What’s the hashtag?
It’s the question millions of Twitter users now ask the moment news breaks of another terrorist massacre.
Hashtags are the way online conversations are organized on Twitter. And Thursday’s truck attack on pedestrians in Nice, France, spurred more than a dozen: #PrayersforNice; #NiceFrance; #NiceAttack; #NiceVideo; #PrayersforFrance, etc. All too soon, they’ll be discarded and replaced with #Prayersforthenexttargetedlocale. That’s the world we live in.
It’s surreal watching awful news unfold across Twitter. One of the first things you realize is that you’re often on the same hashtag feed as the terrorists themselves. While sane people mourn, the terrorists gloat. Terrorists and their sympathizers love to post gruesome and heartbreaking photos — especially pictures of children.
There’s a special place in Hades.
Twitter gives one an immediate glimpse into the international soul after something bad happens. The good far outweighs the evil; it’s not even close. I never realized how many people are praying for peace in this world. The words “love” and “hope” are ubiquitous on Twitter. There’s a lot of anger, too.
Twitter also provides users a near-instant cross-section of global opinion after an event. The Nice attack was no different.
A young Kansan named Jessica tweeted this on Thursday: “The saddest part is that our generation is so used to this that we feel nothing. #NiceFrance.”
That’s such a depressing thought. I have daughters around her age.
A Muslim from Istanbul named Mücahid tweeted: “Islam does not allow terrorism. Allah curses terrorism. We are sorry for your loss. #PrayForNice.”
Below his post was scripture from Quran 5:32 — “Whoever kills an innocent person, it is as if he has killed all of humanity.”
Chris from Canada: “All the leaders in the world can denounce the #niceattack. Now do something to back up the talk.”
That was a common theme.
My biggest take-away from the Nice attack was a question asked over and over again by people across the continents: “What’s happening to this world?”
I didn’t have the heart to respond: “The world has always been this way.” And it has. There has always been an element of evil.
Social media platforms like Twitter are making the world smaller by the day. They allow billions around the globe to share their thoughts, passions and sorrows in real time. But they’re not going to stop the violence. Only corporeal armies can do that, just like always.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.