For much of the past two days I have watched with horror and sorrow as events unfolded in Mumbai. Mostly I have watched through Twitter. Some of what I have seen at #mumbai--where 10s of thousands of posts from people all over the world have gone up in a realtime river of information and opinion.
For the most part, what I have read there has reconfirmed my belief that the worst of times brings out the best in most people. All over the world people are contributing thoughts of outrage and compassion. On the ground, Tweeters in Mumbai have contributed some real time valuable and accurate information. But there are not that many citizen-journalists and the traditional media has been uneven in the quality and responsibility of their coverage.
A year ago, Andy Carvin speculated that Twitter can be used to save lives. In fact, it's possible that during a couple of natural disasters in the US, it may have already done so. But over the last couple of days. I kept hoping that someone, locked in a room in a Mumbai Hotel, or under a bed in a children's hospital would get a message out and Twitter could get the right kind of help in. That did not happen this time.
Unfortunately, Twitter will have another chance. The world is filled with people whose warped thinking and strange concept of a God says that it is a good thing to kill people based on the origin of their passport. Mumbai, in its own way, in its newly choreographed use of terror equals in India what we in America experienced in 9/11. I fear something will eclipse both. Perhaps Twitter will play a role that time. Unfortunately we will probably find out.
I am more certain about that because of a vociferous minority who showed the ugliness inside them on the Twitter stream over the past few days. There were those who jumped in to accuse Mossad, the Israeli special ops force of somehow teaming up with Muslim fundamentalists to attack a Jewish Community Center in India. There were those who believed that all 1.7 billion Muslims, more than 1/4 of the world's population were in cahoots. There were those that called for India to respond by immediately attacking Pakistan. There were those who believed they knew better than the commanders of the India National Security Guard (NSG) about how to save the lives of those taken hostage. In fact, the Twitter stream was filled with people who were trying to outguess authorities and terrorists on what to do next, as if this were some sort of reality TV or sporting event.
All this made me sad. All this made me believe that world was no closer to ending the tribal hatreds that lead to people killing people in the name of God and national borders. And that is something that Twitter cannot help, I am sorry to say.
All day long, I keep hearing the voice of Mahatma Gandhi, the assassinated father of modern India, "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."