In all this discussion of the events of June 3, there’s an important element of the story being missed: Namely, the fact that the “perps” were acting on an inaccurate rumor they heard through social media. Have we not all learned by now that Facebook and similar platforms are a poor source for news and information? In this case the rumors were passed along by a gun shop owner in Carlsborg, who claimed to have reliable “intel” (his word, not mine) that buses filled with Antifa rowdies were approaching the region.
Whether this gun shop owner is simply a gullible bloke who believes everything he reads online, or a clever (albeit reckless) marketer looking to boost gun sales by instilling fear in the community, I’ll leave for others to decide. If the former, he was fooled by unfounded tales posted on the internet, but he is hardly alone in that respect. The Net abounds with every variety of rumor and conjecture and absolute baloney masquerading as facts, not to mention a mountain of irrational conspiracy theories, and millions of our fellow citizens are getting suckered by the purveyors of this stuff every single day. Much of it comes from disinformation merchants operating in Russia and other unfriendly countries wishing to help destabilize us even further, but a fair amount of it is homegrown.
What’s to be done? Mark Zuckerberg seems to be a bit squeamish about setting stricter standards (and enforcing them) on Facebook, but Twitter has made an effort to point out questionable content that the consumer is wise to verify before accepting at face value. And at the end of the day, that’s what we should all be doing anyway. Ronald Reagan used to say “Trust – but verify”. When it comes to approaching things we read on social media, we should take those wise words to heart. It often takes little research to verify or refute something one reads online. Might I suggest https://mediabiasfactcheck.com as a worthy source? It identifies and weighs thousands of media outlets based on bias and proven reliability. https://www.snopes.com is another.
We all know that the internet is an information minefield; one must tread carefully in order to avoid being hoodwinked by bad actors who, for various reasons, stand to gain from fooling us. I hope we keep in mind that this particularly applies to social media.
I hope our friend the gun shop owner isn’t laughing all the way to the bank.