The town of Ferguson, Missouri is turning into a warzone before our eyes. After Michael Brown was shot and killed by police, the city burns while journalists are being arrested in McDonald’s and protestors are met with extreme force and tear gas. They are terrible, disturbing scenes for anyone that cares about their homeland.
As events unfolded in real-time, Five Thirty Eight brainchild Nate Silver just couldn’t resist telling a story about his own run-in with police on Twitter. And, well, it fell a little flat. While I’m sure Silver’s account is authentic and he didn’t mean to come off as so tone-deaf, this moment probably wasn’t the best of times to talk about how his personal experience with police ended happily ever after with a burrito.
Even some of Silver’s supporters rightly questioned the wisdom in telling that story while the scenes in Ferguson played out. Needless to say the words “white privilege” were thrown around more often than in a college liberal arts ethics paper. When the punchline of your story is “eats burrito and gets to go home” maybe it’s best not to compare your plight to that of others who are getting brutalized with riot gear or worse. The point being that not everyone gets to be as lucky as Silver.
I do feel for Nate Silver in this case because I think he had good intentions at the start, but we all know where that leads. This is far from the worst thing anyone will ever do on Twitter, but goes to show that nobody is safe from dipping their toes in rough waters.
Let this be yet another valuable social media lesson. If you have an anecdotal story about your own personal experience that relates to something very serious happening in our world that ends with you eating take-out and hitching a ride home, best to leave that one in drafts. Or at least do a TwitLonger where nobody will bother to actually read it.
Or on second thought, just don’t tweet. Don’t even think about it. Ever.