There is something telling about the fact that footage of Saddam Husseinâ€™s execution should appear on bit torrent sites before CNN, BBC, or even al-Jazeera. On one level itâ€™s just another death in Iraq, and as such is nothing more than the sniper shots, roadside bombs, and rocket attacks that already proliferate web 2.0. But still, when the moment of death of one of the most notorious men on Earth ends up not as the centrepiece of a structured news item but as another piece of user-generated content, the world of media has changed.
Iâ€™m writing this at 3.05am, 31 December, exactly 24 hours since Saddam was hung, and Iâ€™m actually surprised that it took me this long to find the footage.
(Iâ€™ve noticed now that someone has just added the footage to Google video.)
The execution was filmed with a cell phone and is shot from below the scaffold. Saddam is clearly shown with the noose around his neck. A chant goes out , and moments later Saddam drops. There is a scurry of activity and the cell phone finally gets a clear look at Saddam, his neck at a ninety degree angle to his body.
In days of old (ie., last year) this footage would have ended up with Al-Jazeera, who may or may not have shown it, and with the BBC/FOX/CNN/ITV etc, who definitely would not have shown it.Â Yet now, anyone who wants to take a look at the execution of a mass murderer, can, and for free.Â A sea-change in how we watch events.
Much the same occurred with the Tsunami, in that the footage came from cell phones and digital cameras. Its broadcast, however, pretty much remained with traditional media.
Saddamâ€™s death, though, filmed on a cell phone. Watched on the internet. No ironic detachment. Just the way the world gets its news these days.
A final note.Â Fine Gaelâ€™s Justice spokesman, Bernard Allen, criticised Saddamâ€™s death, stating that the party does not agree with capital punishment and execution. Quite right. Saddam Hussein did many things, including attempted genocide, but he never walked onto a farmerâ€™s land without permission. Or stole a farmerâ€™s chainsaw. Sure why would you kill him?