Knock, knock, knock . . .

“Sir, a negative comment you made on a social media site yesterday about Jewish people has been linked to an attack at a synagogue,” the police officer told the man. “It was the last thing the perpetrator read online before he shot X number of people.”

To which the resident replied: “It was only an opinion. Free speech. I didn’t tell anyone to shoot people.”

“Nevertheless, we’re quite certain it was the tipping point for the perpetrator, and we’re placing you under arrest for inciting hatred against Jewish people. You may also face a charge of accessory before the fact when investigators finish examining your trail on social media.”

You can expect to see scenes like that in the year to come.

In the aftermath of the attack on a rabbi’s home in New York on Saturday night, authorities are once again pointing the finger at social media. The suspect, who is believed to have mental health issues, had visited several anti-Semitic sites online, yet his family is reportedly saying he had never exhibited any anti-Semitic behaviour before.

So, a mentally ill man reads some hate speech online and lashes out with a machete. Who is responsible?

Knock, knock, knock . . .

They say the first step in the recovery process is recognizing there is a problem, and there’s consensus these days that online hate speech is a problem. It’s making people crazy.

The subject has been trending in the mainstream media for the past few weeks. The system needs to be reformed, the parameters defined, enforcement applied. And, encouragingly, there is movement in that direction with promised legislation in Canada.

In the meantime, anyone who puts words out there on social media needs to remember the mentally ill man, perhaps only a tweet away from the tipping point.

Knock, knock, knock . . .

— Jillian