Like a large number of people, I read Twitter like a newspaper. It always seems so far ahead of mainstream media and is always quoted as a source by mainstream media. I mean, why bother hearing a developing news story second hand, homogenised and, arguably, re-worked to fit the prejudices of the broadcaster? Like any good journalist, go to the source.
I have an interest in certain subjects – let’s pick one – Gaza. My interest in Gaza is based on being so very annoyed that I had been lied to and I had believed those lies for so many years. My beliefs had been formed by the pro-Israeli machine that infests mainstream media around the more conservative and ignorant West (such as the UK and the USA). We grow up just believing what we are told.
As I realised that there was another side to the story, I started to seek out and follow bloggers and tweeterers (if that’s what they can be called) who were living in Gaza. I did this during a time of peace, an interlude between the regular mass attacks and death, when Israel decides to punish those who are collectively held in the concentration camp of Israel’s making that is Gaza.
I started to realise that these people living in Gaza were ok and not all the mad crazed ‘cattle’ that Israel wanted us to believe they were.
During one of the many mass punishments, during which thousands, mainly children, were senslessly killed, I was able to watch mainstream media with its pro-Israel justification of how ‘terrorists’ were being carefully targeted, and watch a truly different and horrendous account unfolding via blogs and social media. Well, Twitter mainly. People I had been reading fairly moderate accounts of life in Gaza from were now dying or screaming out for help and for the relentless punishment to stop.
From this point I knew that the truth wasn’t what I was being fed by mainstream media. From this point I used the keyword search facility to watch the world I was interested in via Twitter.
When the bombs exploded in Boston at the end of the marathon there, I did my usual reading by search to try ot get the facts before they would eventually appear on my television.
I didn’t really have any anchor or ‘control’ points on Twitter for Boston. By that I mean, I wasn’t following anybody or ‘watching’ Boston before the bombs went off bringing it into my interest.
Instead, I relied on doing general Boston searches and watching everything I could to try to piece together the facts. This is like being presented with a million contradicting ‘facts’ and having to pick which is true.
When watching Gaza, I can turn to the tweets of ‘trusted sources’ to act as the ‘controls’ and ‘anchor points’ to help me decide what to reject. With Boston I wasn’t so lucky.
As the tweets spewed forth, and were retweeted and retweeted and retweeted, I found that rather than clarity, I was getting more and more confusion.
I was reading all about how up to 7 other bombs had been found, controlled explosions, suspects being held in hospital (suspects from Saudi Arabia, complete with an obligatory ‘brown skin’ description), how there were scores dead, how it was confirmed as an attack from Al-Qaeda, an attack from the local gun lobby, an attack from this that or the other. Tweets were sincere and precise. They added to the pot bubbling away with so much noise.
One that sticks in my mind that was retweeted for days after, was in reference to the 8 year old BOY, Martin Richard, who was killed as he was standing in the crowd watching his dad run the marathon. He was with his mother, who is critically ill, and his sister who lost part of a limb in the explosion. His father and brother were also hurt.
As it leaked out that an 8 year old had died, this, in the hands of those who love to start rumours, very quickly became an 8 year old GIRL, and there was even a picture of her running in the marathon (in reality it was a picture of a girl running somewhere else some years before), with a back story that she was running to raise money for the victims of the mass shooting in Sandy Hook. Martin Richard hadn’t run the marathon. He was just a spectator there to cheer on his father.
Where had this story originated? It, along with the picture, was retweeted almost continuously. Long after the details of the actual 8 year old BOY victim had been confirmed and released to the public, retweets of this pretend GIRL victim were still bouncing around.
I suspect that the story was originated by one of the many not exactly trolls, but lovers of putting something out there and getting others to ‘pass it on’ like the worst chain letter ever. It makes them feel so good to see their work, their rumour, their lie, their fabrication being so widely distributed.
However, it’s not too useful for those of us trying to fathom the truth.
I found myself struggling and returning to mainstream media to use as my ‘control’ and ‘anchor point’.
That’s a wake up call for me. I never thought I’d be putting my trust into mainstream media because social media was letting me down. This is making me have to rethink my longer term strategy!
To conclude, there were a number of things I noticed. Firstly, the number of ‘prayers’ that people were saying they were praying for the victims. It’s a subject for another day, but why pray to a god who has obviously decided that he will allow his people, especially an innocent 8 year old lad, to be killed so awfully? It was obviously his decision to let it happen. If it wasn’t he wouldn’t have let it happen would he? But I digress.
Yes, loads of praying was going on, or at least they were tweeting that it was going on. Were they all actually praying? What were they asking for?
Secondly, I noted the ignorant “my death figure is bigger than your death figure” tweets. Notably coming from parts of the world that dislike the United States of America, people were saying things like, “only three dead? Pah! What about the 40 who died here yesterday?” as if that somehow was a kind thing to be saying to those only just mourning their losses in Boston.
Yes, it’s true that there are constant deaths in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., etc., and those deaths should not be devalued. But, neither should the deaths in Boston.
Thirdly, I noted the “Please don’t let it be a Muslim” tweets. The fear being that if it were proven to be a Muslim that set the bombs, the USA would be straight into the Islamic country of their choice with an Israeli inspired punishment of the masses.
By the way, I am minded of the words of a wise old sage at tweetresponsibly.net which would have made my life a heck of a lot easier.
Anyway, annoyed at not being able to glean the facts above the noise, all that’s left for me to say is I am thinking about all those caught up in the bombings. Nearly 200 directly affected. A lot of those will have their lives changed forever physically.
Those 200 will have their families, friends, co-workers, neighbours, all affected, spreading out like the ripples in a pond. Tens of thousands will be suffering because of this act to kill and maim at what was essentially a family and charitable event.
It’s awful that somebody somewhere saw nothing wrong in hurting all these people.