Social Media Memes Confuse Issues

Yesterday, Hartsel (Colorado) suffered through a deadly five-hour siege at a Planned Parenthood center.   The siege left three dead and nine wounded before the shooter surrendered to police.  It was a horrendous and heartbreaking situation.

Today, some people on social media are passing along this meme comparing what happened yesterday to the Syrian refugee situation.

COLORADO
What happened in Colorado yesterday at a Planned Parenthood center cannot be compared to whether Syrian refugees are or are not a threat to the U.S. and Canada.   The only link tying these two incidents to each other have to do with safety.  After that, there is nothing that ties these two issues to each other.

The shooter self-identified on his voter registration as being a female, and the shooter’s voting status was listed as unaffiliated (in other words not a Republican or a Democrat or any other political party).  Based on this information, the meme could easily be about how transgendered people are more dangerous than Syrian refugees … and that would be an incorrect assertion.

A former state attorney general stated to the media that the shooter’s mental health was part of the investigation based on past interactions the shooter has had with law enforcement.  Based on the mental health comment, the meme could easily be about how people suffering from mental health issues are more dangerous than Syrian refugees … and that would be an incorrect assertion.

According to the CBC report, “those who knew Dear said he seemed to have few religious or political leanings.”  Based on the religious comment, the meme could easily be about how people who are agnostics or atheists are more dangerous than Syrian refugees … and that would be an incorrect conclusion.  Based on the political leanings comment, the meme could easily be about how people who don’t have any political convictions are more dangerous than Syrian refugees … and that would be an incorrect assertion.

It’s also alleged that the shooter described himself to the residents of Hartsel as a self-employed art dealer.   Based on this information, the meme could easily be about how those who are self-employed or those who are art dealers are more dangerous than Syrian refugees … and that would be an incorrect assertion.

Mainstream media reported that the shooter was from South Carolina, had lived in North Carolina,  and lived in Colorado for a year.  Based on this information, the meme could easily be about how people from the Carolinas are more dangerous than Syrian refugees … and that would be an incorrect assertion.

According to the New York Times, “law enforcement records and interviews” revealed a “trail of disputes and occasional violent acts toward neighbors and women he knew.”

Dating back to at least 2002, the shooter has been arrested and charged with a number of offences from animal cruelty to being a peeping tom, but the charges against him over the years have either been dismissed or the accused has been found not guilty.  In at least one case, an allegation was made against the shooter for domestic assault but no charges were pressed.

This is why “apples and oranges” comparisons are dangerous.  They are meant to cause knee-jerk reactions to serious situations by juxtaposing two very different situations against each other, and demanding that people choose one situation over the other with the threat that if they choose incorrectly, they will be Internet shamed for being jerks (and other far more abusive, vulgar epithets).

What happened yesterday in Hartsel (Colorado) at the Planned Parenthood center was horrific, but it has nothing to do with Syrian refugees.  What happened in Hartsel (Colorado) certainly doesn’t address any aspect of whether Syrian refugees are or are not sufficiently screened before they are allowed to enter the United States or Canada.

Isn’t it about time that people on social media stopped sharing memes with misinformation, disinformation, and inflammatory messages?

Elyse Bruce

SUGGESTED READING

COLORADO PLANNED PARENTHOOD ATTACK SUSPECT CALLED LONER WHO LEFT FEW CLUES ABOUT MOTIVE
http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/planned-parenthood-colorado-springs-gunman-1.3341588

COLORADO PLANNED PARENTHOOD SHOOTER NOT REPUBLICAN, IDENTIFIES AS WOMAN
http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2015/11/court-records-colorado-planned-parenthood-shooter-not-republican-identifies-as-woman/

GUNMAN’S PAST SCOURED FOR CLUES TO SIEGE AT PLANNED PARENTHOOD
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/us/colorado-springs-planned-parenthood-shooting.html

PLANNED PARENTHOOD GUNMAN GIVES UP AFTER COLORADO STANDOFF THAT LEFT THREE DEAD
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/report-active-shooter-near-planned-parenthood-colorado-springs-n470431

PLANNED PARENTHOOD SHOOTING: TRAGEDY THAT IS BEYOND SPEECH
http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/28/us/colorado-planned-parenthood-shooting/

SUSPECT IN COLORADO CLINIC SHOOTING HAD PAST BRUSHES WITH THE LAW
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/28/us-colorado-shooter-idUSKBN0TH05O20151128

THREE DEAD, NINE INJURED IN SHOOTING AT COLORADO PLANNED PARENTHOOD, GUNMAN IDENTIFIED
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/11/28/active-shooter-situation-reported-near-colorado-springs-planned-parenthood/

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