It’s fascinating to see how the escalation of social media is driving so much of our public conversation. A cursory walk through some of today’s lead stories illustrates how dumb people can be and how quickly social media can facilitate retribution. The best recent example has to be from our favorite group of Islamic terrorists Al Qaeda. A week or so back they released footage of their spring jamboree complete with AK47s and death to the US chanting. At the time there was a great hue and cry about how weak this made the US look etc…the blog sphere lit up and nearly burnt down. My reaction was “wow…it’s like they have never heard of drone strikes.” Sure enough a week later hell fire and damnation was rained down on them. Whether we actually hit any of the same bad guys isn’t mentioned in any of the reports I’ve seen, but as a very public rejoinder to the very public nose thumbing it’s pretty near perfect. I’ll lay you dimes to donuts that at some point someone in or very near the White House picked up the phone and complained about the mockery they were getting on Twitter. Interestingly the US government has recently been reaching out to members and supporters of terrorist groups through their online presences. It’s a kind of virtuous trolling where although we don’t negotiate with terrorists we will engage in hearts and mind wars on Twitter and Facebook.
At a much smaller scale but at an even more monumental level of stupidity a mother who was pretty mad at her 11 year old for claiming gangster status on Facebook went to the trouble of recording the 60 stroke 6 minute belt beating she administered to discourage that kind of claim….then posted it to her Facebook….no I couldn’t believe it either. Social services and the police descended in close to real time.
Last week a 14 year old Dutch girl thought it would be hilarious to issue a bomb hoax to American airline via Twitter, which of course prompted phalanxes of knuckleheads to do likewise…all of which received the proverbial knock on the door from the men in black. The lunatic (or performance artist….you choose) who staged “a performance event” in Boston on the anniversary of the Boston bombing was identified and arrested the moment the people who observed his art posted the videos online.
It’s not widely appreciated that what we think of anonymous social media is actually far from that. Although Twitter has a policy of not sharing information unless served with the appropriate legal docs the Airlines have no such qualms…nor do any governmental organizations who might be targets for such pranks. In the general swim of things you are pretty free to complain about flights, airline food or your government online behind which ever handle or username you care to. You can be mocking snide or offensive…on the Internet nobody knows you are a dog. However the moment you diverge from the norm and start issuing threats or home videos of child beating or an Al Qaeda rally you can be reasonably confident that the same security forces who would otherwise be hard pressed to find their assembly instructions in the dark with a flashlight and both hands, with the help of social media, will show up with a search warrant or drone strike. It’s both slightly terrifying and almost poetic.