As a purveyor of news, Facebook has the best cat videos.
On Saturday I wrote a fairly lengthy opinion piece on why Virginia's Ralph Northam should not resign the governorship—that indiscretions committed thirty-five years ago in no way reflect the person he has become. I also cited the president’s indiscretions and those of Brett Kavanaugh, even pointing out that although Northam may have annoyed and insulted people, he never traumatized anyone or left a victim like Christine Blasey Ford in the rubble as Kavanaugh did.
I didn't post it. I wrote it before Northam's news conference denying it was he in the photo (strike one) and admitting that he had done some black-face Michael Jackson mimicry at about the same time. (strike two).
I’m waiting for the third strike, but the fact that I changed my mind so rapidly is an indication of our willingness to latch onto something and make an instant judgment long before we know all the facts. It’s the Facebook/Twitter news mentality. It helped elect the president, but apparently even that wasn't an effective enough cautionary tale.
Is it any wonder that the president tweets his “policy” decisions and why he derides journalists? Reporters and correspondents, the legitimate ones, follow a code of ethics, seek reliable sources, and grind out the research before reporting something as fact. An actual reporter would be fired for passing off as news sensational scenes from a movie as Trump has done over the past weeks. Trump has no responsibility to defend anything. He not only coined the term fake news, he lives it.
As for Northam, he may very well have lost too much credibility and good will to continue to lead that state—especially that state with a notorious history of racial division. (The Proud Boys and the KKK did not pull the name Charlottesville out of a hat when they decided to hold that rally in 2017.) And despite the pastor of Northam’s church, a man of color himself, defending a person’s right to change and in essence forgiving him, that sort of conciliatory tone lies in a distinct minority.
Then again, it’s Monday. By tomorrow Northam may have resigned, he may be doing it as I write this, or new evidence may come to light that he is not either man in the photo, or that he never selected the picture for his yearbook page, or that the photo itself was doctored. I don't believe any of those choices are true, but I'm willing to wait a day or two to find out.
I tend to discount what is said a short time after someone suffers significant trauma as Northam did last Friday. Unfortunately he has done nothing since to restore my faith. Despite my personal skepticism, however, nothing bad is going to happen if he lasts out the week and makes way for a smooth and normal transition. On Facebook and Twitter, of course, there is no waiting. Take him down and do it now! Don't interfere with the next cause célèbre!
There's an ugliness to this increasingly malignant blood-lust, and it doesn't play well. Northam may look like a racist in that picture; what do we look like on social media?