What You Say Can Kill

My wife and I have been hooked on BBC detective shows often shown on PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery. Some of these, such as Shetland (takes place in Scotland) and Unforgotten (English) use the entire season series of 5-6 episodes to explore one murder case.

We just binge-watched the latest season of Unforgotten, a cold-case theme. A sub-plot, and you need many when you write something this long, featured a young woman who developed a Web page devoted to opinion/reporting on stories. Naturally, the story she was following concerned the featured case. The more things went forward, the more incendiary her writing got. Until it provoked an unstable person to kill someone.

She took great delight in gaining followers, “likes”, and the like. It becomes a vicious circle of writing incendiary posts, getting more likes, becoming more incendiary, getting still more likes, until some inevitable climax is reached.

I’ve been teaching from the letter of James from the New Testament. He evidently has witnessed the emotions and reactions to an untamed tongue (or untamed fingertips typing on a keyboard). He marvels at how that one little part of the body can both bless people and curse people. How it can bless God, and then immediately curse a human being created in God’s image.

Sometimes we get caught up in a cycle of emotion–sometimes just to reinforce our egos or sometimes as a business model. I’ve had friends diss on so-called “liberal” or “conservative” media. I tell them they have missed the point. It’s all sensationalist media designed to encourage emotions that encourage “likes” and views that encourages even more outrageous commentary that encourages even more likes and views, and so the cycle goes while the business rakes in tremendous income from advertisers.

Someone complimented my writing once and suggested a Website I should write for. I sent some samples. The editor replied that she liked my writing, but that in writing for her I needed to follow some tricks for enhancing the number of views I’d get. I never replied. I prefer a smaller number of views to using those Internet tricks to get more page views.

There are two sides to this modern instant instantiation of the tongue. One side is the responsibility of the speaker/writer. The other is the awareness of the reader to not get sucked into the whirlpool of emotion.

Be careful. Words can kill–emotionally, if not physically.

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