How the YouTube tragedy turned into an internet mud fight
Commentary: When a shooter began firing in YouTube's San Bruno, California headquarters, many took to the internet to ask: which side is guilty?
Daniel Van BoomSenior Writer
Daniel Van Boom is an award-winning Senior Writer based in Sydney, Australia. Daniel Van Boom covers cryptocurrency, NFTs, culture and global issues. When not writing, Daniel Van Boom practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, reads as much as he can, and speaks about himself in the third person.
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It's often said that prayers can't stop bullets, but there's good intent here. Apple CEO
and Amazon CEO
were among those who tweeted their support to YouTube and Google following the incident.
Watch this: Here's everything we know so far about the YouTube shooter
In the middle of these two groups is the bad. The "bad" aren't necessarily bad people, but their reactions sure do have negative effects. The bad are the ones who are all too eager to accuse someone on the other side as soon as something terrible happens.
"If this shooter at YouTube isn't a white male with far-right leanings, I will eat my f****** hat. Get rid of the f****** guns." That's what one (now deleted) tweet read, posted before the shooter was found to be a woman. It's since become widely mocked by people who are relieved the shooter was not, in fact, a white male with far-right leanings.
Those in the US who want stricter gun control wanted desperately for the shooter to be a conservative nut with strong allegiance to the NRA. "Take that," they could say, "it was someone on YOUR team who did it."
Slowly, information trickled out about the shooter. She's a vegan activist, and apparently Iranian. Suddenly, conservative voices rang out loud and proud. "Ha! She was on YOUR side all along."
This tendency is harmful on many fronts. It makes tragedy a team sport. Your team loses if someone who commits an atrocity is found to be on "your side." If, however, that person is on the other team, your team can use that as political leverage.
Once teams form around an atrocity, it encourages people to focus not on what's said in the aftermath, but who says it. The gun control debate will rage on with great ferocity in the coming days, but many are likely, as always, to focus on identities and not arguments.
You can almost feel it. It's just a matter of time before somebody, somewhere tries to argue that the shooter did her awful deed because she was a vegan activist. Not because she was a deranged person who happened to be a vegan activist. It sounds absurd and unlikely, but swap "vegan" with "Iranian" or "NRA-supporting white male" and it starts to sound familiar.
Most relevant to social media: All of the above creates an environment for fake news to thrive. Fake news, better defined as purposeful misinformation, is predominantly effective if you want to believe it.
I'm Australian. I have no horse in the gun control debate that is once again about to heat up. But polarized thinking is everywhere, and if we can get less excited about blaming tragedies on people we disagree with, it'll probably help.
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