Words Matter, Trillionth Edition.
After last week’s massacre in New Zealand, many are (rightly) noting that the Commonwealth country’s senior-most politicians did something so logical and yet so impossible in these here United States: promising to ban semi-automatic firearms.
And while New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern pushes for gun control, dons a hijab to visit the mosques and embrace mourning, and promises to cover the funeral expenses of those murdered, the American head of state is leaning into inflammatory rhetoric. Within hours of the tragedy while speaking at a press conference, the President of the United States of America referred to an “invasion” of immigrants, using language mirrored in the killer’s own manifesto (heck no, I’m not linking to that awfulness.) Just a reminder: the leader of the free world using “othering” language to demean a group of people to a non-human status is NOT NORMAL. Words matter, especially from the top. As Dan Rather said on CNN this past weekend, “… people increasingly recognize this is very dangerous to have a president talking in these terms. Words matter. What the president says matter. And it affects people within the social media internet age.”
From another hate-distribution perspective, questions are being asked about how social media platforms and online publishers have contributed to hate and violence around the globe. Over at Gizmodo, Patrick O’Neill had one of the more nuanced early takes showcasing the tension between business and morality in big tech. He describes how these companies blaming the pressures of operating “at scale” for their inability to take stop spreading live videos of a massacre is rich, considering that the same business models that made moderating impossible (“rapid speed, growth, and scale”,) are also made a lot of people a lot of money.
But if you need a bit of hope(ish) about this scary time we are in, check out this Vox interview with Deeyah Khan, a Muslim feminist filmmaker who recently released two documentaries: one on neo-Nazis, and one on jihadists. While much of what she mentioned, from the racism she experienced as a child to the death threats she’s received as an adult, is awful, she recounts how some of the (surprising, especially to her) positive interactions led to individuals leaving the movements. And she describes how organizations like ISIS most fear “… people like me, and people who want to get along, who want our societies and our various communities to coexist.”
It’s a scary world out there. Be kind to each other.