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:
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.