This is the sort of thing that makes me question the intelligence, and sanity, of some Americans. During the Hurricane Sandy event, Shashank Tripathi, operating under the Twitter name @comfortablysmug, tweeted a few bits of incorrect information. He claimed the NYSE floor was flooded and in another tweet told followers that the local power companies were preemptively turning off power. Both were lies. Both were repeated on prominent news outlets, CNN included. Then again, he had tweeted earlier that Obama was telling New Yorkers to eat their dogs if food rations ran low. Come on.
Now a New York Councilman is pushing for criminal charges against him and has asked the Manhattan DA’s office to look into it.
“I hope the fact that I’m asking for criminal charges to be seriously considered will make him much less comfortable and much less smug.”
Even more pathetic than an elected official pushing to squash a basic right, were the leading news outlets, such as CNN and National Weather Service, passing on his bogus tweets as valid news stories without verifying the authenticity of the claims (actually, The National Weather Service started the proliferation of the tall tale and CNN’s weatherman just piled on the bandwagon). What happened to the media’s use of “trusted sources”? Our news media outlets are getting their news from random tweets off the Internet? To their credit, they were quick to correct their mistake (although CNN simply blamed it on the National Weather Service – come on, they’re e weathermen, not news reporters!).
Even a brief, cursory glance at the rest of Tripathi’s Twitter feed would have clued them in.
Intelligent people know that anything you read on the Internet should be taken with a grain of salt. Now I guess we should recognize that anything we hear on the television news should be taken with a grain of salt too (but most intelligent persons already knew that). People should use their intelligence to reason out the logic and potential motives behind the news we see and hear and then decide how much faith to put into it. If you choose to do otherwise, then hey, you’re gonna be wrong about a lot of stuff and yeah, you might end up looking like an idiot in front of a lot of people (wink, wink CNN). And as irresponsible as Tripathi’s tweets were, he still possesses the right to say what he wants – as long as it does not harm anyone (a looking stupid is not considered “harm”).
Tripathi has since apologized for the tweets and admitted that they were irresponsible. He did this because of the public outcry against his action, much of that outcry coming from Twitter itself. Yeah, Twitter acted as a self-correcting mechanism. Go figure.