Imported outrage an online hazard

With genuine concerns from COVID-19 to climate change dominating the daily discourse in this part of the world, you wouldn’t think Canadians would have to import their outrage from south of the border, or across the Atlantic. And yet, here we are. Confused? Bear with me.

I try to utilize what time I spend on Facebook catching up on what is happening in the lives of friends and family. That’s really the best use of the medium in my opinion, although some genuine information is available on the social media pages of official entities and businesses, as well as legitimate news media.

What drives me craziest about Facebook though are the memes designed, generally with at best a tenuous reference to reality, to spark outrage simply for the sport of it.

Take for example a post that spreads around on a regular basis about a mythical CBC poll on the idea of taking the phase “God keep our land…” out of the national anthem. While there’s considerable debate over whether such a poll was ever taken (if it was, it happened roughly a decade ago), current posts about it are presented as if some unspecified “they” are presently conducting a campaign to make this change. Such posts always generate plenty of outraged response, despite the fact such a move hasn’t ever been formally considered by the federal government.

In fact, considerable bytes have been expended to suggest this particular bit of nonsense was adapted from an American discussion around a poll by a U.S. network about removing reference to God from their pledge of allegiance.

Continuing on the theme of outrage importation, one meme currently in wide circulation states “MPs’ Pay Rise: 11% – Nurses Pay Rise: 0%-1% share if you think it’s unfair.” While that certainly does seem unfair, it’s been that way since the British parliament proposed an 11 per cent increase for its members back in 2015.

No doubt the people sharing this one think it’s a reference to a current increase proposal for Canadian MPs, but it’s not. Canadian parliamentarians received a 2.1% increase for 2020, based on a formula in use since 2015, which awards MPs an increase based on the average of certain major union contracts. And it should be noted a number of them, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, announced they would donate their increase to charity rather than accept it in a year when Canadians are impacted by a global pandemic.

The post making the rounds includes a photo of three laughing MPs who don’t look familiar, with good reason, because they’re sitting in the British House of Parliament.

A similar post begins “Dear Prime Minister, I see that your friend Osborne wants to freeze soldiers pay rates as from next year…”

Next year, in this case, would be 2016, because this post, again a reference to Britain’s prime minister, not Canada’s, and the proposal is once again from 2015. Pretty sure Trudeau has demonstrated the ability to get in enough trouble on his own; no need to put the heat on him for things he has nothing to do with.

Now, I realize media types are more immersed in political arcana than most and more likely to spot  fake or misinterpreted news. However, there are plenty of reliable fact check sites like out there, and a quick Google check to see if a topic turns up in any legitimate media sources can often help determine if there is a grain of truth involved before something is re-posted, re-tweeted or “shared” in whatever fashion a given social media outlet provides for.

I recognize this is getting pretty preachy. But before dismissing the promotion of outrage as harmless fun, it might be worth running a Google search for “Q-Anon” and “Capital insurrection” to get an idea of what can happen when lies and outrage spread out of control.

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