Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bowling for Twitter

I try my best to completely avoid social media in the wake of tragedies like the shootings Newtown, Connecticut. Too many knee-jerk responses of "I've lost all faith in humanity," or "People are fucked," or "Fuck that crazy fucker," or "Bring back the death penalty" (yes, even when the shooter killed himself) -- you know, all the usual emotional-irrational-response-venom that is so easy to post into the ether without consideration of the larger, more significant political and social dynamics at work. None of it really means anything, and it's nothing we haven't heard over and over again.

I don't know about you, but I was too fucking gutted by the news from Newtown to go anywhere near a computer or smartphone within minutes, or even hours, of the story breaking.

Of course, I am not denying the tragedy or excusing the shooting of 28 people, including Adam Lanza's suicide. It's heartbreaking beyond belief.

The fact that shootings like this keep happening in America, almost in a predictable manner, does bring into question the roots of many people's newfound "loss of faith in humanity," which is the purpose of this article. Indulge for a moment in some history...
  • If you publicly spoke about the earth being round prior to the advent of science, you would have been slaughtered, legally, by the church/state;
  • After 400 years of slavery ended with the Civil War of 1865, American politicians made the 13th Amendment to the American Constitution which craftily allowed slavery to continue "as punishment for crime," following which the American prison population became as high as 90% black within just 5 years, and is now entrenched in a spiral of private, for-profit prison industry;
  • The Holocaust happened.
  • Executives of the Ford Motor Company put the Ford Pinto on the market from 1971-1980 after a cost-benefit analysis that proved it would be cheaper to deal with any lawsuits pertaining to wrongful death than to recall a faulty, and fatal, fuel tank design;
  • The NestlĂ© corporation sent employees posing as doctors to Africa to push the use of baby formula -- that needed to be mixed with clean water, which was not widely available. Yes, many babies died;
  • The same day the Columbine shootings happened in America, NATO (under the hands of US President Bill Clinton) executed the largest single-day bombing in the Kosovo War; and
  • Nearly 120,000 civilians were casualties of a war in Iraq from 2003-2011 that had no empirical reason to happen aside from George W. Bush's ideology.

If you apparently lost your faith in humanity over Newtown, then reading a history book at some point in your life would have made commit suicide years ago. But in reality, Newtown has only really confirmed a preexisting narrow and cynical worldview; which most often, ironically, comes from a place of privilege. Well, as Pulp would say, "Everybody hates a tourist."

All of the above historical atrocities were perpetuated, rationally, of sound mind, with cold calculation, by Presidents, lawyers, and CEOs; people whom everyday citizens look to for guidance and whose careers we are supposed to envy and strive for in our own lives. They are "sane" and clean cut. They have homes, families, bills, and social circles.

Mass-scale and calculated acts of violence -- calculated cowardly from behind the iron wall of an office hundreds, and thousands of miles away -- and the people who perpetuate them, for me, have always been, and always will be, a lot more scary than a sole gunman. This is not to say that the fear response is the same or to make little of lives lost in Newtown, Columbine, or anywhere else -- but this is more of an exploration of the response of people on social media with no personal connection to the actual events.

It's easy to target one "crazy" person we can more easily write off as different from us than look at a complicated system where truth is a jumbled, post-modern mess of "WTF?!?", where the killer could just as easily be any of us.

Shootings like this, while always tragic, are nothing new. They are by-products of a larger culture of violence, fear, and selfishness. They are by-products of alienation. Which, in 2012, despite our apparently acute "connectedness" via internet and social media, is greater than it's ever been.

If you want to publicly share your feelings about a tragedy, then why not have a town hall meeting? Enlist the help of grief counselors. Go for coffee with a friend. Because you would be a lot more than simply pissed off if you were medically traumatized by the event. And you wouldn't have the stature to post a "fuck humanity and crazy people" status update during commercial breaks of Glee.

Please post responsibly. The internet is an opportunity for community-building and constructive dialogue. Not a faceless dumping ground for unresolved emotions.