The Notre Dame Cathedral inspires so much awe in visitors that seemingly everyone who steps inside it feels a powerful, and personal, sense of connection to it. I visited it myself for the first time two years ago and, like everyone else I know, was thrilled by its foreboding Gothic architecture. In spite of myself, I snapped a couple dozen pictures. Even knowing that every inch of the building had already been documented by far better photographers than me, I felt overwhelmed by the need to take a piece of Notre Dame home with me.
And so to watch the cathedral burn today — helplessly, on a Periscope stream — was a tragedy. And while nothing will match the horror of seeing the world lose one of its most beautiful structures, the calamity showed once again how unprepared tech platforms are to process news events in real time. Conspiracy-minded goons continue to twist real-time events into nefarious plots in the absence of any facts, and platforms’ viral sharing mechanics help their narratives dominate users’ attention while the truth is still being uncovered.