I saw it written on a scrap of paper, and taped to one of the MTA system maps inside subway cars: “youtube NYPD in action in gravesend.” I made a note to check it later, and went on with my day.1 When I finally got a chance to look, this is what I found:


Clearly, I wasn’t the first to search for this. I clicked through to the first result, and found this:

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be seeing here. Is it the cop apparently kicking the suspect in the opening seconds? Is it the yelling? Is it supposed to be police misconduct? Documentary realism? What?

The comments suggest I’m not the only person to come to this video via a note. A few commenters mention stickers saying to watch the video, too, so apparently someone wants news of this video out there.

But that a note affixed to a subway should draw users gave me some pause. The note didn’t feature a url, so anyone hoping to view the video would have to search. Based on the comments on the site, people didn’t have any trouble doing that.

Beyond that, though, the note suggested how increasingly we let Google (et al.) intermediate our experiences on the internet. Instead of navigating to something, we type what we’re looking for in the search bar. This goes doubly so on mobile, where entering the correct url is more cumbersome than when full keyboards are available.

This reminded me of one of the more interesting footnotes to come out of the Google/RapGenius dustup. In an interview with the Combat Jack Show, the Rap Genius folks recounted how after Google stopped showing the site in rankings, people took to Twitter to remark on how the site had been “shut down.”

Using Google to get to a site has become, for some, the only way to get there. That’s a little scary, even if you don’t live in China.

Google’s so extended its reach that it has, for many, become the internet.2</sup> In the way we laughed in the ’90s about those who thought AOL was the internet, there’s a new way for people to never see beyond certain boundaries. In this sense, even though the note had effectively directed me to find the video, I couldn’t help but feel it was an oddly futile cry.

  1. I considered taking a quick picture, but though the better, lest it be mistaken for a creepshot of the woman sitting by the map. 

  2. One of the most affecting themes in Thomas Pynchon’s recent Bleeding Edge was the sense that before the internet had been largely indexed, it represented incipient possibility, and that this possibility was lost once Google arrived on the scene. It was a variation on one of Pynchon’s trademark themes of entropy and progress and loss, but damned if it didn’t hit home.