"The spectacle aims at nothing other than itself........the spectacle is the main production of present-day society" - From 'The Society of the Spectacle' by Guy Debord.

Michael Adebolajo goes public.

There is a sad and shocking inevitability to the events in Woolwich, London. The savage killing of off duty soldier, Lee Rigby, in broad daylight was carried out in the full knowledge that maximum global publicity could be guaranteed.

It was a chillingly efficient act of terrorism; the death of one man was all that was required to get the warped message across. The perpetrators knew that there was no need to issue a warning to ensure worldwide press coverage.

We no longer have to wait for film crews to arrive on the scene for such events to be beamed across the world as breaking news in the most vivid visual terms.

Every other person nowadays has the mobile technology to enable them to be amateur reporters. The killers invited members of the general public to take photos and to video the events as they unfolded and many were only too willing to oblige.

A cliché we hear all the time from ordinary citizens when confronted by man-made horrors or natural disasters is that it all seemed as if they were watching a movie. At Woolwich the reality became an instantaneous form of cinema verité.

We are living in a society in which fiction seeks to imitate real life and real life has all the essential ingredients of fiction. Distinguishing one from the other is becoming more and more difficult.

Another news story I read today was of charges being brought against a U.S. army sergeant for videotaping showering female cadets. The two events are completely unrelated in that one is tragic, the other is bizarre and faintly comical (to all but the women taking the shower!).

What both stories illustrate, however, is how Guy Debord’s definition of ‘the spectacle’ has moved beyond being about a kind of institutionalised ‘entertainment’ system in which we are all passive consumers, but that, nowadays, we can all be protagonists and newsmakers.

Needless to say, it’s hard to tell as if this should not be greeted as a cause for celebration.

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