Tracker Pixel for Entry

​One nation ruled by a social media mob

by Rob Port | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Say Anything | August 5th, 2015

The rise of social media mob justice makes me think of a toddler wielding a loaded handgun.

Two weeks ago a man in Fargo was the target of thousands of online postings, mostly on Facebook, calling him a pervert and demanding his arrest and even physical harm because he’d been observed engaged in the perfectly legal activity of taking pictures in that city’s Island Park.

Not one of the angry online ranters called the police. Rather, this man went to authorities himself, scared out of his wits. His reward? A trespass order barring him from park property issued by local law enforcement officials no doubt uneasy about going up against the vicious public overreaction.

Better to tread on the grounds of a legally dubious ban from public property for the vile crime of photography than for law enforcement officials to themselves become targets of the mob.

Over this last week we saw another social media overreaction. This time it was Cecil the Lion, a feline celebrity that few in America had ever heard of before a Minnesota dentist shot him giving social media reactionaries another opportunity to vent mindless spleen.

The dentist in question has been pilloried in the same way the photographer was, albeit on an international scale. There have been demands for his arrest and physical harm. Celebrity animal rights activists irresponsibly published his private information online. The laughably corrupt government of Zimbabwe is pursuing extradition.

Yet, it still isn’t clear that this man knowingly broke any laws, a fact that didn’t quell the self righteous howling from an ill-informed, global online mob which drove the dentist into hiding.

So why did Cecil’s death capture so much social media attention? Who knows. Why did a photographer in Fargo inspire a digital lynch mob to form before anyone called the police?

For that matter, why is a reality television star currently the frontrunner among Republican candidates for president?

That Donald Trump is an unserious candidate more concerned with trending on Twitter than he is with advancing a serious policy agenda is self-evident to people who are engaged. Yet the politically engaged and informed do not make up the majority on social media, which has been the platform most key to Trump’s surge.

What’s worse is that the traditional media - which in another era might have been counted on to put a needle in the side of inflated social media reaction to random acts of photography, trophy hunting, and buffoonish campaigning - has turned to milking these stories for the likes and tweets and shares that have become oh-so-important to their bottom line.

Last week a Fargo-based television station sent one of their reporters across the Red River to investigate property owned by Cecil the Lion’s dentist killer in Clay County, Minnesota. The resulting report was laughably inane, covering such hot scoops as the use of surveillance cameras on the property (oh my!), and information from some anonymous local source which revealed that the dentist keeps mounts of exotic animals in his home there (shocking!).

A rational observer might wonder why the television station was wasting precious broadcast minutes on a story with zero pertinent information. But that rational observer would be missing the point of the story, which wasn’t informing the public so much as inspiring Facebook shares.

In September of this year I will have been writing SayAnythingBlog.com - North Dakota’s most popular political blog - for a dozen successful and rewarding years. When I first started blogging I felt like I was a part of something new and special that democratized media. No longer would we have to rely on biased and myopic producers and editors and reporters to get our news. That which the traditional news media would not cover could be covered by a new, alternative online media.

I still believe this to be true. Online media has improved communication and news reporting in ways too numerous to list here. But alongside online media has grown a sort of social media hive mind that, far from being an alternative to the traditional media, now seems to be driving the media.

It’s that toddler with the gun, and nobody knows who will get it next.

RECENTLY IN

Say Anything

Tracker Pixel for Entry HPRONLINE Tracker Pixel for Entry TAKAPRIL4 Tracker Pixel for Entry Tempest

Recently in:

After nearly two and a half years since the people of North Dakota voted to pass the Compassionate Care Act into law in the state, medical marijuana is finally available to patients. Only one dispensary is open right now, but seven…

It was an, “aha,” moment, said Jeremy Jensen. A woman had her vehicle towed into the Fix It Forward Auto Care shop in Moorhead. Jensen and fellow Fix It Forward Auto Care co-founder Matt Carlson had the vehicle on a hoist…

Thursday, April 18, 5-9 p.m.Drekker Brewing Company, 1666 1st Ave N, FargoThe folks at Drekker have partnered with a handful of area artists and the Lend A Hand Up program. A program providing help and hope to families facing…

In 2016, the Rand Corportation’s National Defense Research Institute published a year-long study looking at potential consequences for transgender members to serve within the U.S Military. This study looked at seven different…

The Nordic ModelDr. Thea Hunter, a graduate of Columbia University and an adjunct professor of history at a number of elite colleges and universities, recently died at age 63 of extreme capitalism—and asthma—because of lack of…

Cocktail Showdown

​Yo ho ho!

by Sabrina Hornung

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

After three years Jon Beyer aka “Jonny B” has become the face and the beard behind Jonny B’s Brickhouse in Jamestown North Dakota. Besides the largest selection of craft beers between here and Bismarck, wood-fired pizzas and…

By Gary Usseryusseryg@gmail.comFYB. Three letters, three words, well known by the guys who make up Cascades, and anyone who is a fan of the five-man band. When asked what genre best describes their sound, I was bombarded with at…

Harmony Korine keeps a tight grip on his title as one of the most critic/critique-proof filmmakers of recent times with “The Beach Bum,” a sultry companion piece to 2012’s memorable “Spring Breakers.” Not without its own…

Arts

​Hold your head high

by Sabrina Hornung

“I started to look around at state arts council positions because I felt that even though I had never done that, I felt like it would be a really good blend of skills, so I started to look around in 2016. A few jobs came up but I…

Countless examples can be found throughout the history of great art that was only recognized as such after the life of the artist that created it. Such is true of Georges Bizet’s opera "Carmen."  While its reception during his…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

By Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.comThink & Drink is coming to Fargo! Organized by Humanities North Dakota, Think & Drink is a happy hour series that hosts a facilitated public conversation about big issues and ideas. Lead by a…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

It seems like the threats to North Dakota’s Badlands never cease. Let’s go back and revisit Wylie Bice. He’s the rogue, rich, rancher up in Dunn County, on the eastern edge of the Badlands, who’s built himself a private…