A Social Media Standoff

One of my all time favorite movies is Dog Day Afternoon, which was based on the true story of a botched bank robbery in New York.

The Al Pacino film recounted one of the first times in history that the news was mobile enough that the media could the event on TV as “breaking news,” and people were glued to their sets as they watched everything unfold live. 

So in this day and age should it be any surprise that a tense police situation would go out live on the internet and via Twitter as it happens? This happened in Baltimore, and as The Baltimore Sun reports, a man named Frank James MacArthur had a warrant out for his arrest on a gun charge, and for failing to appear in court. But MacArthur wouldn’t come out of the house, and it turned into a mini-media circus through his radio channel and Twitter.

The standoff reportedly lasted five hours, and thankfully it didn’t end in violence. MacArthur eventually turned himself in without incident. MacArthur is a cabbie, and would vent his spleen through his blog and radio. In fact, during the standoff, he was promoting his radio show, and it also broadcast his phone negotiations with the police as they tried to coerce him out of the house. 

Reportedly thousands of people were following the action on Twitter and on MacArthur’s radio channel before the stand off finally ended. In fact, the police came out to MacArthur’s house after he made threats to the police via social media. (It also brought out the SWAT as a precaution.) Days before the police surrounded his home, MacArthur was also reporting, via social media, that he was a fugitive, and the police were after him. 

Having learned of this event, it wouldn’t surprise me if we see something similar in a movie soon. It would be interesting to see a hostage stand off in a film where the negotiations happen through tweets, text messages, or in a chat room, if this hasn’t been in a film already.

The challenge of course is to make it as suspenseful as your regular, low-tech hostage negotiation we’ve seen in many thrillers with phones and walkie-talkies. The speed of the Internet can bring us real events faster than ever before, and in this instance it was the suspect himself who provided the world a look into the situation as it was happening.