What is the saying? Truth is stranger than fiction?
Yes. Yes it is.
When an employee came into the newsroom asking why the FBI and other law enforcement was at the Dairy Queen in Greenwood on Wednesday, newsroom folks immediately thought she was a little mixed up. Surely, at best, it’s State Law Enforcement Division, we figured. But at that hour in the morning, was there a veritable blizzard of law enforcement at the DQ for a hot dog? Turns out they might have been, if by Hot Dog you mean someone’s nickname. Or, at least, they were there for someone or something associated with Hot Dog. But definitely they were not there for a shake or a Blizzard.
Oh, but then the rumor mill kicked into high gear. DQ surrounded by FBI and others most assuredly signaled that Baskin Robbins was making a return. Maybe it will return, but it’s doubtful that the FBI and Homeland Security’s rather brief appearance in town would be the cause.
Perhaps the worst rumor that hit social media was that human remains were being served up in the DQ burgers. Perhaps that one took off as a result of the other restaurant story we published the same day as we published the story about the DQ and Hunter’s Creek home raid. That one pertained to the abrupt closing of BJ Southern Buffet in Greenwood. That one’s still a mystery, but the social media comments about the eatery are nearly as disconcerting as the ones about human burgers at the DQ.
But isn’t the story itself enough as it is unfolding? Aren’t the facts that have been released by those who really know what’s going on strange enough that we don’t need to inject gossip? Ah, but the meatier the gossip the better the narrative. To some.
Rumors have existed since people learned to speak. And write. They have grown exponentially with the arrival of the internet and social media. We have embraced Facebook, Twitter and all the internet encompasses just as most readers have. We recognize its value, certainly, and know it’s hardly a passing fad. But these otherwise wonderful advances in our communications platform also devalue real human interaction, discourse and civil conversation. That’s a shame, but also a hard reality.
A recent issue of The Atlantic carried an article that piqued our interest. Essentially, it called for a pause button of sorts. Or what radio stations called the 8-second delay that gave a DJ or announcer the ability to hit a kill button so listeners would not hear a guest’s profanity. The idea is that people wouldn’t be able to tweet, fire off a remark on Facebook or email without first seeing a message asking “are you sure you want to send this?”
Think before you speak. Think before you tweet — sage advice for people in any position, even presidents — comment on Facebook or hit “send” on an email message.
Of course, even if we had such a pause button available today, it wouldn’t stop the folks who want to spread rumors. They much prefer their version of the story over what should eventually land as truth. And you can tweet that.