I don’t know how news spread from one part of Oz to another, but I do know that means, modes and methods of communication were quite limited. And while I could go on and on listing the benefits and values of the many forms of communication and social media that we take for granted today, I have this sinking feeling that we are suffering from too much information.
There was a time before the modern era of mass communication in America when word traveled slowly and newspapers were mostly home grown. What happened a short hundred miles away happened in a vacuum. The impact of even “universal” news wasn’t felt in all parts of the country all at once. Today, if someone sneezes in Riyadh, someone in Sydney is saying “God bless you” thirty seconds later, and in less than a minute a video is going viral about a contagious disease in Saudi Arabia, and CNN has dispatched a crew to cover the event as it is unfolding.
I am a firm believer in information and the “proper” spread of it. While I write this blog the small city of Ferguson, Illinois is being literally torn apart over the shooting of a young black man by a white police officer. I will refrain from adding my two cents because then I will be guilty of what I believe it the inherent problem with communication in the Twitted age we live in. I will limit my comments to observations without prejudice.
Not that the incident doesn’t deserve the attention it is getting, but I fear that the information that is washing over us with the speed of a tsunami, is drowning us in a sea of valid information, misinformation, hearsay, lies, innuendos and most of all biased reporting.
Information is supposed to provide us with a full understanding of a situation in such a way that we can make “an informed decision.” Because we only know the end result of what happened we are all guilty of trying to fill in the missing pieces with haphazard guesses based on our own prejudices and points of view.
No matter how much information is flowing on the Ferguson incident, most of us are really unprepared to make any valid comments. I know I’m in no position to say anything because I not only don’t know all the facts, I don’t know enough of the fiction involved.
Fiction? Yes. I believe that fiction is not limited to false information. Fiction is the back story of who we are and why we respond to things we do. Fiction is a result of making up stories to live by. Sometimes they are coping mechanisms, but more often than not, they are excuses and the reasons why we often blame other people for our current condition.
Facts have a way of playing themselves out. Facts can be turned inside out and upside down. Facts, if they stand the test, can withstand any and all assaults. But fictions, on the other hand, are slippery. They hide from the light of truth. They often masquerade as facts, but in the end, they are revealed for what they are…the lies we like to tell each other.
That’s what scares me most about the speed at which facts and fictions fill the air. We don’t like to face the facts because they challenge the story we have come to believe as truth.
The wound that was opened in Ferguson this past week will fester and very possibly become infected, thereby setting race relations back 100 years.
Did I say 100 years? About a 100 miles away and 106 years ago…in August, Springfield, Illinois was the scene of a race riot that nearly brought the city to its knees. Two incidents sparked the riots. A black man was arrested for breaking into the house of a white man who pursued the black man only to have his throat slashed. A little over a month later a white woman accused a black man of rape. (The woman eventually retracted her story.)
The white citizens of Springfield took the law into their own hands and stormed the black sections of the city. Some 12,000 whites, mostly men, took part in the riots. Homes were burned, black businesses were destroyed and people were killed. The governor off Illinois had to send in the 5000 militia to restore order.
In the end, 40 homes and 24 businesses were destroyed. And worse than the loss of property, seven people (five white and two black Americans) were dead.
Did any good come out of it? The riot is considered to be the event that led to the formation of the NAACP, an organization created to “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination”
The fiction in the Springfield riots of 1908 is the same fiction that is woven into the Ferguson riots of 2014. It is the fiction of a prejudice that is not limited to one race and one race alone. The fact of the matter is that people on both sides of the coin don’t want to face the facts, preferring to believe only what they want to believe.
And to the millions of people who never gave Ferguson, Illinois a second thought before, are washing their heads with the water polluted by misinformation.
This whole messy affair leads me to conclude with one comment: Truth is deader than the dinosaur. Tweet that. Post that on Facebook.