Las Vegas attack and Twitter's dark heart -- dismissing 58 lives in 140 characters and blind partisanship

In the immediate aftermath of the tragic attack in Las Vegas on Sunday evening I had planned to sit down and write a brief piece about soft targets, the difficulty of preventing such attacks and how to stay safe if you find yourself in such a situation.

But then, I was sidetracked by a tweet.  As the enormity of the attack was becoming known and folks started to realize how bad it was, a conversation was taking place on Twitter.

I won’t use names here… I’m sure you can do your own research, but one of the individuals was a fairly senior lawyer at a fairly well known television network.  This individual literally said she had no sympathy for the situation because country music fans are often gun toting Republicans.  In her mind, apparently, Republicans failed to do anything in the aftermath of the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting in 2013 and thus, according to her logic and deep well of empathy, apparently are undeserving of sympathy.

Her employer, catching wind of her tweets, announced her firing a few hours after the posts.  So, you could argue, justice served and case closed.

When someone’s in distress, or a victim of violence, it shouldn’t matter what they believe, who they voted for or listen to… the default position should be sympathy and support. That’s how you ultimately defeat evil.

But that, perhaps, would be missing the point.  With the bodies still on the ground and the death count rising, an actual human, with an Ivy League education and responsible job, somehow was unable to muster sympathy for the victims of this horrific event. Without any real details about the shooter, and no knowledge of the victims other than they were attending a country music concert, she banged out an intolerant, bigoted, hate-filled message and unleashed it willingly on the world.

Now, I suspect we can all agree that Twitter doesn’t exactly bring out our better angels on a regular basis.  I haven’t done actual research – we all know that takes time – but I’m thinking that at least 50 percent of all tweets involve snark, insults or otherwise negative comment.  Some 20 percent attempt to be informative or inspiring, while the remaining 30 percent involve small animals, toddlers or celebrities. I believe that adds up to 100 percent.  And of course, nobody has a monopoly on the negative side of Twitter or social media in general.  The left, the right, folks from all walks of life and backgrounds… everybody plays occasionally in the mud.

But despite my low expectations, seeing this individual’s dark, cold heart laid bare in text form was jolting.  And I’m not one who jolts easily.  Nor am I one who typically refers to oneself in the third person.

Here’s the thing.  The evil of the shooter, well, I can put that down to the fact that evil does exist…and it drives some people, whatever their motives, to do unspeakable things. I’m pretty confident that the human race is never going to rid itself of evil doers, so we do our damnedest to prevent, disrupt or minimize the awful crap they attempt and occasionally succeed in doing.

I’m deeply saddened by the Vegas shooting, and by all such terrible acts of violence before it – the Pulse nightclub, the truck massacre in Nice, the Bataclan attack in Paris, Sandy Hook and too many others to list.  But I’m not surprised by it.  Anyone who has spent time in counterterrorism, or in law enforcement or the military over the past twenty years in particular has become somewhat numb to the horror of each act.  It’s a mechanism that allows folks to march on and do their jobs.

But tweets like those from this former network lawyer?  That both saddens and surprises me.  Maybe I’m naïve, but I’d like to think that we haven’t become so partisan, so bigoted from our political positions on the spectrum, that we can’t muster sympathy for those that are dead and dying.

How have we reached a point where a citizen can look at, or hear of, a fellow citizen lying on the ground bleeding out and dismiss their life in 140 characters or less because they think differently, belong to a different political party or, God forbid, listen to country music? When someone’s in distress, or a victim of violence, it shouldn’t matter what they believe, who they voted for or listen to… the default position should be sympathy and support. That’s how you ultimately defeat evil.