Maciej Radny

Death for breakfast: the complicated power of social media

Maciej Radny looks at the horrific live shooting of two journalists in Virginia, and was shocked, not only by the imagery on Social Media; but of what comes next.


In my previous article, I touched on how the grey areas of opinion were being fought on social media after the Ferguson riot, allowing us to form our own version, pending which Ferguson we believed. Last week, social media grew darker and only slightly less opaque. As we all know by now, Vester Lee Flanigan II aka Bryce Williams, shot and killed two ex-coworkers, while they were filming a breakfast television spot live.

Which is all background, what made this different, was the level of the horror visited upon us.

Extreme violence has birthed extreme exposure. In the past, when something akin to this tragedy occurs, we are allowed a sanitised version, be it distant security footage, and shocked comments from those who knew the perpetrator. We’re usually spared the horror. He removed this filter. We literally rode his shoulders throughout the process, allowing us to walk with him, and beyond, as he explained the “why”, via his own Twitter feed, asking everybody to check out the horrible footage he uploaded via Facebook:



Vicious as it is, it’s not surprising. Chillingly, it seems to be the next logical step, which, unfortunately, cannot be stopped. Social media is the problem. It is a construct that doesn’t discriminate (While the users may) a support network for the cream and the detritus of society, beyond the networking opportunities and cat videos, in the darker corners, social media voices the silenced, the ignored, the downtrodden, those who have stopped talking, and in some cases, now speak the language of violence.


Which is not to say I endorse Bryce Williams’ deplorable acts, but therein lies the issue, to some, Bryce is the victim that he claimed to be. Bryce’s lengthy faxed suicide note outlined the discrimination he faced as a Homosexual African-American, which in turn has brought support, claiming that it was the racist, homophobic US that caused it, and he was but a manifestation of the injustices he faced.


“I can understand him being frustrated with racial discrimination at his job but it was not worth throwing his life over… RIP to the victims even though they may have been racist.” – Wonderwomanist @ Gawker.

The point being is that Social media will forever be present in moments of tragedy. Be it an unfiltered view (for better or worse), or a support system, be it the victims, the victims families, the perpetrator or the perpetrator’s families.

But the question begs to be asked. Where do we go from here? Bryce has stepped the path that I never thought I’d have witnessed from the safety of my own loungeroom, and horrifically, there was a part of me that was numbed. Looking back at the easily accessible horror I’ve been exposed to, I felt the cold grip of fear because I didn’t feel what I thought I should. I felt the fear of what comes next, and the fear of not feeling that. Be it the IS beheadings, The Martin Place Lindt siege, Charlestown, or 9-11. There’s a part of me, that fears our numbed awareness, fed by the blunt force of social media, will in turn give birth to more extreme horror.

Focusing solely on Bryce, the bloodied road he took was a well lit one. Bryce was ‘motivated’ by the mass shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech and in particular, Dylan Storm Roof’s brutal (racially influenced) shooting at a church in Charlestown. It’s not entirely unfair to assume that due to the exposure of the visceral imagery and the conflicting injustices swirling around Bryce’s acts, the ugly head of mass-murder will again rear out of the flames, motivated in turn by him, wearing a different face, playing out acts yet unseen.



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  1. KimMJ said:

    I didnt mean to watch the video but I did and dind’t share it. Scary stuff. But now i hear its a hoax and the murder never happened? Does anyone know if that is true or just a conspiracy theory?

  2. Rainer the cabbie said:

    Thanks Maciej, I liked what you wrote.
    Problem is, once the cat is out of the bag how do you stuff it back in? We hardly can resort to censorship in our enlightened age when this is truly the only way of stopping the spread of bad ideas. I guess society has operated for a long time now by influencing people via media, advertising agency’s would be broke if this concept would disappear. The big question all of us must tackle is this: there are a lot of unbalanced people out in society, some who are prepared to commit acts of violence. Why are we, as a responsible community, prepared to give them a voice when the danger of replication is for real?
    Big question, I know. Keep up the good work.

  3. Suz said:

    I fear an Australia where there is no control over what is shared. I dont mean there should be censorship but it scared me how easy it was to see that video of that woman being shot. It was terrifying and the fact that it is everywhere is sad.

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