‘Who you with?’

by | Jan 13, 2021 | Archive, Miscellaneous | 0 comments

For me, it was among the most terrifying images from a day filled with terror:

The video, taken from the gallery of the United States Senate, shows some of the people who had brazenly and illegally stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 on the floor of the Senate, As the person taking the video approaches the edge of the gallery, you can see another person perched in a gallery seat; that person also appears to be videoing the rioters below. Then you hear a voice — it’s not clear who’s speaking — say this:

“Who you with?”

This came from the Twitter account of Frank Thorp V, a producer for NBC News, so I think it’s a good bet that Thorp took this video.

It took me a couple of times through the video to hear the answer to that question — “Who you with? — but it’s worth a moment now to think about why the question is particularly chilling.

Earlier in the day, the protesters had made no bones about their distaste for journalists: A photographer for the Associated Press was shoved around and punched. Other journalists watched as their equipment was manhandled and damaged. The words “Murder the Media” were scrawled on an interior doorway of the Capitol.

None of this is a surprise in a political climate in which the president of the United States consistently has labeled journalists “enemies of the people.” (Of course, this is not just an issue in the United States: The organization Reporters Without Borders says that 50 journalists worldwide were killed in connection with their work in 2020.)

So my point is this: In this type of national environment — and in the midst of a riot — the question “Who you with?” can be a dangerous one. It’s not hard to imagine how certain answers could lead to trouble.

In this case, as it turned out, the answer (also from someone off-camera) was this: “Getty; I’m with Getty.” (Getty Images is a British-American visual media company; whoever answered presumably was working for that organization.) Peace was maintained in the gallery of the U.S. Senate — as opposed to the mayhem on the floor.

Of course, there’s a broader perspective to the question, and that’s worth thinking about as well. It’s not so much about choosing sides but, rather, deciding what you stand for and how you’re willing to work for those principles. What’s important to you? Why?

Who you with?

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