Unrest has turned into violence and worrisome force in the St. Louis area community of Ferguson, Mo. What was covered initially as small protests evolved and progressed by August 13th into tear gas and the harassment of members of the press. The police force is under massive scrutiny from the public, and for good reason. Journalists from both the Washington Post and Huffington Post were put into a holding cell simply for mishearing a police order to leave a McDonald's restaurant. Rubber bullets are being shot into crowds apparently without warning. It is quite apparent that although the death of Mike Brown was a trigger for protests, the predominantly white police force sparring with a predominantly black community is an occurrence that was most likely just waiting to jolt into existence. We have to all remember, young and old, that our country, and that very area, has seen outbreaks of clashes with police repeatedly through history. There have been obvious improvements in terms of violence that correlates with racial issues, but these tensions are released very, very slowly. The situation, therefore, is not entirely unique. Thankfully, the unique part comes with the emergence of social media as a news breaker and a forum for thought.
On August 13th, 2014, by the late evening, #Ferguson had become a trending topic on Twitter. People were voicing their own opinions, sharing minute-by-minute updates from journalists and citizens in the streets, and expressing support for the populace in the community, among plenty of other talking and tweeting points. I saw many tweets from high school students and college students, some expressing more outrage and frustration with the situation than I had expected. When some turned a blind eye to the events ensuing in Missouri, those in their teens and early twenties that publicly showed the most vocal disgust. This highlights several different aspects of "Millennial" culture and upbringing that could mean several things for the future of injustice, publicity, and internet-based activism.
First: Injustice in any form can now be broadcast, reported, and globally shared in seconds on a connected web of media platforms accessible by cell phones anywhere. How will the millennial generation respond to such up-to-date coverage of breaking news? For starters, they will certainly not sit back and wait for someone else to voice an opinion. Feedback from an ever more connected demographic will result in a media flood of comments, concerns, posts, and viewpoints that were never made as viral as they can be now. What will the result be for injustices? There will of course be anomalies, but for certain younger people online will have a much bigger influence over news coverage for acts of wrongdoing. If the internet is flooded with demands for answers, it will be a lot harder for a targeted party to back down from their actions than was without the input of millennials. "Getting away with it" will become much harder thanks to the persistence of active social media users and bloggers, who can now widely share an injustice that may have previously gone unheard.
Second: The internet flood I mentioned may happen more and more frequently as stories continue to spark the interests and emotions of internet users. Years ago it may have taken a massive public response to get a story aired; stories today can come about from the posts or tweets from just one solitary individual. Publicity at the hands of the millennials will be shaped based on a collective idea of importance. A news headquarters no longer has to decide the story, for a passionate plea or a specific event can be hugely expanded until it makes a headline. The nature of news certainly looks to become one chosen largely by the public rating of importance determined by the younger generations.
Lastly: It was very clear that many do not want to tolerate the type of brutality and worrisome riot-like behaviors exhibited in Ferguson. Perhaps because we have grown up in a more integrated, diverse country, or because there is a greater sense of pride in supporting honest and good morals publicly, millennials have shown that they can unite together in support of people in harm's way very quickly. E-activism is profoundly abundant, and very effective. Although this country does and most likely will struggle with the issue that is plaguing Ferguson currently, the speed at which the young online community will reach out to deplore acts of hatred is stunning. The pure strength of this fairly new form of activism could make a colossal difference in fighting age-old problems, and may ultimately, and hopefully, lead to a nation where equality and peace are leaps and bounds ahead of collectively abhorred thoughts of hate.
The millennial generation, using the events in Ferguson as an example, does have the very powerful capability to use publicity and activism to fight injustice in a very new and effective way. Looking forward, the news up next may be determined by public will and the internet way, which could very well be a good thing.