Our words have tremendous power, they can heal or they can destroy. They can even radicalize people or incite a riot. By far the worse offenders in recent memory are the mainstream media. Those guys are all about creating drama and getting people all riled up. It doesn’t even matter if it’s true or not, the goal is to create excitement. They are being extremely irresponsible with their words.
Facebook and social media are another offender, they also use words to create drama, excitement, and fear. Then there are individual bloggers who also traffic in hyperbole, often around themes of racism, conspiracy theories, the collapse of civilization.
Let me also give a dishonorable mention to the Seattle Public School system that is now leading children on a protest against the presidential inauguration since the election has allegedly been stolen and democracy has now collapsed.
And there is some Christian leadership that has really dropped the ball too, in my opinion. “Let not your heart be troubled,” versus, “be afraid, be very afraid.” Not good.
I’m a huge fan of free speech, but with freedom comes responsibility. So in my view it is just flat-out wrong, immoral, to use words to spread fear, panic, and hysteria.
Anybody remember War of The Worlds? In 1938, the tale was presented on the radio in it’s breaking news format and some people were unable to discern fiction from reality. There were some pockets of hysteria and panic because a few people really believed the Martians had landed and invaded. Later episodes, including television, had a disclaimer running so as to prevent panic in the streets.
In the “olden days” we had a sense of moral responsibility, men’s honor and integrity lead us to hold some principles dear, like you don’t frighten the woman and children, you don’t create fear and panic in the streets, you don’t throw civilization into chaos. These are such quaint notions today they almost sound funny. Today we practically worship fear mongering and enjoy trying to sow chaos.
Myself, it’s not a political issue, as in I don’t care what side you’re on. You could be some anarchist hoping to inspire panic and fear over an alien invasion. It’s not the politics, it’s the behavior, the irresponsibility with our words, the attempts to radicalize people, the desire to sow chaos.
Much like that 1938 episode of War of the Worlds, the number of people who actually fall headfirst into your hyperbole may be small, but it’s still not okay, it’s still wrong, it’s still immoral. The fact that a million people read your words and only one set themselves on fire or only one shot up a church or only one is now facing rape charges, is not an excuse.
There is blood on your hands, that simple.
Naturally I can’t fix it all, nor do I want to pass laws, nor do I want to attack individuals. (Well, 2 or 3 I would really enjoy smacking upside the head, but that’s beside the point.) What I really want is for us to just start taking some responsibility for the words we write and paying attention to what kind of message we’re sending.
Seattle Public School kids, those who have surrendered their critical thinking skills anyway, now probably believe we’re living in a post apocalyptic colony of dystopian refugees and that democracy has completely collapsed and we’ve been invaded by Russian trolls.
As you think, so go you. We create our own little subjective worlds and behave accordingly.
Some of us are pretty level headed, but then there are the kids who don’t really have wisdom and experience yet, there are the broken and wounded, some mentally ill, others isolated and unable to discern, and there are also paid provocateurs. We all have a responsibility to use our words to sow some calm, some order, and some peace in the world. That stuff matters and it can save lives.