On pages 14 and 15 of today’s (April 19th) New York Daily News there are two stories you may have missed. They were nowhere to be found in the estimable New York Times or on CNN or MSNBC and probably not even on FoxNews (though I wouldn’t know). One page 14 is a story with the headline Race slay spree about Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, who killed three people in Fresno, California, in what were described by Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer as “unprovoked attacks by an individual who was intent on carrying out homicides today.” All three victims were white and Muhammad, as you may have guessed, is black. The report says his social media accounts “expressed anti-white and anti-government sentiments.” It seems Mr. Muhammad used a .357 caliber pistol and also had “speed loaders for a revolver” when he was apprehended.
On page 15, a sidebar story with the headline "2 are shot in Deli mayhem” relates the following: “Two Brooklyn grocery store clerks were shot by an unruly customer workers were trying to escort out of the store Tuesday.” Apparently, around 8:40 a.m. at the “Famous Deli & Grocery” in Red Hook, the “suspect” began arguing with another man and when the store manager “ordered the irate man to leave, he walked to the back where he blasted unsuspecting clerk Maged Noman, 33, witnesses said. Another clerk, Raymond Falu, 52, rushed over to help Noman and was also shot.” Mr. Noman is in critical condition and Mr. Falu was “shot in the torso” but “is expected to survive.” There is not much else to the story, other than “The gunman was nabbed by police about a block away, officials said. Charges are pending.”
Aside from my great love for the writing in tabloid newspapers (and these were classic) I bring these stories to your attention because somehow Mark Zuckerberg was not blamed for either of the incidents. The same beloved Daily News, by the way, had a front-page headline exclaiming DEAD MEAT Facebook killer takes chicken’s way out after fateful McD’s trip.(above, right) Steven V. Stephens, of course, had become a household name by Tuesday because of his hideous, heinous murder of Robert Godwin on Easter Sunday because he posted it on Facebook and it took Facebook more than two hours to take the post down. As a result, Zuckerberg and Facebook have become the real story the media has had a feeding frenzy about. If only Kori Ali Muhammad or the Red Hook shooter had had the presence of mind to live stream their action on Facebook they wouldn’t have been relegated to pages 14 & 15 of the Daily News!
That it took Facebook over two hours to get the video off its site is terrible, for sure, but to make that the story is total and complete misplaced blame. That we have these three horrible shootings (and who knows how many others) happening within a couple of days speaks, once again, to the gun violence epidemic we’re facing but that’s not at all the story. Even if Facebook somehow creates an algorithm that almost immediately alerts them to a video like Stephens’s don’t you think perpetrators will simply go to a different platform (or use multiple platforms right from the get-go)? If quashed on Facebook why not put it out on YouTube or Instagram --- surely it will “go viral” before you know it.
There are certain facts we need to face in our digital world and one is that the genie Is out of the bottle. To somehow make Mark Zuckerberg the bad guy in this scenario looks as much like smoke and mirrors from the NRA as anything else --- not to mention how it has placed North Korea, the Russians, and Bill O'Reilly on a back burner. This is not to say Facebook doesn’t have responsibilities in this. Steve Coll in the April 18th New Yorker online, in discussing the murder and Facebook, notes:
Is the company prepared to consider that Facebook Live might stimulate violence that would otherwise not occur? If this is even a possibility (it would be a difficult research problem), what are Facebook’s ethical duties? It is true that the advent of social media cannot be undone, any more than television could be regulated in a way that would fully prevent terrorists from exploiting it. Yet every corporation is vulnerable—maybe a better word is accountable—when the choices it makes harm others, particularly when the harm occurs in pursuit of profit.
That’s a weighty problem, for sure, but to simply use this sensational event to make Zuckerberg the scapegoat seems blame being terribly misplaced. Again, the gun violence issue has not been raised at all during this brouhaha.
This will not be the last violence we will see on Facebook Live --- or YouTube --- or Instagram --- or wherever. Stopping the actions of disturbed or diabolical people seems an impossible task. It’s actually astounding, really, that our intelligence services have thwarted any 9/11-type incident for sixteen years. Yet “domestic” terrorists have, of course, wreaked havoc and there is little that can be done. That these perpetrators now have a live stream platform to broadcast their horrors is lurid but not surprising, is it?
All I would say is that live stream terrorism is here and horrible --- but it should not distract us from the rest of the significant news whirling around us.
(Note: MSNBC has been running the Fresno story today)