Silence is Okay

My infrequent blogging has less to do with a paucity of subjects to write about than a distinct lack of time to write about them. Twitter is a useful outlet to vent a little steam, so I might post there in short bursts, and every now and then I will even take to facebook.

That being the case, I’ve never been one who has subscribed to the “every thought I have in my head must be published in one form or another on the internet” school of thought.At my peak I probably posted no more than three our four times per day, and that rarely. And one thing I certainly never did, or at least tried not to do, was to post about something where I admittedly knew nothing about the subject. For instance, I didn’t even hear about the Casey Anthony trial until the day the verdict was delivered. (I’m not sure I managed to cocoon myself off that effectively aside from the fact that even when I did have cable, I rarely watched cable news.) It never occurred to me that I had some sort of obligation to post my thoughts on the case.

Yet reading social media sites over the past few days it seems that every person feels some sort of moral compunction to deliver some kind of opinion about the George Zimmerman trial and verdict. I was struck by this initially by a series of tweets published by Eric Erickson. Among the first tweets was the following:

I’m not sure why people seem to think I’m a Zimmerman fan. I think when the police told him not to follow he should have listened.

This is perhaps the most oft-repeated trope of the trial, but it fundamentally misreports the facts. Zimmerman was on the phone with a 311 operator, describing Zimmerman and his actions. When asked if he were following Martin, Zimmerman replied in the affirmative, to which the dispatcher said, “We don’t need you to do that.” Anyone who had been paying more than scant attention to the case knew that, but yet it still gets reported as fact that the police told Zimmerman not to follow Martin. Now this might seem like wrangling over a technicality, but it does reveal how informed a person really was about the circumstances surrounding this case.

Errickson’s next tweet, after getting yelled at by both sides:

Sorry folks on both sides, not going to re-litigate the trial. The jury did its job ably and competently whether or not u like the outcome.

Followed by:

There are a whole lot of people emotionally invested in this trial. No offense, but I’m glad I’m not one of them. Let justice be blind.

Then why say anything at all? If you express opinions based on shaky facts, don’t get snippy when people call you to account.

In another response, Erickson seemed to intimate that he hadn’t been following the trial all that closely. Then why get on your high horse all of a sudden and launch a series of largely generic tweets, and then cop an attitude with people who had been reading accounts and/or watching the trial? Just because you’re a professional pundit doesn’t mean you are required by law to opine on every single thing that happens in America.

Erickson is just one example of many I’ve seen in recent days. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something to the effect of “I didn’t really watch the trial, but . . .” followed by some authoritative sounding opinion buttressed by “facts” contradicted at some point in the preceding 15 months. What’s most infuriating is that these are the very people who have written the most sanctimonious, “pox on all your houses” drivel in the aftermath of the trial. There is nothing more insufferable in the age of the internet than the “middle-ground” guy who dismisses all strong opinions on a subject. Sure people lost their heads and reacted viscerally and emotionally, that doesn’t mean they were all wrong or that their opinions were invalid. And in many cases they were acting strongly because they had bothered following the trial you didn’t have any interest in, but yet now feel compelled to pontificate about.

It’s okay to not take a keen interest in every major public controversy. We probably would have done well had fewer people involved themselves so much in this trial. But if you’re not going to take an interest in a matter, can you just shut up about it then? We honestly don’t need to hear your every opinion on every subject matter under the sun.

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