2 September 2014
¶ While the Editor was on vacation, Nick Bilton published a piece in the Times about the tweetfall from Ferguson that captured the gist of our misgivings about the replacement of professionally digested news by amateurs’ eyewitness accounts.
When Mr. Carson of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch shared pictures on Twitter of a Molotov cocktail found by the police, Twitter users accused him of lying and making it up. One group even perpetuated a hashtag #mythicalmolotov. When he said he had GoPro footage of protesters firing bullets at the police, naysayers said it was simply fireworks.
Maybe this alternative reality won’t be a surprise to anyone. A survey by Rasmussen Reports nine days after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown found that half of those surveyed had already made up their minds as to who was at fault. By that reckoning, it doesn’t matter what the facts are, people are going to find the tweets that support their viewpoint.