For a few days I've been wrestling with a news report. There are different videos, each presenting a different angle. It involves high school kids and two different activist groups. The first video showed the group of teens with one boy standing face to face with an American Indian man beating a drum. He just stood there. There is some discussion he should have walked away, but that's not what happened. The other kids were chanting school chants in rhythm with the drum. Some were wearing Make America Great caps.
What happened next is what deeply concerns me. News and social media began to pile on verbal attacks aimed at the teenaged boy in particular, but also the whole group. The were attacked as racist, hateful and worse. Social media got horrifying quickly as mob mentality spred. The kids started receiving death threats. One person that shocked me, because she seems so nice in one of my favorite television programs, Project Runway All Stars. wrote the kids should be locked in their school and the school set on fire. I wept. I had a hard time watching the program this week.
Eventually news people apologized, but what goes out on social media stays. And death threats kept coming.
It is crazy. People turn into a mob for minor things when not only are they misinformed or partially informed, but out of exaggerations that fit their bias. Most of the haters are also haters of our President. The unforgivable crime to them was the hat.
The nature of mobs is that emotions take over, reasoning skills recede, and energy within the mob feeds on itself, eventually leading to hysteria and out of control choices. It has been the pattern forever.
But today social media can create a new kind of mob that includes and connects ignorant, angry people people not necessarily in the same geographic area. Social media is impersonal in a way that people feel free to say things they are not likely to say in person.
It was discouraging for me this week. I kept thinking of what Jesus said, do unto others.... and Hillel's converse, whatever you hate, don't do to others.
We'll never get to peace on earth in a mob. Hysteria will lead to ugliness and destruction.