In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, pundits have begun to speculate about whether the ubiquity of camera-equipped smartphones helped or hurt in the aftermath. Whether it's a gross invasion of privacy or the best thing that ever happened to law enforcement. Or both.
On Reddit, countless amateur sleuths examined "suspicious" people in crowdsourced shots. And one such picture landed on the front page of the New York Post. "It's the worst feeling I can possibly feel," Salah Barhoun, the subject in the photo, told ABC News. "I'm only 17." And yet FBI investigators turned to many of these images in their own pursuit of the perpetrators.
"We have become Homo documentis, Man the Recorder," writes James Poniewozik for Time. "It's almost unimaginable that a spectacular public attack could take place and the perpetrator not be captured, somewhere in the gigabytes upon gigabytes of digital keepsakes. … When someone kills again, it may be that there will be more eyes on them. That could be a good thing, but not a good without a price. The rest of us may find ourselves, whether we want to see the horrors or not, tied in the cloud to a network of eyes that never close." [time.com, 4/17/13, 4/18/13]
"Someone sent a package with ricin in it to President Obama?! Breaking Bad has the most over-the-top marketing team ever." That tweet came from Twitterer Charlie Stephan, but it was merely one of a barrage of Internet missives linking a frightening news story with AMC's popular show Breaking Bad. The poison ricin, which laced letters sent to Obama and a Mississippi senator, has been featured on the show several times. And journalists are pointing out that while most of America had to be brought up to speed regarding what ricin was, fans of Breaking Bad were already in the know. Indeed, Comedy Central issued this tweet: "'And now to explain what ricin is, a clip from 'Breaking Bad'—if the internet ran CNN."
Meanwhile, The New York Times is reporting that suspected surviving Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a fan of AMC's drama Breaking Bad, by way of his tweet earlier this year, "Breaking Bad taught me how to dispose of a corpse." NBC News reports that his tweets also "borrowed heavily" from rap lyrics, Eminem and Jay-Z among them. [time.com, 4/17/13; nytimes.com, 4/19/13; nbcnews.com, 4/19/13 c&e]
In the past, the Federal Communications Commission hasn't taken kindly to athletes and entertainers dropping f-bombs in front of the cameras. So the following is either an exception to the rule … or the turn of a corner: At Saturday's game between the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals, longtime Boston star David "Big Papi" Ortiz delivered an impassioned pregame speech, one that culminated with, "This is our f‑‑‑ing city. And nobody's going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong." Shortly thereafter, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski tweeted, "David Ortiz spoke from the heart at today's Red Sox game. I stand with Big Papi and the people of Boston - Julius."
Writing about the significance of such an affirmation, Adweek's Katy Bachman wrote, "In one tweet, Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski may have single-handedly changed the agency's policy on F-words forever. … In the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that called the current FCC broadcast indecency standards vague, the FCC recently opened up a proceeding to change its broadcast indecency policy to focus only on egregious cases. The new standard would let slide F-words like Ortiz's and the one uttered by Bono on Fox [in 2003] that earned the network an FCC fine." [cnn.com, 4/22/13; adweek.com, 4/21/13]
Are big corporations still interested in scrubbing their advertising campaigns clean? Consider these three recent commercials: In a Gain laundry detergent commercial, a woman's lost luggage at an airport prompts a male ticket agent to wear her clothes … due to their "fresh" scent. Fast-food outlet Jack in the Box features a woman pulling up her shirt at a concert, stopping just short of showing her breasts. And Kmart's ad promoting its free shipping service proffers people discussing how they can now "ship their pants." But while there is still resistance to such ads (social media users have called the Kmart commercial "gross" and "vulgar"), they're increasingly popular, with some of them going viral. In Kmart's case, the ad has already been watched more than 15 million times. [usatoday.com, 4/15/13; hulu.com, 4/20/13 c&e, stats]
The Motion Picture Association of America has announced that it will be making slight design changes to the way it highlights a movie's rating and content. Specifically, the short summary description of a movie's content will be bigger and easier to read. The new design is similar to that used by the video game industry's Electronic Software Rating Board. Parents Television Council president Tim Winter said of the announcement, "I am not moved. I think this is a distinction without a difference." [todayentertainment.today.com, 4/18/13; huffingtonpost.com, 4/16/13]
Actor Mark Wahlberg says of his latest film, Pain & Gain, "It's funny. It's nutty. It's pretty violent. Maybe it's an acquired taste." But the hard-R action-comedy about a real-life killing spree in Florida prompted Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to counter, "My thoughts are with the victims. To trivialize this horrible tale of torture and death makes a mockery out of their lives and the justice system." And a victim who survived, Marc Schiller, says, "Obviously at the end they tried to kill me—and it wasn't that funny when they tried to kill me. … Making these guys look like nice guys is atrocious." [chicagotribune.com, 4/18/13; miamiherald.com, 2/22/13; huffingtonpost.com, 4/12/13]
An Oklahoma teen has gone missing, and some are blaming the influence of the movie Into the Wild. The film is a biopic of Christopher McCandless, who spent several years living in the Alaskan wilderness before dying there. Dustin Self, 19, loved the movie and had studied some survivalist techniques. He reportedly told his family he was going to be "off the grid" for a few months, then disappeared into the Oregon mountains. Now his truck has been found abandoned along a mountain road, sparking a search. Self's parents are worried, saying that despite his fondness for survivalism, he's never really done much outdoors beyond a few family camping trips. "He's a very urban child," his father says. He's also a vegetarian. "He thought he was going to eat berries," his mother said. "We tried to tell him, berries don't grow in the wintertime." [newser.com, 4/18/13 c&e]
"Redneck couture" is the latest trend to sweep the pop culture world, with some—especially teens—embracing the look sported by stars on popular shows such as Duck Dynasty and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. To wit: Fashionistas are noticing an uptick in interest in plaid shirts and denim gear. And at least one observer is all for it. "In a time when bullying is still prevalent and teens feel pressured to be the prettiest, smartest, coolest kid in town, the redneck spirit is refreshing," writes Malanie Shreffler of mediapost.com. "It's not about being better than someone else, but about being who you are and not worrying about being judged by peers in the process, and what teen wouldn't want to be a part of that?" [mediapost.com, 4/18/13]
Trying to counter what it calls "an epidemic of body hatred," rehabs.com is currently showing its users how impossible it would be to look like a Barbie doll, even with an eating disorder. According to the section of its site called Dying to be Barbie, the ubiquitous doll is a physiological impossibility: Her neck's too thin to hold her head up. Her feet would force her to walk on all fours. Her waist is so thin that she'd only have room for half her liver and a "few inches of intestine." [nydailynews.com, 4/15/13]