The whole world is watching
"The whole world is watching" was a phrase chanted by anti-Vietnam War demonstrators as they were beaten and arrested by police outside the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
The event was broadcast from taped footage on the night of Wednesday, August 28, the third day of the convention. Demonstrators took up the chant as police were beating and pulling many of them into police vans, "each with a superfluous whack of a nightstick," after the demonstrators, being barricaded in the park by the police, began to come into Michigan Avenue in front of the hotel.
The prescient and apparently spontaneous chant quickly became famous. The following year, it served as the title of a television movie about student activism.
Chicago Transit Authority
On track 10 of their 1969 hit debut record album the rock band Chicago, then known as CTA (Chicago Transit Authority), used what may be a copy of the real audio clip of the crowd chanting, "The whole world is watching." The track called, "Prologue, August 29, 1968" is 57 seconds long. The chant continues into the next song, track eleven, "Someday (August 29, 1968)" but fades away after a few seconds, only to return again in the middle of the song backed by a haunting piano beat and a ride cymbal courtesy of Robert Lamm and Danny Seraphine respectively.
In their 2008 release, Chicago reprised the chant in the third track, "All the Years". At about two and a half minutes into the track, the chant is played after a montage of other notable historical clips and concurrently with a harmonica solo.
Today, the phrase is regularly used in mainstream left movements such as the 2003 demonstrations against the Iraq War. It is the title of a 1980 book about mass media and the New Left by former student activist Todd Gitlin. Rightist commentators have also used the phrase to argue for such causes as U.S. condemnation of Islamic violence. The phrase is a poster tagline for the 2007 film Battle in Seattle and it is repeatedly chanted in the film. President Barack Obama used the phrase during demonstrations in Tehran over the outcome of Iranian elections in June, 2009. During the 2011 Wisconsin protests, protesters in Madison, WI chanted the phrase often in reference to the large national media presence and worldwide positive response. Protesters also chanted the phrase while being arrested and removed from the Capitol the morning of the first vote on the law they were protesting. Occupy Wall Street protesters chanted the phrase on October 1, 2011, when NYPD barricaded and arrested citizens who were blocking the roadway on the Brooklyn Bridge in one of the largest mass-arrests of otherwise nonviolent demonstrators in US history. "The Whole World Is Watching" was on a banner purposely blocking the view of ropes being tied to the statue of Silent Sam in 2018, minutes before the statue was pulled down.
The origin of the phrase is unclear. The phrase was used in the late 1950s regarding international coverage of U.S. Civil Rights events, such as the Little Rock integration crisis. The 1963 Bob Dylan song "When the Ship Comes In" contains the lyric "And the ship's wise men / Will remind you once again / That the whole wide world is watchin'." Peter, Paul and Mary, who performed for the demonstrators during the convention, covered Dylan's song on their 1965 album A Song Will Rise.
Don Rose, who was press secretary for the Chicago office of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, the primary organizer of the Chicago actions, has said in several interviews that he coined the phrase prior to a press conference on Monday, August 26, at which Mobe organizer Rennie Davis spoke. Davis asked Rose what they could say about the violence of the Chicago police the night before in Lincoln Park and Rose said, "tell them the whole world is watching and they'll never get away with it again."
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- An editorial cartoon from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on September 11, 1957 is reprinted in Dudziak, Mary L., Cold War Civil Rights: Race and Image of American Democracy, Princeton University Press, 2000, p. 122.
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- Abramsy, Sasha (August 27 – September 3, 2018). "The Siege of Chicago. 'The Whole World Is Watching'". The Nation. pp. 12–15.