Rashard Mendenhall supports Osama Bin Laden (tongue in cheek font). His terrorism-loving tweets included the phrases “we’ll never know what really happened” and “We’ve only heard one side.” The comments, obviously, were inflammatory. About the physics of planes crashing into a building, they were demonstrably incorrect. But why, exactly, are they newsworthy?
Whitlock raises the salient points. He’s a 23-year-old kid. These are tweets. Those 140 characters give us unprecedented, real-time access to thoughts, but they are incapable of accurately capturing nuanced thoughts on a complex issue. Twitter presents everything in black and white. The brevity forces us to fill in the color and context. Mendenhall is not a dolt. Is “We’ve only heard one side” a literal justification for mass-murder, or an acknowledgement that our perception of Islamism is politically constructed?
History isn’t objective. We commission the version most flattering to us. Americans believe in manifest destiny over taking others’ lands at gunpoint. They believe Reagan’s rhetoric bombs, rather than internal tensions, brought down the Soviet Union. They believe Islamists hate us for our “free speech and American values” rather than our subsidization of Israeli segregation. The heinousness of the 9/11 attacks shouldn’t preclude understanding the root causes behind them.
Twitter is ill-equipped to disseminate delicate, loaded thoughts. Mendenhall, certainly, left himself open to criticism, which I’m assuming he received in his “mentions” column. But, why must this become a “controversy?” Why must the media respond, correct and condemn him? He’s a football player. He has fame and some measure of a public voice, but, even if he has views, they have no societal import.
Rashard Mendenhall’s job is to carry a ball forward. He’s not trained to handle weighty topics. He and other athletes will make ignorant and possibly ill-informed comments. Twitter broadens the potential subject matter and removes the solicitation filter.
In the world of direct access, the media has a responsibility to direct public discourse and sift out the stupidity and the nontroversies. Thus far, they (or we) have done a woefully poor job of it.
[Photo via Getty]