The Outrage of Laziness

sm_factcheck_blog_titleIt’s no secret that social media is riddled with a wealth of misinformation. Popular social media outlets provide an easily accessible and inexpensive avenue for people to forward their agenda, often by fomenting outrage with incomplete and/or inaccurate information.

There’s a great deal of confidence that most people won’t do any fact checking, accepting inflammatory headlines and snippets disguised as “news” blindly. That confidence is well founded, as is the confidence that accountability for the veracity of facts presented is nil.

Snopes is Your Friend

There is no excuse to remain ignorant of facts. The wealth of information available to us with a few clicks is essentially unlimited. Most of us can access this material any time we wish via our phones.

We should contain our outrage until we at least try to get enough of “rest of the story” to make a determination on our own.

Once found, it’s a matter of winnowing through material to ladle the pieces with “left versus right” or “Christians versus Islam” biases into the mixing bowl of our personal sensibilities. It takes very little time or effort.

Use Blocking Tools

Even if we are responsible users of social media, none of us can completely control what information is presented. Blocking certain users and language helps a lot, but it isn’t entirely reliable.

It’s not necessary or wise to eliminate everybody with opinions that conflict with your own, paying attention to different viewpoints is important to intellectual growth.

That said, divesting your pages of people that consistently post negative links and comments without checking the veracity of the information they present from your social media feeds will help your psyche.

Half The Story Works Better

Yesterday (Friday, August 8) I became aware of a perfect example of attempted Facebook pot stirring using carefully abbreviated facts. It’s a mild case, really, but it utilizes a carefully selected story that only tells the beginning of the tale. It was likely selected to fit an apparent anti-Islam/pro-Christian agenda.

Photo: Martin Godwin/Guardian

Photo: Martin Godwin/Guardian

Click here to read the story (published August 7) from The Guardian. The headline is “‘Jihadist’ flag flown in east London”. The location in question is an iron gate at the entrance to public housing in London.

The story characterizes the flag as “similar to those flown by jihadist groups”. There is, oddly, no mention of the “Gaza – End the siege” signs or of the Palestinian flag that some would also find offensive.

It goes on to mention boorish and threatening behavior from “a group of about 20 Asian youths”.

Looking at the flag, relating it to Isis (a Islamic fanatic group with outrageous behavior nobody should condone), and hearing the threats from the attendant “gang” would have to spark negative feelings toward the “20 Asian youths” and to the apparent agreement of the entire local populace to the sentiments expressed with the display of the flag:

“A Metropolitan police spokesman said on Thursday that they had received no complaints about offensive flags in the Tower Hamlets area.”

Outrageous! This must not stand! Who do they think they are?

Turns out, there’s more to the story and it’s VERY easy to find.

The Whole Story Is Better

Sister Christine Frost

Sister Christine Frost

Facebook makes finding other, related, stories published on the web very easy. Even if it didn’t, Google is barely a click away from anywhere on the Internet. You can even ask your phone to find it with no typing necessary.

Multiple stories can be found by typing “will crooks estate” into Google, many of them were available at the time of the Facebook post in question, so more complete information was available at the time. Selecting almost any of the other stories would not suit outrage agenda as well, however.

Rather than an entire community supporting the flying of what could be considered an “Isis flag”, the truth is that flag had already been taken down. A lengthy article from the Mail Online (click here) was available to the world the day after the Guardian story cited on Facebook and before the Facebook post was made yesterday.

The person responsible for having it removed was a resident of the area for 44 years, Sister Christine Frost, a 77 year old Roman Catholic nun. You can read more about her by clicking here.

Inspirational Behavior

If the Mail Online story is actually more truthful than the Guardian story if only because it’s more complete, it should be pointed out that the flag in question had been flying on the gate for two weeks before being removed.

Sister Christine has likely earned the respect of her local community because of her work, as she should. Because of that, she has the gravitas to make her actions stick, so the likelihood of that flag being raised again as soon as she turned her back is slim.

Sister Christine is more tolerant of the behavior of the people that raised the flag, perhaps because of her religious beliefs and perhaps because she lived in the area for over four decades.

‘There’s no way they would have thought it was to do with ISIS,’ she said.

‘I couldn’t believe it had been up for two weeks. I believe it means ‘There is no other God but Allah.

‘The problem is that it has been adopted by ISIS.”

A Palestinian flag and the pro Gaza signs remained attached to the gate after the offending flag was removed.

What’s The Truth?

Most of the stories agree on the basic facts, with the end result being that an elderly nun defied the people that intimidated passers by and reporters with threats and had an offensive symbol removed from her neighborhood.

Beyond that, she stood in place and explained her actions. Perhaps most importantly, she forgave the people that added aggressive symbolism and tension to her neighborhood and (some of the stories say) even took them to the beach for further discussion.

The more complete story is what should be disseminated as food for thought and discussion, not the fear and hate inspiring incomplete story.

We have a responsibility to ourselves and others to put in the effort to get closer to the truth before we react to inflammatory excerpts.

If you find yourself feeling outraged while reading social media all the time, it could be partially your fault for not digging a little.