Yet another tweet tapped away by the fingertips of the President of the United States has risen to the forefront of online conversation and yet again, it is being criticized for ignorance and insensitivity during a time with so many in need.
As deadly fires decimate homes and wilderness in both Northern and Southern California, in the same week that another fatal mass shooting in Thousand Oaks has transpired, so many people are grieving. When faced with a tweet that not only ignored these feelings, but also blamed the victims themselves, many were extremely outraged.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is poor,” President Trump’s tweet reads. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
Here’s the thing: it is okay to look for the causes of disasters. They can’t be fixed or prevented without identifying what started them. However, doing so in an accusatory tone only hurts both the accuser and the accused. The accused feel attacked causing a cycle of angry tones, bad juju and all that jazz.
But if you must blame someone or something, at least have the facts right.
Various accounts, including those of first responders, victims and California residents, have pointed out multiple flaws in the tweet, some more respectfully than others.
First, the firefighters were quick to acknowledge that our forests are managed properly and the causes of the fires are typically out of our control, whether they start naturally from rising temperatures, dryness, or downed power lines.
Second, many users explained that the majority of forest land in California is owned by the Federal government, not the state. So if management were the issue, it would be in the current administration’s hands, not state officials.
Finally, removing funding would only take away resources to better manage the forests and the fires currently burning them down.
The incident last week yet again shows how Twitter is threatening our communication, especially when factually flawed statements can become visible to massive amounts of people. It is also challenges our understanding of ‘action,’ as many feel that they can make a change by merely typing out 140 characters in their pajamas. It’s clear that there’s no time for more hope and prayers. No more accusations. It’s time to get off social media and do something.
Contact Maddie Dailey at maddied ‘at’ stanford.edu.