Back when computers first began taking over record-keeping, wags used to joke that they were a miracle of science: they could make mistakes ten times faster than any human could.
Little did we realize that eventually would come the Internet, social media and people who build their lives around finding things to get outraged and offended over. Those innovations combined with the latest computer technology have allowed fake news to be disseminated with a speed and scale that makes first-generation embarrassing computer errors look like nothing. Meanwhile, computer users now leap to conclusions faster than Superman can leap a tall building.
We’re still cleaning up the mess from last week’s media frenzies over the fake news from Buzzfeed about Michael Cohen and from all over about the Covington Catholic school kids. Then we got hit with two more leftist media meltdowns, both over stories that seemed to be very different on closer examination they were when they came vomiting out of our Twitter feeds.
There was this one, in which a certain “Democratic” Socialist Congress member whipped up her vast social media following into a froth (no, this wasn’t one of her dinner preparation videos) over a tweet blasting thuggish, “racist” ICE agents sent by a comedian with a history of less-than-reliable claims:
It was only after the villagers had been fired up to grab their torches that anyone looked closer and realized not only that the details didn’t add up, and the targets of the accusations weren’t even ICE agents.
And then we had the shocking story of the assault on Jessie Smollett, a gay, black actor on Fox’s series, “Empire.” Two white men in Chicago allegedly saw Smollett on the street, shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, then beat him, poured an unknown substance on him (later determined to be bleach) and wrapped a rope around his neck. It was a horrific crime, and I thank God he is all right and hope and pray the perpetrators are brought to swift justice.
But the crime wasn’t bad enough by itself: it had to be exploited politically. There was an unconfirmed report that the attackers had told Smollett he was “in MAGA country” (which should have set off suspicions, since they were in Chicago.) That was enough to launch the inevitable Twitter tsunami, branding Trump supporters as violent racist homophobes, with Al Sharpton and others demanding that President Trump denounce his own supporters for their violent white supremacist tendencies.
But again, news these days is like Texas weather: if you don’t like it, wait five minutes and it will change. Here’s the original story from the AP…
And here’s how it kept changing through the day…
Major discrepancies included that, despite the hysterical media reports, Chicago Police said Smollett told them the men’s hands and faces were covered (it is quite cold in Chicago) and he couldn’t determine their races. Also, he didn’t originally claim that they said anything about “MAGA,” although he later claimed to remember hearing them say that, only after it had already been all over the news.
Isn’t it bad enough that there was one victim of an intolerant physical attack in this story without rushing to launch an intolerant media attack on millions of Americans who had nothing to do with it? After last week’s twin debacles, was it too much to ask that people in media and social media learn the simple lesson of waiting until they know for sure what happened before going ballistic and harming innocent people while poisoning our society with divisive and unproven charges?
Many years ago, the great humorist James Thurber wrote a satirical fable about a panic caused by a reporter who didn’t bother to get his facts straight before rushing a story into print. The moral of his tale was “Don’t get it right, just get it written.”
Thurber intended that as a tongue-in-cheek warning, not as a motto for the entire 21st century media.