Dick Polman, 4/16/2013 [Archive]

Boston Bombs Prompt Twitter Toxicity

Boston Bombs Prompt Twitter Toxicity

By Dick Polman

Shortly after Boston's annual idyll devolved into mayhem, I posted a tweet. "Worst thing: People died...Second worst thing: The upcoming blame game." And sure enough, it was game on.

I get it that we're all upset. The urge to lash out is strong, and we're only human. But way too often, pundits and armchair primitives, free of all filters, treat Twitter as their own personal sewer. So it went yesterday, oh so predictably.

Fox News regular Erik Rush said that Muslims were clearly to blame: "Yes, they're evil. Let's kill them all."

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones confidently said, "[t]he FBI has been behind every domestic terror plot."

Anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller declared "Jihad in Boston," and when another tweeter dared question her theory, Geller replied, "Blood on your hands."

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said the GOP was partly to blame, because it has refused to ratify President Obama's nominee to head the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms: "Explosion is a reminder that ATF needs a director. Shame on Senate Republicans for blocking apptment." (Kristof subsequently tweeted, "I take it back.")

The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto, a conservative commentator, sought to score a partisan point: "Obama is going to make a statement. Boehner is going to have a moment of silence. Advantage GOP." (Taranto subsequently deleted it.)

The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, a conservative blogger, took the opportunity score a partisan point and mock a colleague. She's miffed that Post health policy reporter Sarah Kliff has declined to cover the Philadelphia murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell; Kliff says she covers policy, "not local crime." So here's what Rubin tweeted yesterday about the bombings: "Not writing about Boston. It is a local crime story for now."

Various tea-party partisans got it into their heads that Wolf Blitzer had blamed the bombings on their movement, so they let their fingers fly: "Wolf Blitzer already blaming Tea Party" and "Way to Wolf Blitzer! Pathetic" and "Wolf Blitzer is REALLY blaming the tea party for the Boston explosions? What a partisan douchebag" and "Wolf Blitzer just speculated if tea party groups were behind the bombing WITH ZERO EVIDENCE" and (this is my favorite) "Looks like I'm off to workout and then punch the Fu-k outta the first liberal asstard I run across. He can thank Wolf f---ing Blitzer."

Did Blitzer specifically finger the tea party? Nope. What he actually said, while quizzing a guest expert, was merely this: "It is a state holiday in Massachusetts called Patriots Day, and, uh, who knows if that had anything to do with these explosions." (A foe of Patriots Day could be anyone from an al Qaeda wannabee to an aggrieved local nutcase.)

And I won't even bother to list all the re-tweets about how the Boston police had supposedly taken into custody a "Saudi" suspect. The police, in reality, had no such person. The fake report came to us courtesy of a Murdoch outlet, the New York Post.

So here's a suggestion for the denizens of Twitter: Show some respect for the dead and the injured. Observe a virtual moment of silence. Give the authorities some space, let them do their job. And until such time that there is actually something worth saying, Please. Shut. Up.

Last night, one admirably sane guy went on Twitter and asked, "Why does every event these days require an accompanying conspiracy theory? What is the matter with people?"

Hey, pal. You tell me.

-----

Copyright 2013 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a "Writer in Residence" at the University of Philadelphia. Email him at dickpolman7@gmail.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.



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