Now if that headline doesn’t sound like trolling for views, I don’t know what does.
In the past 24 hours, feminist blog Jezebel has ran two particular pieces about racism and Twitter in the wake of Obama’s re-election. The first posted the tweets of a dozen or so people who had tweeted the N-word or other fairly cut and dry racist comments following the election.
Putting aside the fact that typing a word into the Twitter search box and taking a screenshot does not a trend make, it lead to something a little more concerning. Finding out that many of these people were teenagers and in high schools, they proceeded to contact any of them who they felt were infringing on their schools’ or sports teams’ codes of conduct.
To insert my own opinion for a moment, while I understand that racism is BAD and that the Internet is FOREVER, it doesn’t exactly gel with the concepts of humanity and growth to post these people on a widely read website like Jezebel for such comments to haunt them forever. And far beyond that, these people are children – and to say that all of these people “should know better” ignores the concept of why we call some people adults and some people children (especially in the eyes of the law, where they can’t vote, drink or often drive) in the first place.
Beyond this opinion divide – and I gather, from Jezebel’s comments, that I’m in the minority – there is a bigger mistake.
One of the racist Twitterati that Jezebel highlighted was a young woman with the handle Shelly_Smyth, whose tweet was posted in the original article and whose image was highlighted again in the follow up.
Her school wasn’t contacted because of the tweet, not because of any moral turnaround, but because it seems that Shelly Smyth doesn’t exist. The image associated with her account, when uploaded to Google image search, comes back with thousands of results for a young woman named Zoe Kimball. Whether Kimball exists (and it’s hard to nail down detail on her) is beside the point. The fact is that Jezebel identified a young woman as a racist without first taking two seconds to cross-check whether the image had been hijacked.
In the rush to get page views and stir up outrage, sites like Jezebel and Gawker – and people (I won’t say journalists or even bloggers) like Tracie Egan Morrissey – are forgoing basic fact-checking and hurting people in the process.