Last weekend, a horrible tragedy occurred when a gunman opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people. In the wake of this tragedy, a devastated public has been seeking to make sense of this act of mass violence. But as is common when dealing with grief, sadness often turns to anger and confusion, and there is then a sense that justice must be served, not just on the perpetrator but even on those indirectly involved.
When an individual commits a violent act, only that person should be held directly responsible. But our country has lost its sense of personal responsibility, and when something goes wrong, the default response is to widely cast blame on anyone or anything that can conceivably be linked to the act. Following the Pittsburgh shooting, many have decided that punishing alternative social media platforms will somehow avenge the lives lost. Unfortunately, this is not the case. And by arbitrarily pointing fingers, we completely abandon the principle of personal responsibility.
Is Social Media to Blame?
Immediately following the massacre, it was discovered that the suspected gunman had made several anti-semitic social media posts, many originating on the platform Gab. In response, PayPal sent a letter to Gab stating that it would no longer offer payment services to the network. PayPal gave no specific reason for this action aside from specifying that it had the right to terminate business relationships at its own discretion, which, as a private company, it absolutely does.
“The company is diligent in performing reviews and taking account actions. When a site is explicitly allowing the perpetuation of hate, violence or discriminatory intolerance, we take immediate and decisive action.”
Shortly thereafter, Gab received word that its web hosting provider, Joyent, would also be ending their business relationship in light of the gunman’s social media presence on its site. GoDaddy has cut its ties with the platform, as well. Gab told its users that it would be working on finding alternatives, but these losses will surely cause the social networking site many problems in the coming weeks.
Adding expropriation to injury, the payment processing company Stripe sent a letter to Gab, saying:
“While we continue our investigation, we are suspending transfers to your bank account, effective immediately. Your Stripe account will continue to be able to receive payments from your customers, but you will not receive payouts until we re-enable them.”
Again, these companies certainly have the right to cut ties, but their decision does not make a whole lot of sense. After all, Gab is not the only social media platform that has been used by murderers and other monsters of humanity. At its peak, the terrorist group ISIS frequently made use of Twitter as a means of recruiting members. Twitter has also been used by several other users who were later discovered to be murderers. However, Twitter itself was never held responsible for these users’ actions.
In addition to Twitter, Facebook has also been utilized by many murderers, some even boasting about their kills on the popular social media site. Yet Facebook has never had to face the same negative backlash that Gab is currently having to endure. And to make matters worse, Gab is one of the few social media platforms that has committed itself to free speech even in our current climate of censorship hysteria. As Facebook and Twitter continue to ban users, we need to preserve as many alternative social media sites as possible.
The Problem with Purging
Over the last several months, both Facebook and Twitter have been deleting the accounts of users whose profiles and pages have been flagged as racist or offensive. While Facebook claims that many of the 800 accounts it banned recently were a result of spamming violations, many of the banned pages have denied these allegations. Additionally, many of the pages deleted were right-leaning groups. And given the proximity to the midterm elections, the whole thing is highly suspect.
Now, many users fear that their accounts might also be banned for simply expressing an opinion that doesn’t align with those who control these platforms. And many have begun to abandon these popular platforms in search of alternatives that do not threaten to ban users for expressing their opinions—no matter how radical or unfavorable these opinions may be.
Gab has been one popular haven for those fleeing traditional social media platforms as it prides itself on being “The Home of Free Speech Online.” But this mission has been threatened by PayPal and Stripe cutting off its accounts and Joyent dropping the site from its servers.
Yes, all these entities are allowed to freely associate or disassociate with whomever they please. Nevertheless, as the ability to freely express ourselves is quickly becoming limited at almost every turn, the shunning of Gab is a chilling sign of where we are headed as a society.
True, the gunman’s profile on the site was riddled with hateful rhetoric, but his words were his own and no one else’s. Punishing Gab would be akin to punishing a homeowner for a violent crime that occurred just outside of his home, even if he played no role in the altercation.
It should also be noted that as soon as Gab realized the gunman had a profile on its site, it promptly turned over all relevant information to the FBI. Gab was merely protecting his right to voice his opinion, they were not protecting him from the consequences of his actions.
Gab commented on the whole debacle, saying:
“We refuse to be defined by the media’s narratives about Gab and our community. Gab’s mission is very simple: to defend free expression and individual liberty online for all people. Social media often brings out the best and the worst of humanity.”
And if we are being honest with ourselves, by exiling the “worst” of humanity and banishing it to remote corners of the internet, we do more harm than good. First, isolating hateful people only allows their hate to fester in fringe groups where they stay isolated from new thoughts that could potentially positively alter their worldviews. Additionally, by keeping these people hidden, we miss out on vital feedback that tells us that we may not want to associate these people.
Heinous acts of violence shake us to our core and leave us feeling vulnerable and confused. But this vulnerability should not cloud our reason. And by holding social media platforms accountable for someone else’s crime, we remove the personal responsibility that should fall on those who actually committed the murders.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.