Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Field Day for the Mice: A Lesson in Misinformation

There was a small panic in my office last night. An unexpected incident caused my assistant to leap from her chair in fright. This usually occurs when she sees a mouse scurry across the floor (what can I say? It’s the city—mice like it here, too). But this was a mouse of a different color.

The story went like this: The Jewish Center for Special Education on 1760 53rd  was concerned because their children are dismissed at 3pm and a parade, for the Jewish holiday of Log B’omer, had been announced along with street closures for tomorrow. The yeshiva called the police several times for clarity and instructions but their calls were not returned. So they phoned my office.

My assistant, with alacrity, called our friends at the police department to make certain there would be no issues for the yeshiva, the students or their parents. Assured that all was copacetic, she was relaying this information to the yeshiva’s staff when...

Suddenly someone was Tweeting (or is it Twittering?) the following: “Dov Hikind – Why are you calling NYPD to shut down Log B’omer parade! Terrible to do this – you were invited!”

Indeed, I was invited, and planned to attend. Still do.

Fortunately, we were able to correct this anonymous Tweet dropper and the twits who follow him/her/it (I have no idea who the person behind this Twitter handle is… and even if I do, I’m not telling).

Our reply: “Staffer called PD to make sure special needs children can get down 17th w/o problems. I plan to attend parade.”

Was the anonymous Tweeter mean-spirited? Was this just a hasty response to something he/she didn’t understand or misconstrued? Or was there something malevolent intended in this squeaky Tweet?

The truth is, one never knows. That’s the problem with “information” and “inside scoops” from anonymous sources. Twitter—and I dare say Facebook, message boards, and even so-called “news” sites—are filled with  digital graffiti artists; people with agendas hiding behind walls of anonymity.

Author Harlan Ellison once noted to one of his proteges that the Internet is the greatest villain of the 21st Century because it makes all information suspect. It makes the super information highway that much harder to travel.

But for small rodents lurking in shadows, it’s a field day.

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