Near-Witness to Pseudo-Events of History

Near-Witness to Pseudo-Events of History

[Looking for the program of the Swearing-In Ceremony (starts 11:30 AM 20 January 2009)? It’s here.]

We went down to the Pre-Inaugural Concert Sunday afternoon, exiting the Farragut West Metrorail station about 2:30 PM and walking down 18th Street, NW to the Lincoln Memorial and National Mall. Motor traffic was banned from the area,  just as it is during World Bank meetings. There was a party atmosphere as the crowd ambled along, and Springsteen‘s voice echoed up from the performance.

The area nearest the Lincoln Memorial concert site was already at capacity and security checkpoints were closed, so we watched the concert on the three giant Jumbotron screens set up between the World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument. The jubilant crowd was friendly and well-behaved, and people of all ages and origins from all around the nation and the world joked and chatted amiably, exchanging notes on the music and performers, expressing their relief, joy, and hopes. It may have been a pseudo-event, but the feelings were genuine.

400,000 of us stood for hours in the cold listening to echoing music and watching TV, taking photos of video images of actors, singers, and politicians. Sometimes we saw the events more clearly on the viewscreens of  digital cameras held by people in front of us than on the big screens themselves.

 Several amateur videographers documented themselves standing in the huge crowd and speaking into microphones, commenting on what they were watching on the billboard-sized TVs located behind their own cameras.  The path at the foot of the Washington Monument has low stone walls on either side, and rows of photographers stood atop each of them, faced each other, and took pictures of other people taking pictures of them.

The sound was okay but nowhere as good as on the direct media feeds. Spectators could have seen and heard the concert much better in greater comfort in warm homes and hotel rooms. But 400,000 gathered at the Lincoln Memorial and the Mall  to bear witness and express confidence in a better future, and now they can say they were there. Lord knows they have the photos to prove it.


Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.


3 Responses to “Near-Witness to Pseudo-Events of History”

  1. pawsinsd Says:

    So you’re a hopeful cynic, as am I. Today I teeter between remembering MLK and hoping for a future in more than race relations. We wish we could be there but I’ll be glued to the Inauguration on TV tomorrow morning. Hopefully it will be a new day for the USA. I may even cook hamburgers for it.

  2. Sociology in Communications Pseudo Events in Politics « Kleo Nikolaidis's Blog Says:

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