Reacting To Tragedy Online

Purplecar wrote a post about how people react to tragedy online, with different categories. It got me thinking, as like anyone who spends an excessive amount of time online, I’ve seen a few different tragedies while sitting behind a keyboard, staring at a screen. 9/11/01, tornadoes, stage collapses, mass murders, if it happened while I was online, I probably commented about it. But, while my reaction varies with the incident, there are certain trends that might be worth a comment or two.

First, I’ve probably been in every category Christine lays out, at one time or another. When the stage collapse in Indiana occured, there was decent video, and I happened on a website where a guy I’d worked with gave a pretty detailed analysis of what the the pictures and videos showed. For me, as a former stage worker, that’s exactly what I was interested in: “what in the hell happened, and how do we make sure it doesn’t happen again”. But others reacted differently, chastising others for analyzing the available evidence, and, you know, being internet experts, about the whole thing. “Hey, stagehands lost their lives, their families are grieving, don’t play internet expert, wait till the final report comes out from the real life on the ground experts.” In essence, don’t be insensitive to the lives lost. Both points of view, both reactions, I felt, are perfectly normal. I’m not here to judge whether how you react to something is wrong or right. I don’t think dancing on Margaret Thatcher’s grave makes you look like a very good person, for instance, but goddamn it, if that’s how you feel, feel free to express it. I’d rather you be an insensitive jerk online, and get it out of your system, than for you to actually go out and dance on Margaret Thatcher’s grave, if you know what I mean. Get that poison out of your system, if that’s what you gotta do.

Now with 9/11/01, that was my one year anniversary at a job that had started to go South on me, but I was too stubborn to just up and quit. I stuck it out for a couple more years, if I recall. All of my co-workers were in the conference room, watching CNN. I sat at my cubicle, and while I didn’t get a lot of work done, I felt like it was important for me to go about my daily business, as normally as possible. I recall I did go out to my car, and get a black bandanna, which I tied around my arm. I have no idea what symbolism I was trying to project, I just did it out of instinct. I spent most of the day chatting online with programmers on forums I used to frequent, mostly Europeans, Americans, and maybe an Australian, and watching video clips of people jumping out of the twin towers. I was massively affected, (who wasn’t), and don’t recall much of the substance of what we chatted about, other than we knew immediately that The United States was going to war over this.

Another tragedy that I recall was when a late term abortion doctor was murdered. It was a horrible thing, and I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would think otherwise, but sure enough there were pro-abortion people screeching “This is *your* fault, pro-life people, for talking about abortion”, and utterly shocking and disgusting to me, there were a smattering of pro-life people who made snide comments, that, well, I don’t care to repeat them. Let’s just say, I was embarrassed for them, and wished they’d have just shut up. The take away from that event was that I finally stopped trying to reason with pro-abortion people I had followed online for a couple years. There was no reasoning, and trying to decipher the illogical nonsense was an incredible waste of time.

With this Boston bombing happening while I happened to be online, I know I had a few reactions I probably don’t care to talk about at the moment, but there were the same types of things. The first thing after the initial shock is almost always “don’t jump to conclusions”, “don’t speculate”, “no conjecture”, and the next thing is “I’ll unfollow anyone who says this or that”. I think I’ve addressed the conjecture part, and touched on the unfollow reaction a little. There were a number of people I follow making stupid comments in reaction to this tragedy, and I was tempted to unfollow, but didn’t. And here’s the thing, and I guess it totally depends on the nature of the tragedy, but the one thing a terrorist must never do is make you change what you’ve been doing. That’s obviously a very broad generalisation, and I don’t know if I can convey the thought behind the rickety sentence very well. Hey, I am not going to change my routine over a fucking idiot terrorist. I might unfollow another day, but it won’t be because some asshole decided to inject himself into my¬†consciousness. Okay, I made it worse, instead of better, but hopefully I got that part across to a degree.

Look, common courtesy, common sense, those are important things. Anyway, I’ve got a burrito to eat. I’ll update this later. The blame game is the next part of this diatribe.


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