We’re in between all-day shifts at various locations, so the great Wendell Barnhouse has offered to pilot the ship this morning. Thank you, Wendell.
by Wendell Barnhouse
It happened again. It happens too often.
Those were seven words written by Your Humble Correspondent Saturday night. The intent was to write about how the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso was “covered” on Twitter. YHC was satisfied that over 850 words and a handful of Tweet examples had sufficiently covered the topic.
While you were sleeping, it happened again.
Another shooter with another assault rifle opened fire in the Oregon District in Dayton, Ohio. His high capacity clip(s) – more bullets, more bodies – resulted in nine deaths before police killed the shooter. Hence, most of the headlines you’ll see will say “10 killed in Dayton.” YHC prefers to count the body count at nine. The shooter doesn’t deserve recognition, even as a corpse.
YHC was up too late and was on his iPhone checking Twitter when the messages started to flow. Déjà vu all over again.
As a cranky old man on Twitter, YHC uses the social media vehicle to stay current. By choosing wisely, Twitter can provide a handy news feed. When there is BREAKING NEWS such as the El Paso mass shooting, it displays the tar pit in which our society struggles with facts and rumors. Separating the wheat (useful information) from the chaff (fecal matter posted by bots and mouth breathers) is yeoman’s work but after over a decade of Twitter monitoring, YHC believes he can thresh through it.
The Dayton news was flowing at an odd time, after midnight in YHC’s time zone. One of the Tweets recommended a live stream that reminded of the movie “Nightcrawler.”
Tweets in this situation often are answered by retweets that basically are “hey, I heard this” info.
In hindsight, this Twitter feed’s “sources” turned out to be accurate.
And that Tweet angered the “News Anchor & Founder of @AgendaFreeTV. Specialize (sic) in breaking news.
Before putting down the iPhone in favor of sleep, YHC came across a Twitter feed that earned a follow.
The flow of mostly false information was reminiscent of the crossed streams of reality and make-believe during HBO’s “The Newsroom.” In the fourth episode of Season One featured a segment of how Atlantic Cable News covered a real-life weekend shooting – Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. While other networks reported Giffords had died, ACN waited until it could confirm and was able to “report” that Giffords was alive in in surgery.
Fictional producer Don Keefer offered a classic line that raised journalist goosebumps: “A doctor pronounces her dead. Not the news.”
When YHS started monitoring Tweets about El Paso Saturday afternoon, there were dozens of amateur Cronkites who passed along “news.” Perhaps the exchange of misinformation is/was harmless. But this digital version of the old “telephone” game spreads a Tweet everywhere and anywhere. Remember, “viral” is defined as “of the nature of, caused by, or relating to a virus or viruses.”
The first significant Tweet (posted about 1 p.m. CDT) was already stirring the conspiracy angle (more on this later).
Soon after, this.
About 30 minutes later, this Tweet came from Piers Morgan, the British windbag. He has over six million followers, so this Tweet was significant.
“Multiple shooters” was frequently mentioned. That has become the boogeyman of mass shootings – more than a single gunman.
Around 2:15 p.m., the first indication of the number of dead was posted by this Tweet from an Indianapolis television station. While it turned out to be reasonably accurate, the source seemed odd.
At 2:30 p.m., this Tweet from what should be a reputable source appeared to back up the multiple shooter angle.
Shannon Watts, the leader of the @MomsDemand grassroots organization to prevent gun violence tweeted at 2:45 p.m.
15 minutes later, this Twitter feed informed its 105 followers of another “news” update.
And this feed with over 1,000 followers blared this news.
There were also Tweets from the following Twitter feeds – BML Breaking News, PM Breaking News, AF (a whopping 24 followers), Shark News Wires (577 followers), I.E.N (international and breaking news, 848 followers.)
One Tweet included a photo of a Walmart store display that showed a sign saying “Own The School Year Like a Hero” over a case filled with rifles. While that was from 2017, it was repurposed and retweeted Saturday. The original photo had Walmart scrambling for an explanation two years ago.
Let’s pause here and consider what was going on during the four hours after the first shots were fired. The Walmart was crowded with people doing back-to-school shopping. Law enforcement responded with the mission of apprehending/killing the shooter and securing the crime scene. Medical personnel were checking bodies and sending wounded to various hospitals.
Even those on the scene didn’t have a clear picture of what had happened or how many were dead. That information wasn’t available until hours later.
That didn’t and doesn’t stop the Twitter Machine for spinning. There reports of as many people wounded as wound up being dead. There were reports of multiple shooters. The (as it turned out) single shooter’s motives spread faster than JFK conspiracy theories. And the digital lynch mob was readying the noose.
Consider this: Had Twitter been available on 9/11, it’s questionable if the republic would have survived. Based on what occurs when there is BREAKING NEWS, the social media reaction to the on Sept. 11 attacks would have melted the Internet.
Four of the 10 deadliest shootings in modern U.S. history have now occurred in Texas. The Walmart in El Paso is an open-carry store and Texas is an open-carry state. Your Humble Correspondent has lived in the Lone Star state since 1981 but refuses to acknowledge as a “Texan.” Texas has become synonymous with “bat-shit crazy politicians.” (Yes, the competition from other states has become fierce.)
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick – whose qualifications appear to be he was a former radio talk show host who has a good haircut – was an eager guest on Fox News Saturday afternoon. There had been reports that antifa demonstrators had planned to stage protests in El Paso over immigration and border issues. Patrick, going off half-cocked, misfired with a spurious statement.
If there is a saving grace for Twitter, it’s that it archives idiotic statements such as the one made by Patrick. Here’s a perfect example from Texas governor Greg Abbott. Four years ago, he lamented the state falling behind in an important area.
And guess who has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.