A corrosive soup of inaccuracy


Devoted users of social media sites regularly enthuse over their benefits. Less attention is paid to the downsides, perhaps the greatest of which is the severely limited attention span these media seem to encourage. Content is scribbled down with little forethought and even less revision before the Send button is hit. Hardly worse is that these often ill-informed and deeply inaccurate messages are read rapidly by others, who then immediately forward them to their “friends”.

There are certainly organizations out there deliberately creating Fake News. However, their success depends on the gullibility and general ignorance of a great mass of users who will perpetuate and spread these falsehoods.

There have been two mass shootings in the United States this week. As we have already written, these horrific events are an indictment of the now unnecessary constitutional right of Americans to bear arms, as enshrined in the 228-year-old Second Amendment. It might be expected that the greatest part of the popular outrage against these awful crimes would be directed at permissive US gun ownership laws. But instead the hue and cry has gone up that these two massacres were racist.

Lost amidst the tidal wave of social media fury and indignant street protests are the facts, which ironically both gunmen posted on their own social media accounts. Patrick Crusius, who murdered 22 people in El Paso sent out a testament which he called “The Inconvenient Truth” which happens to be the title of a book by former vice-president and now eco-warrior Al Gore. Crusius’ beef was that America could not sustain a rising population and environmental destruction by US corporations. His murder of innocent people, including eight Mexicans and a German, was therefore not specifically about race. The other killer, Connor Betts, who shot dead nine people including his sister, had tweeted beforehand: “I want socialism and I’ll not wait for the idiots to finally come round to understanding”.

It seems clear that the motive behind these latest mass slaughters was not primarily racist. Yet the great Twitter user himself, President Donald Trump, so loud in condemnation of fake news, was suckered into joining the tidal wave of anti-racist protest. Nevertheless, because in the eyes of a now almost rabid liberal establishment, this president can do no right, there were noisy demonstrations when Trump arrived in El Paso to show his own disgust at the carnage. While the demonstrators howled outside calling him a racist, the president said there was no place for race hate in the country and called on Americans to unite against it.

The utterly unhinged behavior of a vocal minority was demonstrated with obscene effigies of the president and some placards, one of which read: “The racist should have shot you”. How would these people have reacted to similar effigies of and messages about blacks or Hispanics? Indeed so demented have Trump-haters become that subscribers have even attacked that liberal icon the New York Times. Its crime was to run the headline “Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism”, which was deemed to be far too soft on the president.

When invective based on lies and half-truths drowns out argument based on forethought and facts, the outcome is a corrosive soup which endangers the moderate and temperate basis of all civilized societies. America is straying into very dangerous territory.