By Nahnda Garlow
This week on our Two Row Times Facebook page we shared the story of a young man who was shot and killed point blank by a Saskatchewan farmer.
Someone out there on the “internets” felt that was their chance to spew all kinds of racist sludge all over the place. And we’re talking sludge. Every swear word in the book was used. Some new ones were coined. It was bad. So, we reported it to Facebook.
Facebook, by virtue of some digital assessment tool or programmed droid in Silicon Valley, responded with an automated message. Something along the lines of ‘we have determined this to not be racist’.
Sometimes being sophisticated and analyzing the political landscape of being indigenous and collective survivors of cultural genocide is super important.
Other times — it is totally appropriate to enter “the gutter”. To everything there is a season they say.
They also say with great privilege comes great responsibility. And when it comes to social media this couldn’t be more true.
It is a privilege to be connected instantly with society over the web. And for millennials like the majority of staffers at TRT that privilege is almost a birthright. And with that birthright comes a set of basic understandings of internet etiquette.
“Here is the internet my descendants. We invented it for you for fun. Just don’t be a D. Sincerely, The Nineties.”
But this one specific comment, from a random and obviously fake Facebook account didn’t follow any rules. It was his kamikaze attack on our unsuspecting audience that is obviously made up of indigenous people and our friendlies.
Still, Facebook saw the details and determined it was okay — so his post lives on.
It’s very tempting to engage with racists and other strangers in an epic Facebook fight. Again, our millennial staffers have probably, like many of our readers, logged quite a bit of time in those epic “Kermit-meme” style Facebook fights.
Sometimes it makes you feel powerful. Finally, you get your opportunity to tell off “the man”. You’re filled with righteous indignation. You’re Googling away in the background and your cut and paste action has never been so fly. You’re winning even.
But at the end of it all are we winning?
This week, the social media comments surrounding the killing of Colten Boushie were said by the RCMP to be criminal. Saskatchewan residents were urged to stop saying racist things. RCMP announced they were watching social media and taking names.
Imagine a Facebook comment gone awry? Consider the implications of your late night cutting and pasting.
Perhaps we all need to take a step back and breathe before hitting the post button.
Things on social media in Saskatchewan became so heated that Ben Kautz, a town councillor for the municipality of Browning, was caught saying “the only mistake” Boushie’s shooter made was leaving witnesses behind.
Let that sink in for a minute. A man in a position of political leadership elected by his community made these remarks.
No one is exempt from the temptation of late night Facebook rantings. Perhaps this is where people’s true colours start to emerge.
Perhaps it will be enough of a cultural phenomenon to start to shift the way we assess what makes a good person. Rather than how much time they volunteered in their community – people will be scanning social media profiles to get the dirt on when you had too much to drink and started mouthing off on Facebook.
That town councillor, by the way, has offered to step down from his position.
Social media is the new wild west. And the keyboard, they say, is mightier than the single action Remington revolver.