“I don’t know, I wasn’t there…”

I first saw reference to “the attack” on Instagram. Similar to here, I don’t like talking partisan politics or heavy current events on Instagram. I prefer to keep it friendly and generally apolitical…

…But someone I follow wrote an opaque post decrying the hatred, bigotry, and violence, and the terrible people out there doing terrible things all of the time, and oh, when will it ever stop, our hearts are with you [captioning a photo of an actor I had only vaguely heard of].

I had no idea what she was talking about, so I checked the Associated Press.

A report – many stories down – popped up that a black/gay actor had told police he had been assaulted by two men who put a rope around his neck? At around 2 AM? While he was buying a Subway sandwich? In Chicago? And the attackers were yelling homophobic comments and about “MAGA?”

What? It all sounded rather outlandish to me; but I never fully rule out the possibility of nearly anything. I noticed also that Twitter was aflame. I also thought: Can you all not take a deep breath here and await some facts beyond the police report filed by the reported victim – especially given police cannot seem to turn up any video whatsoever of “the attack,” or of “the attackers,” in a neighborhood, the AP also said, that is full of security cameras?

[Fog this morning over Hertfordshire, England, seen from our side door. Photo by me, 2019.]

Of course, though, we are not supposed to wait. We should respond in seconds. We must jump to conclusions issue an immediate statement.

Now, approaching a month later, as facts have piled up, matters appear to be rather different than what they were reported to be at the outset. We see this sort of thing happen too often. One reason I have mostly stopped using Twitter is that platform that was once so useful has become so damaging.

Indeed I don’t actually see a real point to Twitter any longer. Years ago, it allowed ordinary people to attract media attention to happenings where major media could not be, such as at a developing revolution in Tunisia. It is by now merely mostly “anonymous” people gossiping and often being nasty, celebrities being snide, certain politicians being incendiary, and “journalists” on the prowl for “easy pickings” from the next stupid person who thinks they are anonymous, tweets something idiotic, gets noticed by that journalist who tweets “Wow, look at this!” and then 50,000 ordinary others retweet it also, many of those declaring the person is the lowest of humanity since at least H-tler and ought to be exiled to Antarctica, and the person’s boss eventually is located in suburban somewhere, and he emails through his lawyer he would never have employed the person for 15 years had he known the person held such an idiot opinion, and the person gets fired from his job… all for a single dopey tweet.

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

For most of history, a war might start and end before most of the rest of the world had ever even known about it. In the late 1700s, a US diplomat in Europe had to wait sometimes for MONTHS to get an answer to a letter he wrote to his boss, the Secretary of State. As recently as February 1942, before President Roosevelt spoke to Americans BY RADIO, he had asked newspapers weeks before to pass the word that for his talk he wanted Americans to have a map of the world in front of them while he spoke, so he could more easily explain what was happening in various faraway places.

That world is gone. That communication has become “immediate” is certainly a good thing for a variety of reasons. Not so good, though, is how we are now incessantly bombarded.

There is more information in a single Sunday edition of the New York Times than most in the 1700s read IN THEIR ENTIRE LIVES. Add on social media and dumped into our laps every time we open an app is far more than was even asked of our grandparents to try to digest near-instantly; and those additional masses of immediate – “BREAKING!” – info we are beset with is too often of decidedly questionable value and even truthfulness. No wonder so many of us now are often stressed-out messes.

We are also lectured, even hectored, by “social-media-powers-that-be” that we are somehow “uniformed” if we fail to offer an opinion about ANYTHING within seconds. Indeed every elected official everywhere on the planet must also be forever on guard: “I’m Joe Fastacanucci of New York Newsday. Question, Mr. Mayor. How can you not know? It was just tweeted by a driver in Rotorua, New Zealand… about half an hour ago. Surely we here on Long Island condemn that?”

[Kitchen. Hertfordshire, England. Photo by me this morning, 2019.]

Here, just north of London, may I at least have a cup of coffee first, I just woke up. My personal view in the face of all of this now increasingly may be summed up in six words: “I don’t know, I wasn’t there.” Those six words, though, are no longer really acceptable in our social media manic info-world.

And dis-info world too. The best thing we could all do for our own peace of mind is to turn off Twitter and go read a good book that doesn’t even have to be one of mine. I’m glad I went with my instinct and said NOTHING on social media about that “attack.” Maybe now and then it is indeed worth pretending it is still “1800” and wait to form an opinion in a month, or in three, or even in six months, after facts truly have begun to come in?: “Really? You mean something happened in Chicago back in January? How did it turn out?”

Have a good weekend wherever you are in the world. πŸ™‚