What if those witnesses had filmed those antics with a mobile phone and had posted that footage to YouTube or to their blog? Perhaps some good resolution photos could have been posted to Flickr? This is precisely what has been happening in North America and elsewhere. People like you and me, armed with a mobile phone or camera, have captured instances of violence and abuses of power by our police and other public officials. The end result is the fact that these actions can no longer go unnoticed by those of us who were not there. The fact is that being armed with a mobile phone and a blog or account with a public content sharing site gives all of us with access to those sites the ability to publicise these abuses and perhaps remind the abusers who they really work for. This is a welcome side effect of the social media revolution that is sweeping the world. There is now no such thing as anonymous individuals if they choose not to be.
The McBride incident got me thinking about a trend that has been emerging overseas. The prevalence of mobile devices with rich media capability and the ability to post content created on those devices to sites like YouTube, Flickr, TypePad and Vox (in fact the whole mobile blogging movement) poses a challenge to public officials who abuse their positions of authority. We read reports about how the Ekhurleni Metro Police who arrived on the scene of McBride’s accident bullied bystanders and witnesses, threatened them and, I believe, even assaulted one person.