By Darren Johnson
We hear a lot about “the one percent.” It’s supposed to mean the richest people who seem to control everything and get all the breaks. Singling them out is fine, but there’s another one percent worth talking about — the one percent of people who ruin everything.
I happened to be in Orlando with the family on a Disney trip this past week, and it sure was surreal.
First, there was the Orlando nightclub massacre. Then, it turns out, the suspect, who is not worth naming, had also eyed hitting a part of the Disney Parks we’d visited the night before. Then Disney ramped up its security, but, over at its Grand Floridian Hotel, a child was pulled into the water by an alligator and died. We’d dined there twice in the past week, the second time after the incident, and noticed the search helicopters and scuba teams looking for the boy.
On the way back, I had to leave Disney property to get a new phone charger — and encountered this “machine gun” place (pictured) a couple of miles from Disney. I know, I know. Second Amendment. I get that. And Orlando has a “hug a tourist” billboard campaign going because tourists bring so much money to this place. But I’m not challenging this business’s right to exist; just that someone started this business, thinking it’s a good idea, means that there must be an audience for it. Las Vegas has similar businesses. Though is this what Orlando wants to be? A sin city?
One night, after all this, Disney did a fireworks display at midnight. Who is up at midnight for a fireworks show? This place is mostly populated by families with little kids, exhausted after a day in Magic Kingdom. It was loud, similar to a .50 caliber rifle’s report, over and over. But the actual fireworks were not visible from our hotel room. I was startled out of bed, and my first thoughts were “gunfire” and “escape plan.”
I’m not a nervous nelly. Quite the contrary. I have been a college spokesman for over a decade and a half, including in the New York Metro Area going back to before 9-11. I’m well trained in all kinds of scenarios, including “active shooter.” Sometimes, I get to use my crisis training, though it’s never enjoyable.
Which brings us to that other one percent — the one percent of people who ruin everything.
It’s not just the mass shooters who are in that one percent, but also the people who take joy from horrible events. They dominate Internet message boards. Yes, they are only one percent, but they are extremely loud, and, readers assume because of their loud, bullying, vulgar, know-it-all behavior on practically any news article that allows comments, they may be “the court of public opinion.”
They not only ruin the Internet, making it, ultimately, a negative place, but also steer the news cycle. Internet news needs hits. These people are super-users. Their negativity creates traffic. Traffic means that Internet ads pay more, so the news sites cater to these people.
Related to the events in Orlando in the past week, one can find endless Cliff Clavins pontificating on the difference between assault rifles and what was used in that night club. Anyone reasonable who may suggest — “Hey, why not have a few weeks’ waiting period to buy such weapons?” — gets shouted down, stalked and maybe even worse.
Rocker Keith Emerson recently killed himself after Internet bullies said he really couldn’t play his keyboard as well anymore (he had nerve damage, and was elderly, and this barrage of online criticism broke his heart).
There also have been the typical anti-Muslim rants online. Then, when it was revealed the shooter may have been gay, the volume of hate went down a notch.
The family of the boy killed by the alligator hopefully are avoiding the Internet. People are posting mean memes about the two-year old, and Internet trolls are pontificating blame, judging these parents cruelly and anonymously, or not always anonymously, as they did a month ago when a child slipped into a gorilla pen at the Cincinnati Zoo.
The media doesn’t comment on the commenters — the one percent of people who ruin everything. They need the commenters, as horrible (and often barely literate) as most of them are, for hit counts, to sell ads.
One thing I noticed, the coverage of these incidents by local Orlando news — commercial-free and on the scene, similar to how New York local media covered 9-11 — was far better than what the triumvirate of CNN, MSNBC and Fox News were giving us. Compared to the raw, local coverage, the triumvirate of national channels seemed so scripted, spin-doctorish, and embarrassing to us as freedom-loving Americans. I wish in times of crisis, we could just get the feeds from local channels on TV and avoid these national channels that make America look like its First Amendment is in as much peril as its Second Amendment.
And that’s the last word … for now.
Darren Johnson has an MFA in Writing from Southampton College and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.