There’s a current meme floating through the political classes that social media is newly and uniquely responsible for stoking up the mob and causing real world violence. For this reason Sri Lanka has closed down Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram while investigations into the perpetrators of yesterday’s bombings continue. Make up your own mind on that. The general thought here is that rumours have always existed and that preventing facts from being disseminated isn’t the way to deal with them.
But it’s simply not true that there’s something special to social media about this. Quite famously the Sun stoked up views about Scousers after Hillsborough. Or perhaps more relevant to our own times is this thought that documentary makers were at least partially responsible for the killing of Lyra McKee.
Dissident republicans in Derry orchestrated the riot that claimed the life of a journalist partly to impress an MTV film crew fronted by the broadcaster Reggie Yates, it has been claimed. Yates and his crew were filming a documentary in the Creggan area of Derry last Thursday when republicans started throwing petrol bombs and shooting at police. A bullet killed Lyra McKee, 29, a journalist and author who was standing with other civilians beside a police Land Rover. One community organiser, who asked not to be named, claimed to the Guardian that members of the New IRA and its political wing Saoradh were playing to the cameras. “They staged the whole thing for him. It was all staged, all choreographed.”
We going to close down MTV because of this?
No, obviously not, so why all the blame attached to social media then?