Commentary

The Ground Zero Mosque Twitter Flame Wars

Tuesday night I settled in for a new episode of Intervention to celebrate two days of sobriety. I made the mistake of setting my skin-melting mug of Kava tea on my peeling black coffee table to check Twitter. It's a horrible habit. It's as if I have to see if I'm missing anything. I'm usually not. At least 20 people I follow are retweeting Kanye West as if no one else is retweeting him. At least 20 other people can't put the social media crack pipe down and are still delivering platitudes with a twist about their strategies and how listening and engaging are huge, people, HUGE. And at least 30 other people are trying too hard to be so anti platitude, they're just being as social media mavericks, it's just ... well it's just born in them. And that night was more of the same, but one tweet caught my eye. It was from @MegRobertson, who tweeted "The bigotry and hatred I'm reading tonight on Twitter re: @Park51 is incredible. What's happening to us? #deepbreath"

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To me, "Park51" sounded like just another cookie cutter Manhattan $14-burger lounge. How that would inspire hatred, I get. I mean, I'm over paying 14 bucks for a glorified hockey puck. But bigotry? Let me stop your head shaking, please. Don't get red faced and head to comments to tell me what a fluffy little trollop I am. In every news report, what I now know as Park51, the Muslim community center planned near Ground Zero, has been referred to as a mosque without bearing the Park51 moniker. Not once. And I don't think I'm alone in this one.

Now, let's step back further. Step away from the religious beliefs, step away from the emotional pain and suffering, step away from everything that means something in the real world and let's talk about the fake one, the branded one, the Internet one. The Twitter world to be more specific. Now continue:

I clicked through to see what @Park51's Twitter stream looked like. The first thing that jumped out at me was "@KurtSchlichter I think you just answered your question. #jazzhands" Jazzhands? Again, I was still thinking this wasn't a serious stream. @MegRobertson's response to whatever was going on at @Park51 seemed to not match the tone. Another reply from @Park51 to a Twitter user with "amish" in its handle struck me. This one was "someone with amish in their name? What are you even doing on the internet? Shouldn't you be making butter?" Everything up until "Shouldn't you be making butter" is paraphrased from memory as the tweet has since been removed by @Park51. I should have taken a screenshot.

It seems to me that whoever is running the Twitter account for @Park51 may not be aware that Twitter isn't the best platform for well thought out religious debate. You can not form an argument in 140 characters that can't be taken out of context. And you know I'm right. Not one debate begun by intelligent people on twitter hasn't been offered to be taken offline or in email or over coffee or Makers.

The debate is a heavy one, with raw feelings on both sides and in the middle. It doesn't need Hello Kitty smiles, jazz hands, and snark. Regardless of the position taken it is one that should be treated respectfully, not with childish wordplay, goofiness and the hashtag "#justsayin".

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