Op Ed: Social Media Doesn’t Hate People, People Hate People

4 min readMar 17, 2019

The recent massacre in New Zealand has further sharpened a debate that has been growing for some time now: how much is social media to blame for the increase in white supremacy hate crimes? Many of his detractors have laid blame squarely at the feet of President Trump, and even the perpetrator of the New Zealand attack named the president in his ‘manifesto’. New Zealand has decided to seriously review its gun laws citing their availability as a main factor. Others are focusing on people like Milo Yiannopoulos and other individuals who are promoting radical alt-right politics. Still others are trying to blame anyone from Chelsea Clinton to the Muslim victims themselves using ridiculous connections to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Almost everyone however has blamed social media as a significant cause for New Zealand and other recent terrorist violence by white supremacists. This is a mistake.

Much to my chagrin as a gun control advocate, I must say “social media doesn’t hate people, people hate people.” I can’t blame the existence of Facebook for the horrible act of terrorism that took place in New Zealand in the same way that it’s not logical to blame the car for a drunk driving accident that killed someone. To be clear, the connection between this argument and those made by gun rights activists stop at me borrowing their phrase insomuch as social media is not explicitly designed to kill people. And I am also fully in favor of stronger oversight and regulation of social media platforms to avoid at all costs the live streaming of mass murders. But to blame social media as the primary cause for the increasing levels of hate and racist violence is to ignore reality: white supremacy is part of American culture and it has always taken advantage of new technology and methods of communication to spread hate.

Immediately upon its inception the KKK as the symbol of white supremacy in America took advantage of pamphlets and posters as the dominant forms of mass media during the late 19th century. This allowed the organization to quickly spread beyond its roots in the deep South to create chapters in every state in America. By the 1920s and the rise of the newspaper and magazine promoters of white supremacy had refined their message to the point that the KKK became a dominant political organization across…