Rumors and ignorance, however, are still running free as ever.
They’re being streamed to the new headquarters for viral stupidity and extremism: the Internet, where creativity and critical thinking have become a cesspool of trolling and abuses of free speech.
We all witnessed this insanity during the days after the shooting while Leonard eluded the police, and Twitter or Facebook was, unfortunately, the only place to get breaking coverage.
Yes, the coverage was mostly citizen journalists spreading rumors, but we still bought it.
However, Twitter and Facebook did help make this case a national news story, and social media is a valuable news gathering source. We wouldn’t have been able to provide half the content we did if it weren’t for the social media tools we had to quickly and repeatedly check up on throughout the hours and days of the shooting crises.
The downside to the speedy accessinility to this wealth of information is clarity and accuracy, which are two journalistic qualities we can’t afford to lose in today’s opinion-based news atmosphere.
It’s like trying to read a book in the middle of a hurricane.
You can see the words, but they just don’t make sense. Occasionally, you see something that looks correct, but then you get hit in the head with a fence post.
Our fence post in the hurricane that is Desmonte Leonard is the rampant hate speech and ignorance that has become part of the online dialogue.
We read a comment posted on al.com (where it seems a majority of the anti-Leonard group hangs out) that implied Leonard should be hanged from the oaks at Toomer’s Corner.
The saddest part of the comment is how many people agreed with it.
In case you haven’t noticed, the year is 2012, which is the twelfth year in the 21st century.
The time for antebellum, Old South racism and hate motivated violence has been up for at least 450 years.
On the other side of this spectrum of extreme stupidity is the group calling for the release of Leonard, or “Woosie Woo,” as they so affectionately call the alleged murderer.
These people, black and white, are claiming that Leonard is a victim of a white police conspiracy to keep a black man down.
Like we said before, pure insanity.
Leonard might as well be the victim of an alien abduction planned by Elvis.
The police officers and federal agents who made up the task force that searched for Leonard were men and women, black and white, of varying creeds and backgrounds. Anyone who doesn’t realize that is an idiot, plain and simple.
Spreading illogical ideas and crackpot hypotheses like they were concrete facts is despicable. Believing these falsities is even more despicable.
What ever happened to critical thinking?
We want to encourage all of you, pro- and anti- Woosie alike, to think, if you can. Think about the families of the victims; think about Leonard’s family; and think about how you look when you spew your ignorance all over the Internet for the rest of the world to see.
You have the right to free speech, and social media is a great platform to exercise that right. Ranting and raving are key parts of having a voice that is able to be heard and read.
Just remember, respect, empathy and thought go a long way when you want people to listen.