The cy­cle of hate con­tin­ues on Twit­ter

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Editorial - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 39 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@thetele­ — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

Nora Loreto is hav­ing a rough week.

On April 8, she tweeted about the Humboldt Bron­cos bus crash that killed 16 hockey play­ers and staff, say­ing, “I’m try­ing to not get cyn­i­cal about what is a to­tally dev­as­tat­ing tragedy but the male­ness, the youth­ful­ness and the white­ness of the vic­tims are, of course, play­ing a sig­nif­i­cant role.”

It’s a tweet that had more than 8 mil­lion views by Thurs­day morn­ing, and showed no sign of slow­ing down.

The out­rage was pre­dictable; suf­fice to say, if you haven’t read that tweet al­ready, it might well en­rage you now.

But put your rage on hold for a sec­ond.

In some ways, it’s a le­git­i­mate ques­tion, al­though the tim­ing was abysmally poorly cho­sen.

It’s a ques­tion that can be asked about a lot of things: would the pub­lic re­ac­tion to the Chal­lenger ex­plo­sion have been dif­fer­ent if Christa McAuliffe hadn’t been on board? (She was to have been the first teacher and the first civilian is space; be­cause of that al­most 17 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion of the United States was watch­ing live cov­er­age of the Chal­lenger launch.)

Would the re­ac­tion of Cana­di­ans to the brain cancer di­ag­no­sis and sub­se­quent death of a band’s lead singer have been dif­fer­ent if the band didn’t hap­pen to be The Trag­i­cally Hip, and the lead singer wasn’t Gord Downie?

Would your re­ac­tion be dif­fer­ent — would it be more in­tense — if your friends and neigh­bours, Frank and Heather, died in a house fire, or if two peo­ple in an Indige­nous com­mu­nity in Labrador — strangers to you — died in a house fire?

The an­swer to a lot of those things is “yes.”

Peo­ple tend to re­act more to things that hap­pen to con­nect to their lives more di­rectly. You more eas­ily put on the shoes you rec­og­nize.

But welcome to life in a feed­back loop. It’s not enough any­more to po­litely raise an is­sue or to po­litely dis­agree, let alone to pon­der care­fully whether the time is right to make your point.

The im­pli­ca­tion of wide­spread racism and sex­ism in the orig­i­nal tweet — the “white­ness,” the “male­ness” — cer­tainly doesn’t help. There’s noth­ing like be­ing told your pub­lic grief is raw proof of some­thing dark in your soul.

But welcome to life in a feed­back loop. It’s not enough any­more to po­litely raise an is­sue or to po­litely dis­agree, let alone to pon­der care­fully whether the time is right to make your point. You have to make it loud and fast so it will be heard above the ev­ery­day clat­ter — some­thing that both Loreto and those re­spond­ing to her are, con­sciously or un­con­sciously, tak­ing part in.

Ev­ery­body has your home ad­dress on Twit­ter or Face­book, and if they don’t, the raven­ing horde is right there on your time­line to share it with you. As com­ments cy­cle in, each one ever more hate­ful, they build the col­lec­tive rage. New en­trants have to be even more out­landishly an­gry to be heard. At first, peo­ple called Loreto in­sen­si­tive; then, they wanted her fired. Then, she should never work in the me­dia again, and fi­nally, many sug­gested she should be dead.

I’ve been writ­ing for over 30 years, and I’ve made big mis­takes. I’ve cov­ered things too soon and too harshly, and peo­ple have called me on it. In the past, those calls were let­ters or tele­phone calls. There is noth­ing worse than re­ceiv­ing a per­sonal call from some­one you re­spect, es­pe­cially when you can hear the clear dis­ap­point­ment in their voice. Those are the com­plaints that have changed me — made me more thought­ful and, I hope, bet­ter at what I do.

Ten years ago, a men­tor might have said to Nora Loreto, “You have a point, but on this one, at this time in the de­bate, you have a tin ear.” Af­ter all, isn’t she ac­tu­ally guilty of the same thing she’s ac­cus­ing oth­ers of — guilty of ig­nor­ing the pain and suf­fer­ing of a group she feels dis­tanced from?

But there’s no dis­cus­sion — just ever-in­creas­ing hate.

If all we do is yell into the feed­back loop, we’ll never change any­thing.

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