Social Media Is The Easy Scapegoat For Politicians Who Don’t Want To Deal With Actual Problems
from the scapegoats-are-not-good-policymaking dept
The recent mass murders in Buffalo and Uvalde are sickening, horrifying, and extraordinarily frustrating. And part of that is because, as The Onion keeps having to point out, we live in a world where the underlying message is: ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.
And that is the most frustrating part of this. There are ways to deal with this. But they’re politically infeasible. Democrats focus on what appear to be pretty basic gun control concepts, around background checks, and putting at least some limits on the more extreme weapons out there (i.e., the ones favored in many of these mass murders). Republicans politicians (though, bizarrely, not the actual voters, outside of a few extremes) refuse to even consider any kind of gun laws. At all.
Republican talking points have focused on mental health. And, clearly, that is an issue. But it also raises the question: why aren’t Republicans then in favor of better, more readily available, mental healthcare for everyone? Or, even more to the point, why are Republicans, who say they’re concerned about mental healthcare, unwilling to consider gun laws that might keep guns out of the hands of those who are at risk of committing a mass murder?
And, Democrats, being feckless and incompetent as always, take all of their talking points and focus by letting Republicans frame the debate entirely, always on the defensive, and rarely, if ever, making even the slightest attempt to frame things in a positive manner. It’s always just pushing back on Republican’s and their dishonest framing.
Both parties deserve each other, but neither seems to want to explore actual solutions.
And thus, they’re converging on the same nonsense: blame social media.
We saw it in New York, where it’s now clear there were multiple levels of government failings that contributed to the situation in Buffalo, but where the Governor and the Attorney General have decided it was easier to blame social media than to tackle the real issues related to a racist teenager deciding to commit mass murder.
And, now we’re seeing people trying to do the same regarding the equally horrifying mass murder (of children!) in Texas. US Senate candidate from Georgia, Herschel Walker, (who is not exactly known for coherently talking about anything) went on TV to argue that the answer can’t be taking away 2nd Amendment rights, but should be taking away 1st Amendment rights.
In that video he says:
What we need to do is look into how we can stop those things. You talk about doing the disinformation. What about getting a department that can look at young men that’s looking at women that’s looking at social media. What about doing that? Looking into things like that? And we can stop things that way. Yet they want to just continue to talk about taking away your Constitutional rights…
News flash, Herschel: a department that is looking into the speech of people also is taking away constitutional rights. It’s the first one. The one before the one you’re talking about.
But, even if you want to dismiss that as Herschel Walker being Herschel Walker, there are more serious conversations that seem to want to keep pointing the finger at social media as well. The Washington Post, for example, has a story covering both mass murders with the title: As young gunmen turn toward new social networks, old safeguards fail. And again, it seems to want to suggest there’s some sort of blame here:
Both the Uvalde, Texas, shooter and the one in Buffalo, used a combination of disappearing video-app Snapchat, Instagram direct messages, chat-app Discord and social-app Yubo to meet people and share their violent plans with acquaintances. In the case of the Buffalo shooting, the gunman also used video streaming platform Twitch to publicize his deadly attack.
These apps are communications apps. People communicate with them. It’s weird to blame the tools for the actual communications, but that always seems to be the focus.
And, to some extent, I understand the psychological reasons for this. The framing of the debate means actual solutions are off the table. I mean, anyone who even mentions guns is accused of “politicizing” tragedy. So, it’s easy as a kind of venting to focus anger and blame on the tech industry at a moment when the media narrative has been already beating up on that industry from every direction. So why not just blame mass murder on it as well?
To be clear, I actually think the meat of the Washington Post article is fairly balanced, and it includes comments from smart people highlighting that these services have been mostly incredibly powerful in useful ways for people. But, it just feels like the frustration about not being able to do anything about the bigger issues — guns and mental health — means everyone is converging on the current favorite punching bag: social media.