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Twitter Ghouls Leer as Man Kills Self on TV ~ North Hollywood

11:45 AM PST on February 11, 2009


The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that:

A businessman who led police on a more than three-hour chase in a luxury Bentley sedan shot himself to death early today after more than a dozen police cruisers surrounded his halted vehicle near Universal City, a source close to the Los Angeles Police Department said.

He was taken to a local hospital, where he later died, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

What they didn't mention was the circus-like atmosphere that developed at the scene in North Hollywood, as rubberneckers, the paparazzi, and the media were joined virtually by thousands of Twits furiously posting their thoughts (in 140 characters or less), speculations, jokes and unbridled glee at being part of the surreal, and ultimately tragic, scene.

Because the suspect was in an expensive automobile and there was speculation he was actually singer Chris Brown or DJ Khaled, the public's attention was piqued. Local TV news drones tried to fill space with comments on the chase and users of Twitter posted speculative thoughts and jocular updates, even as it became clear that a tragedy was unfolding under the helicopter spotlights.

Twitter is a lot of fun and very useful, but let's not pretend that the twits tweeting away are somehow different or more interesting then people taking pictures at a car crash, or vacant news reporters talking to fill up dead air while watching a dangerous chase unfold from high above the city. Those who participated in the twit-fest as the chase went on were patting themselves on the back, marveling at the speed of their updates and the number of people virtually chasing the chase as speculation and rumors flew past at internet speed. Rubberneckers on the side of the road, real or virtual, are a fact of life and not something to be proud of, regardless of the technology involved.

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