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Good and bad in the online response to the CT school shootings

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Dec 14, 2012

The online responses to the unspeakably awful shootings at a school in Connecticut show both the best and the worst of the internet culture.

The best: Many people were immediately moved to prayer, and to encourage others to pray, for those who died and those who have survived but will be permanently scarred by the atrocity.

The worst: Many people felt compelled to rush out with the latest unconfirmed rumors and speculative reports, in a frenzied, pointless competition to be the first with the big story. To what purpose?

Quite a few busy story-tellers felt that they must identify the gunman—right now!—for the sake of anyone reading their Twitter feeds. As a result, countless thousands of people were given the name of someone who, in fact, was not the gunman. That's not a minor thing: to be identified as the killer of 18 innocent children. What was the justification for such rash reporting? What was the rush to reveal the killer's name? 

The police need accurate information, and they need it fast. The desperate parents of Newtown, worried about their own children, need information immediately, too. The rest of us don't.  In just a few hours, all the facts would be available. Couldn't we wait that long? Couldn't we use that time more productively, doing the one thing that we did urgently need to do: praying?


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