte to a taunt, and thanks to YouTube we saw his final prayer interrupted. And thanks to YouTube, we're part of the spectacle, as Stephen Moss writes today:

"Saddam's killers have achieved the impossible: they have made us feel sympathy for him, for his grace under pressure. There may not have been dignity in the dying, but there was courage. A five-star death.

For someone who terrorized civic society for thirty years and launched a war that cost a million lives, it doesn't quite seem fair.

Thanks, Web 2.0 - but there is such a thing as "too much information". ®

Happy Beavers - vying for the No.1 spot

Normal service has been resumed

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.