What is it going to take? How many times are people going to rush to judgment? How many times are people going to grab pitchforks without knowing whom to poke?
Here’s the way it works today: A notable event takes place. The traditional media needs to fill 24 hours of coverage, so they use whatever limited information is available to craft a story. Headlines scream some message meant to attract attention, often with a slanted tone.
At the same time, social media spreads the initial report and millions of people who have no clue what happened get riled up. Days pass before more facts come to light, which often either contradict or lessen the biased tone initially shown, but by then it is too late. The court of public opinion has been in session and made their convictions.
I still don’t know what happened in Ferguson, Mo. I remember seeing headlines that said, “White Cop Kills Unarmed Black Teen.” I saw a slew of Facebook posts that had people from the comfort of their homes frothing at the mouth to deal with this dirty cop. I saw the media interview the deceased’s family where they used the word “executed” no less than eight times in 60 seconds. I heard references to a “gentle giant” who had never been in trouble and to a “rogue cop” who wanted blood.
“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” became a rally cry because a peaceful kid surrendering was murdered. Rioters looted innocent business owners while the police were vilified for being in riot gear and dispensing tear gas.
In the following week, we learned that the deceased allegedly robbed a convenience store minutes before he died. Reports have surfaced that call the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” mantra a myth. Instead of surrendering, it has been said that the victim confronted the officer and may have punched him or went for his weapon.
I’m not here to say who is innocent or guilty. What I’d like to know is why people need to rush to figure out what happened?
Is a guilty person going to be less guilty after four days has passed? Does “justice” need to be doled out immediately? The only thing I’ve seen with immediacy is that it leads to a lot of misinformation.
Perhaps more responsible reporting would have saved those businesses that were looted by people using anger as an excuse to steal. Waiting is often said to be the hardest part, but it is the right thing to do.