News from Libya provokes reactions as weird as the man himself: “CBS: Qaddafi. ABC: Gadhafi. NBC: Khaddafy,” tweets a White House correspondent. A satellite radio reporter adds: “Gadhafi is dead–someone reach into his wallet and look at his driver’s license so we finally know how to spell his last name!”
Along with death jokes, a tyrant’s last minutes are on prime-time in a cellphone cinéma vérité montage for family viewing, a long way from early days of TV when Abraham Zapruder’s home movies later emerged as the only record of JFK’s assassination.
The Libyan dictator’s bloody end is telescoped into only a few hours of a Thursday by 21st century technology—-from rumors to confirmation by mobile phone video, TV viewing, cable commentary and even a blog prediction of punditry to come.
The medium is the message, Marshall McLuhan said half a century ago, and today’s messages are multiple and immediate. Even Hillary Clinton’s unguarded first reaction to the news is on the screen.
By late evening, Jon Stewart’s take on GOP partisan puffery is available with the carping of ancient John McCain and Tea Party neophyte Marco Rubio, who had earlier in the day been busy refuting charges of retouching his family’s history as Cuban refugees.