EDITOR'S DESK: Dunn case underscores the need to break down cultural walls

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 05:59 PM.

The point is, let's not sweat the small stuff.

To help, let's build community. One way is to not pass someone on the sidewalk without offering a smile. And let's not use demeaning terms like "wingnut" and "loon" to describe people with different politics. They just disagree. It's not the end of the world. And, you know what? Let's not look for the worst in people.

Over the weekend, I was reading the News Bulletin's Facebook page and was dismayed to see one reader's comment. In the first paragraph, she criticized a city council's proposed ordinance; no problem there, as we appreciate civil disagreements. But in the second paragraph, she suggested that such an ordinance would cause residents to revolt, and even invoked a notorious criminal's name and referred to serious crimes that they "might" mimick. It was unnecessary to make her point, so I deleted that troublemaking comment.

The sad thing, though, is that she probably thought there was nothing wrong with the comment. She might have even thought she was helping; meanwhile, she was unintentionally providing an idea or frame of reference for a less stable individual.

One of my Facebook friends posted a telling meme titled, "How to start an argument online." There are two steps: First, express an opinion. Second, wait.

That's what it's come to, folks. And since we're communicating with people on a screen, almost like we're watching television or a movie, we tend to treat the conversation as entertainment. Some people are so entrenched in this culture that they see things that aren't there.

Once, someone took me to task over what I "really meant" upon saying that data "indicated" something. Well, journalists (careful ones, anyway) tend to report news in cautious terms without making something sound like a bonafide fact if they didn't witness it themselves. So when I say something like that, there's no agenda; it's just a way to make it clear that I'm reporting and am not the expert. In other words, just doing my job.

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