A Picture Says a Thousand Words

So some nutter went mental in the heart of London the other day, causing some mischief, grief, violence and trouble for quite a considerable number of people. An act of violence, mindless and without any real goal or purpose beyond mayhem. Erm, except there might be, because Islam.

Yes it may come from ideological/cultural backgrounds that we’re aware of, but ultimately, this wasn’t some well planned assault on the heart of a democracy, rather a knife wielding maniac on the loose like a poorly armed GTA player with a five star wanted level.

I’m not too fussed on the reasons why to be honest, because the attack itself was such a brazen and, to be frank, shitty idea that entertaining it as terrorism and something planned with foresight and cunning is a foolish idea. Any idiot can commit an act of violence. I mean, how many people own a car, or a sharpish knife, or even a fucking kettle? The damage you can do with those alone just by going postal is obvious.

But I digress. The main reason I write about it is That Photo.

There’s an image circling around social media, pushed by people with a particular agenda, of a muslim woman on a phone walking by someone being treated on the side of Westminster moments after the attack, seemingly oblivious/uncaring about the tragedy.

This is a cause for concern.

No not because a Muslim seemed uncaring in the face of violence, but that people can very easily in today’s day and age, tell a story with nothing by a photo and some comments, and make it fit whatever version of the truth people want to hear.

Context is a wonderful thing. It defines what we see, and what we think is going on for a given photo or situation. It’s incredibly easy to demonise and get a mob going with today’s unfiltered and uncontrolled spread of information.

There is an experiment I want to do, but afraid  to do because it may go too well. Take a photo of someone, probably a bit rough, or smug. Then put a story on Facebook underneath describing who he is, where he lives, and what he’s done. Put the most despicable shit underneath, like he kicks cats with steel capped boots into orphan’s faces. Then share his address and ask people to LIKE and SHARE the story so JUSTICE can be done. Don’t forget to mention that he gets benefits and support from the state in some way.

After that, step back and watch nosey, self righteous pricks go mental.

Today’s era means that this shit will get shared by at least two assholes who can’t be bothered to think, and suddenly some unsuspecting bastard is getting harassed because of someone’s bullshit on a computer. This is widespread. Social media is a very effective tool for selling stories. Whether these are true or not is not the point – it’s a statement, combined with the necessary information required for people to begin being dicks to each other. All it takes is sharing and keyboard bashing.

And what seems harmless one second can quickly escalate to physical damage and violence. Information, uncontrolled, is deadly. It can decide innocence and guilt. Misuse of this leads to consequences seldom imagined when we spin tall tales. For an example of that, consider the anti vaccine movement that exists, and the origins in a corruption-based study it sprung from.

False information is lethal. To fight this, you need truth and context, without agenda. Without bias. Impossible, but so long as one is self aware of these limitations, one can factor them in when defining truth.

This era of information should be one of collaboration and unity. Instead, its a minefield of misinformation spread by hearsay, given legitimacy by platforms that allow lightspeed bullshittery.

To go back to the photo then. It takes five minutes to find a photo that fits a story. It takes less than that to slap a bullshit statement on it. It takes even less than that to upload it to a remote server, which then transmits it to all and sundry you have connections to. Those who agree with the sentiment, either out of ignorance or because they want your worldview to be out there, will share it.

And suddenly some poor woman caught in the middle is the symbol of ALL THAT IS WRONG WITH THE COUNTRY and used to draw the line between US AND THEM, as if US AND THEM is an accurate reflection of the state of things in a world where middle eastern oil powers Japanese cars playing American Music on the streets of London. Possibly while the Russian driver eats Chinese take-out on his way to an Italian colleague working for an Israeli company. They’re probably going to be arrested by a Scottish copper though as that’s a blatant violation of British road law.

*Ahem*, back to the point…

How the hell do you counter it? How do you counter something that spreads virulently, a false piece of information that fits an uncomfortably large amount of people’s worldview? A worldview reinforced by a fear obsessed media that knows this shit sells like songs by Ed Sheeran?

If you try, you either adopt the same methods, and spread counter falsehoods or limited context imagery as well, or attempt to beat it by education. And unfortunately, blind ignorance and faith can trump the best education, if people can be convinced the world is falling apart. Easy to do in these uncertain times.

“Lightspeed bullshittery” might just be the best name for this. I imagine these tactics had a massive hand in this alt right populism that’s surging – ignorance given platforms by corporations running web services for profit, allowing false information to perpetuate indefinitely through the masses, given fuel by profit driven media organisations seeking relevance in a changing world, consequences be damned.

Rather than a cause for ignorance these platforms are exasperating the tensions growing in our societies. They are fuel to the flames running through our society. Divisions exist, cultural problems exist – these photos, these images and these versions of the truth are doing nothing but exasperating them for all sides.

I imagine the majority of Muslim folk don’t want to commit violence. I believe this because just the other day I wasn’t stabbed and run over on my way to Lidl by a person in a Hijab. Statistically speaking, one asshat with an agenda is not symbolic of a entire religion, nor is every single member of said religion part of a unified community that connects them through the country.

Now that last part might seem easy to dismiss: “they’re all the same church!”. Please apply this logic to Christians here. Last I saw there wasn’t a cross country Whatsapp group with every protestant sharing dank memes on it. Each religion has it’s sub communities and troubled parts…

…I went off on a tangent again, though if there is a Christian UK WhatsApp group nationwide I want to see it. BACK TO THE PHOTO.

If anything, what I’d take away from it is the following:

1 – Wounded person was surrounded and being treated. Any more folk investigating would just block out the light from the Sun. Probably blind someone with the flash from a photo in the process.

2- it’s a busy fucking footpath in the heart of the largest city in the 6th largest economy in the world. People are going to be walking past.

3-people on smartphones and MP3s are everywhere these days, and I honestly thought this might be an ad for the next season of Black Mirror.

4-it’s London. Making eye contact on the Underground is taboo to the point of social exile and audible tutting. No surprises there if those not involved want to just get on by.

The only thing people can take away from this photo is nothing, because we need to examine what happened vs. what’s being discussed about what happened:

What happened:

-Nutter went mental with a car and a knife in heart of  massive as fuck city.

-people died and were injured by said nutter, because most folk don’t imagine getting run over/stabbed in their day to day lives.

-authorities responded appropriately and the matter resolved. By gunfire. As the person was fucking mental.

-circumstances and motives will be investigated by said authorities, in a way that tries to be objective.

-people injured and killed will be treated and dealt with in the manner which is appropriate, funerals, mourning etc. Hopefully without political shit preventing their legit grief.

What will be discussed about what happened:

-The entire world will lose its shit trying to make the attack either fit a worldview or justify certain political points.

-Most folk will discuss this at a water cooler and go back to their lives in due course. Probably have That One Guy constantly use this in his “SEE? THE WORLD’S FALLING APART” speech that no one will confront because he’s “a bit odd”.

-Newspaper outlets and internet bloggers (erm…) will chat shit all over it for hits, clicks and sales, regardless of the harm their opinion pieces will do to wider discourse on the subject.

-The families of the victims are going to be harassed by the press so they can sell papers off their misery and grief, because they are bastards.

We live in divisive times. Statistically speaking, if only 30 odd people are affected by this, in a country of millions, then we’re a long way from the 9/11 level of attacks here. If the most severe “attack” on our nation in 12 years is this level of violence, then maybe we have to accept that what measures in place by our security services are working. Otherwise, we’d have to ban the car and the sharp object from every day use in case the one in a million decides to lose it for whatever awful reason.

There’s only so much security we can put in place in a liberal democracy (I probably triggered someone with that term there) without compromising the freedoms that define us, and allow our society to flourish. If we attempt to impose more and more restrictions, we are going to dial the tension upwards until the situation escalates. As the British did back in WW2, keep calm and carry the fuck on. We did it then, we did it when the Irish wanted to bomb the English, and we should be doing when the shittiest terrorists in the world are trying to “scare” us.

So don’t let them, eh? And don’t let them divide us (We’re doing that pretty bloody well on our own anyway to be honest).

The worst thing we can keep doing is trying to justify/perpetuate certain lines of thought which are doing nothing but fuelling this nonsense in the first place.

Next time you see some out of context photo with a line of text demanding a response, or urging certain thoughts, just think about what you’re looking at, and what it actually means. Any moron can slap a comment on a picture these days, and any moron can blindly believe it.

Make your own damn mind up.

Now, I was going to put the actual photo up as the featured image, but I’m deciding against it. If you want to find it, it would take about four seconds of googling. if you think I’m censoring, piss off. If you think I’m pushing a pro muslim image of the world, piss off. Some random bystander going about their business doesn’t need their likeness shared endlessly by politically motivated assholes, and I certainly don’t have their permission to share on a publicly accessible website.

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