We have seen the future, and it sucks.

The Internet Executioner

20th December 2017

Victor Davis Hanson doesn’t like what he sees.

In the pre-Internet age, newspaper and television reporters would need clearance from their nosy managing editors to investigate a breaking scandal or firing. Additional journalists then would go to work uncovering facts and details. There were, to be sure, feeding frenzies and misinformation in the zeal to get a scoop or ensure an exclusive story. But the pursuit of a scandal was braked by both professional fears about the consequences of shoddy or biased reporting, and the absence of instantaneous electronic messaging and posting.

Suggestions of wrongdoing would be digested, debated, and disseminated for days or weeks within a larger cycle of warring op-ed columns and radio and television debate and commentary. In this often deliberate process, federal or local district attorneys and/or a grand jury, then, could monitor the public story, while conducting preliminary investigations to determine whether a criminal indictment was necessary. A court trial might follow.

Not now. The Internet and social media have either compressed—or pruned away entirely—such adjudication, which once ensured to the accused some presumption of innocence and constitutional due process. Well-meant and needed efforts—from calling to account sexual harassers to stopping Russian interference in U.S. politics to questioning the commemoration of Confederate-era racist slave-holders—can accelerate quickly out of control to the point where rumor, innuendo, or frenzy replace reason, fact, and fair adjudication. How ironic—or rather predictable—it is that the more rapid the transmission of a story, the more likely it is to be inaccurate or untrue.

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