Why don’t terrorism trolls think before they tweet?

Why don’t terrorism trolls think before they tweet?
A woman makes a heart gesture as crowds gather for a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, England, Tuesday May 23, 2017, the day after the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert that left 22 people dead as it ended on Monday night. Photo: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti
“It’s happened again,” someone somewhere said, when news broke that a terrorist suicide bomber set off an explosion, using a device packed with nails, nuts and bolts Monday night, following a concert by Ariana Grande in Manchester, U.K. Someone named Salman Abedia killed himself with the intent of scaring millions of people, and in the process this 22-year-old man took not just his own life but the lives of 22 people, including an 8-year-old girl named Saffie Rose Roussos.
This is a an undated photo obtained by the Press Association on Tuesday May 23, 2017, of Saffie Rose Roussos, one of the victims of a attack at Manchester Arena, in Manchester England which left at least 22 dead on Monday. PA via AP
Almost 60 others were hurt, and many of the victims were children. The news spread like a gasoline-fed fire via the world’s airwaves and fibers and cables and LTE and 3G and 4G and WiFi and ethernet. The faces of 22 people murdered in cold blood appear in our hands, their blood can be seen at our fingertips. We did not sign up for this when we activated our devices, and yet, there it is. About the only thing that surprises me anymore is how some people react to the horrific events I’ve covered in my lifetime, from the bombing of our Marine barracks in 1983, the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland, the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, Oklahoma City, 9/11, Newtown, San Bernardino and attacks on innocents around the world from the Middle East to Africa to Russia and Indonesia. Many people responded as I did, with shock and horror, tears and disgust. The internet can unite us in moments like this, and provide all of us a chance to connect in our sorrow, even with celebrities who typically seem so far from us. The way some other people react is to draw attention to themselves and their beliefs, and in the social media universe, that temptation is greater than their moral restraint, presuming they have some.
Troll Patrol As my colleague Graham Gremore wrote in Queerty, “Twitter troll @AntMcfc_ decided it would be an appropriate time to crack a homophobic ‘joke’ about the whole thing:” Canal Street is popular among Manchester’s gay community. When this particular troll was challenged on his homophobia, he merely doubled down.
Twitter did not hesitate; after receiving complaints, the company deleted his tweets and suspended his account. As of press time it has not taken action against self-described “writer” David Leavitt, who tweeted
MULTIPLE CONFIRMED FATALITIES at Manchester Arena. The last time I listened to Ariana Grande I almost died too.
If that were not enough, Leavitt — who boasts in his Twitter profile that he writes for CBS News, AXS, Yahoo and The Examiner — followed up with:
Honestly, for over a year I thought an Ariana Grande was something you ordered at Starbucks.
He must have felt some pang of guilt, or something, as reactions poured in. So he tweeted: “Too soon?” Children were dying and Leavitt was working on his standup routine. His next act might require a revision to his resume, reported the New York Daily News. “This person is not employed by AXS. We don’t endorse this despicable comment,” AXS tweeted. CBS also confirmed that Leavitt does not work for the company. “@David_Leavitt does not work for @CBSNews,” the company tweeted. The CBS affiliate in Boston deleted articles from its WBZ-TV website. “David Leavitt is not a WBZ employee. His abhorrent comments in no way represent the views of our station,” WBZ-TV tweeted. And a Yahoo! spokesperson told the newspaper that Leavitt has not written for the company since 2014. After being bombarded by angry tweets, Leavitt himself took action, deleting the offending original tweet, and posting an apology.

What can we do?

It’s not just these trolls, of course, that we need to be on guard against. It’s our own triggers, feelings, and fears. Our desire for vengeance, to protect ourselves against what we perceive as a direct danger to us and our loved ones.

Two very smart men have a message about all that for us. First, a few words by Rabbi Jonathan Romain, Ph.D., who is minister of Maidenhead synagogue in England.

The attack, he wrote in The Guardian, “forces us to reassess daily acts that we have taken for granted up to now: is it safe to travel on buses? Might it be best not take the children to a funfair?”

Worst of all is the sense of vengeance it evokes in us, wanting to lash out and hurt those whom we – however lacking in evidence – associate with the bomber; at the same time, we instinctively raise drawbridges and seek to isolate ourselves from groups other than “our own”.

What all these responses have in common is that they are negative reactions, and although totally understandable, they lessen us rather than enhance us. We are being offered sugar-coated poison and should refuse it.

What is needed is reassurance on two levels. First, the reassurance that our way of life will continue. More security checks may now be necessary, but concert halls will still function, public transport will still run. We want there to be a tomorrow and we want it to resemble today.

Second, the reassurance that our values are still intact. Society will still be based on law and justice. Cross-communal events and inter-faith dialogue will carry on, social and cultural events will still flourish. Doing what is noble, speaking the truth, loving our neighbours as ourselves – they will all remain.

With time and help, we can cope with personal shock and we can overcome individual trauma, but what we fear most is our social structures being derailed and losing everything that hundreds of years of gradual progress have achieved.

And Vox correspondent Carlos Maza put together a brilliant video that addresses the “smotherage” that television, especially cable TV news, provides in moments like these. It’s not wrong to be sucked in, it’s what most of us do; but what can we do when we need to save our own sanity? How do you break the chain? The key, he found, is to not lose our heads and ignore the messages our brain is sending us while taking in all these scary images.

In three words: turn it off.

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