Last night I ac­ci­den­tal­ly came face to face with Twit­ter hor­ror, a very pale re­flec­tion of larg­er real-life hor­ror, but still jar­ring. What hap­pened was, some­one shot up a Québec Ci­ty mosque. For a few hours no­body knew who’d done the shoot­ing, and that ab­sence of iden­ti­ty be­came a blank can­vas which the Net’s trolls paint­ed with their shit-colored dream­s.

I got in­ter­est­ed in the sto­ry and like ev­ery­one else was cu­ri­ous who the bad guys were. Watched Twit­ter be­cause that’s what you do when news is hang­ing fire. Tuned in the Ra­dio Cana­da (French-language) livestream of the 1:45AM Eastern Time press con­fer­ence by the Québec Premier, the Québec city may­or, and the po­lice chief, which was emo­tion­al and had the sad facts about deaths and in­juries, but didn’t ID the shoot­er­s.

I thought it couldn’t hurt to get the straight sto­ry out to the non-Francophone world and tweet­ed “Quebec pre­mier, Que­bec city may­or, and po­lice chief live press conf now, de­clin­ing to say who at­tack­ers were. #Sain­teFoy”.

That hash­tag, based on the street where the mosque is, seemed the hottest one late yes­ter­day. I’d glanced in, find­ing most­ly sor­row and sol­i­dar­i­ty, but af­ter I be­came part of it looked clos­er and start­ed feel­ing sick. Be­cause it was ob­vi­ous that a whole lot of peo­ple were hop­ing re­al­ly hard that the shoot­er was Their Per­son­al Other. Robyn Ur­back brought a nice turn of phrase, on the CBC: How to make a tragedy fit your de­sired nar­ra­tive.

Ex­cept for a lot of peo­ple weren’t just hop­ing that the killer was (a) a crazed Is­lamist or (b) a crazed Trump­kin, they were an­nounc­ing it proac­tive­ly. The drea­ry litany of 21st-century ex­alt­ed ig­no­rance: Is­lam­o­fas­cis­m, Kel­lie Leitch, Barack Hus­sein y’know, “They were Syr­i­an refugees!”, “political correctness”, TrumpTrumpTrump, alt-right, Lib­er­al apol­o­gist­s, yad­da yad­da fuck­ing yad­da. So many of them, so lit­tle thought, so much anger, so much fear. Twit­ter trolling, it’s so easy to ig­nore when it’s not in your time­line.

I was go­ing to copy in some of the more de­plorable tweet­s, but then I’d be part of the prob­lem, wouldn’t I? But let’s make one ex­cep­tion:

A Jerk

This is the white supremacist who was punched out on live TV the oth­er day in Wash­ing­ton. He had some oth­er re­marks on the in­ci­den­t. I hope he comes to Cana­da re­al soon now.

What ac­tu­al­ly hap­pened · The shoot­er was a pure laine Québecois, giv­en to social-media moon­ing at alt-right icons specif­i­cal­ly in­clud­ing Marine Le Pen. Let’s not gen­er­al­ize; life’s too short to walk around in dai­ly fear of ei­ther ji­hadis or fascist-wannabes, and you’re way more like­ly to get hit by a bus.

The sec­ond per­son ar­rest­ed is ac­tu­al­ly an in­ter­est­ing sto­ry, a ran­dom Mus­lim en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent who was shov­el­ing the mosque’s snow dur­ing the shoot­ing, called 911 and was giv­ing first aid when the cops ar­rived wav­ing gun­s. He (not un­rea­son­ably) pan­icked and ran, and they (not un­rea­son­ably) chased him down. No hard feel­ings ei­ther side.

A les­son · The Break­ing News Consumer’s Hand­book; go read it. Right, as usu­al, in ev­ery par­tic­u­lar. And if you don’t know what’s go­ing on, shut the fuck up about it.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Nik P (Jan 31 2017, at 01:12)

Tim - I have to call you out on one thing for creating a false equivalence. There is a difference between one side "hoping" it was a muslim extremest, and the other "hoping" it was a white alt-right conservative.

One side wants to divide further - to justify their worldviews of fear and mistrust, and to support and expand xenophobic policies.

The other wants to unite - to point out that it's a complex world and we are all in it together, and we can't just executive-order or build-a-wall our way out of this one.

Sadly, despite the truth, this is already turning out to be just another victory for hate. The conservatives milked the Muslim suspect for all they could, and have no interest in issuing retractions or mea culpas. Their supporters already added another checkbox next to the line "Reasons we must hate and fear THEM" in the first few hours after the event, and have no interest in any updates.


From: Ian Rae (Feb 06 2017, at 12:38)

Agreed. Twitter and other social media platforms have created a machine for amplifying knee-jerk opinions (AKA. half-pinions) in louder and louder waves of feedback.


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