Dear Media: Stop Turning Every Twitter Flame War Into National News

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A few days ago a girl in Utah posted some pictures of her prom night on Twitter. She was wearing a red cheongsam, a traditional Chinese dress, that she had found at a vintage store in downtown Salt Lake City. Naturally, someone on Twitter had something to say about that:

“My culture is NOT your …. prom dress,” a man named Jeremy Lam tweeted days later, sharing the photos she posted. “I’m proud of my culture, including the extreme barriers marginalized people within that culture have had to overcome those obstacles,” Lam also wrote. “For it to simply be subject to American consumerism and cater to a white audience, is parallel to colonial ideology.”

This represents one of the big problems in America today. Not the dress, mind you. I’m not going to weigh in on that. The problem is that the Washington Post—among others—routinely turns trivial local stories into national news based on nothing more than a tweet that attracts the usual mob and then the usual counter-mob. The true story here is that one guy steeped in anti-colonialist theology got mad and pounded out a tweet. That’s it. The rest is inevitable because, you know, it’s Twitter. There’s always a mob willing to play follow-the-leader.

When this stuff becomes fodder for national news, it makes you believe that America is just a gigantic culture war playing out at all times. It’s not. At least, no more than it’s ever been. But social media makes it look a lot bigger than it is, and the national media plays along. Knock it off.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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