Writing about the “where were you when Kennedy was shot?” meme, de Zengotita addresses the (at the time, new) experience of reliving an event over and over on television:
Reams of coverage, endless coverage, amazing coverage—in a way more compelling than if you were physically there, squashed behind a fat lady, looking in your purse for your sunglasses when the shots went off—you thought they were fireworks at first, until you heard the screaming. No, not like that: you were not there in one humble and limited spot; you were everywhere there, because that amazing coverage put you everywhere there, and more or less simultaneously to boot.
You had a sort of God’s eye view.de Zengotita, Mediated, page 7
This creates a new kind of “witness.” In Tina Modotti’s photographs, she witnesses poverty and suffering, and we become the audience to that witness. But in the endless, repetitive TV coverage of an event (Kennedy’s murder, 9/11), we all become witnesses, albeit helpless, silent ones—no more able to say what the experience means than to detect that the experience itself isn’t real.