These ‘U-turn’ sto­ries show mis­use of new me­dia

China Daily European Weekly - - Comment - The au­thor is a writer with China Daily. zhangzhoux­i­ang@chi­ .

Ex­er­cis­ing self-dis­ci­pline and wait­ing for de­tails to un­fold are best ways to avoid traps of cre­at­ing vic­tims with twisted truth

The lo­cal res­i­dent at first was the sub­ject of a bar­rage of on­line at­tacks. But pub­lic opin­ion shifted to his side once it be­came clear that Lulu Love and his friends kept rid­ing their mo­tor­cy­cles around the mule for more than 20 min­utes, caus­ing phys­i­cal in­juries to the mule. The man had bought the mule for 10,000 yuan but was forced to sell it to a butcher for half that amount, and thus suf­fered a loss even af­ter Lulu Love paid him com­pen­sa­tion.

An­other such in­ci­dent took place in Bei­jing’s Badal­ing Wildlife Park, where a tourist sur­named Chen told jour­nal­ists that he was “un­fairly treated” by the staff af­ter he was bit­ten by a bear. The truth emerged later: He had opened his car win­dow in the Malaysian bear gar­den and tried to feed the bears bis­cuits. In fact, some videos showed Chen es­caped the bear at­tack be­cause of help from the staff. He also ad­mit­ted to hav­ing re­ceived some first aid from the staff and be­ing ad­vised to go to the hos­pi­tal for fur­ther treat­ment. He com­plained sim­ply be­cause he was un­happy.

In both cases, the com­plainants were to blame for the in­ci­dents. But in­stead of apol­o­giz­ing for their ac­tions, they ral­lied pub­lic sup­port by post­ing made-up sto­ries on­line. Had there not been fair me­dia fol­low-ups or po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions, the mule owner and the park em­ploy­ees might still be re­ceiv­ing ver­bal brick­bats, suf­fer­ing fur­ther dam­age to their rep­u­ta­tion.

Such U-turn sto­ries are par­tic­u­larly un­fair to those not adept at us­ing so­cial me­dia. The mule owner, for in­stance, is a se­nior ci­ti­zen who does not have any mi­cro blog ac­count, which could have prompted Lulu Love to twist the in­ci­dent in his fa­vor. Un­for­tu­nately, no ne­ti­zen both­ered to find out the other side of the story.

Ad­di­tion­ally, U-turn sto­ries deal a heavy blow to pub­lic trust, be­cause peo­ple who have faced flak for no fault of theirs will hes­i­tate to voice sup­port for those un­fairly treated later. To pre­vent the prop­a­ga­tion of U-turn sto­ries, ev­ery so­cial me­dia user should learn to act ra­tio­nally. When­ever a rather sen­sa­tional story emerges, it is ad­vis­able to wait un­til all of the de­tails un­fold in­stead of jump­ing to a con­clu­sion and scar­ring the in­no­cent with in­vec­tives.

More im­por­tant, law en­forcers need to act and hold those peo­ple who fab­ri­cate sto­ries ac­count­able. Yet in nei­ther of the above-men­tioned cases did the rule breaker re­ceive any pu­n­ish­ment for his mis­deed.

True, so­cial me­dia have opened chan­nels where in­di­vid­u­als can raise their griev­ances and voice their opin­ions on is­sues of their choice. But to en­sure that the new so­cial tools are not mis­used, it is im­por­tant to ex­er­cise self­dis­ci­pline.

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