On Technology, Twitter and Tripathi

There is an old saying – opinions are like anal orifices, everybody has one. Technology has made the act of public flatulence easy and costless. And we have a number of twits who seem to be constantly stinking up the place.

As children some of us played the game of telephone, where a message started with person ‘A’ and got passed from child to child till the mangled message was announced by person ‘B’. The point of the game was to teach kids to listen carefully before passing on rumors. As adults we play the game of twitter. In this game we take our unconfirmed, yet ‘reported’ pieces of news, punctuate them with our opinions and pass them along. Doesn’t matter if what’s being passed along is true; doesn’t matter who it hurts. All that matters is us using our digits to pass on the word and some judgment. As I said, technology has made the act of public flatulence easy and costless.

I got up rather early this morning and as I do on most mornings, I logged on. I was informed that Mike Muguleta and Sunil Tripathi were the Boston marathon bombers. Word spread. I hadn’t heard of Muguleta, but was familiar with Tripathi. I normally don’t get on to Twitter, but today I thought it was worth seeing what the search ‘Tripathi’ would bring up. On Twitter, as elsewhere, a large number of folks condemned the young man based on no evidence. Amongst the ‘let’s pass on the word’ players on Twitter was Michelle Malkin. The lady is irritating …, but the less said about her and others who helped spread the word that Tripathi was the man, the better.

The people who were in my thoughts rather immediately were Sunil’s immediate family – especially his mother and sister. I know nothing about them except that Sunil has been missing for about a month and his sister has been in the forefront of searching for him. As someone with a son in college when I first heard about Sunil’s disappearance I quietly said, “There but for the grace of God, go I!” And I’m not even a believer.

This morning those sentiments came back. My wife and I tried to imagine what Sunil’s family was going through. How were they reacting to the reports? Were they thinking, “My God, it all seems so much worse than the worst that we could imagine?” They had sent their kid off to a wonderful college, the way a whole bunch of people I know have done. He got into Brown – they must have done something right. Did they believe what was being said about their son? Were they blaming themselves?

The sad part is that Sunil is still missing. How unfortunate must your circumstance be if you get comfort knowing that your son was not the guy who was responsible for the bombings? His family has just gone from being miserable, to being incredibly miserable, to being miserable again. It is at times like this I hope I was a believer. Then in good conscience I could say a prayer for them and hope it would help. Now I can only think about them, and…

Unfortunately many of those who helped spread the rumor will rationalize it, if they give it another thought. And sometime in the future, once again many of us will use technology to indulge in another act of easy and costless public flatulence.

Hope someone uses that same technology to pass a word to Sunil’s family. You are all owed an apology. Somebody should say sorry to you all. For what it’s worth – I am deeply sorry for the what ‘we’ have done to worsen you already tragic circumstances.

And an apology goes out to the Muguleta family. Though I know absolutely nothing about them, the apology is in order. Because, somebody should say sorry!

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