It’s no secret that 2020 has been a downright terrible year: the United States is still in the middle of a raging pandemic and “normal life” has been lost since March. While there’s hope for Americans on the horizon, tragedy still seemingly lies in the way.
On the morning of December 25 (Christmas morning, by any other name), a massive explosion occurred in downtown Nashville. Caused by a detonated RV, the bombing destroyed countless buildings and facilities, including an AT&T building that’s vital to providing service to much of the local area. Since Friday, officials have identified Anthony Warner, 63, as the bomber. He’s confirmed to have died in the blast.
Though there’s still much left unknown (including a motive), one thing was made abundantly clear by the tragedy in Nashville: no apathy at all exists on the Internet. In the past few days, not only has President Donald Trump stayed completely silent on the matter but, in the wake of this disaster, Twitter has taken to making conspiracies about the cause of the bombing.
Obviously, Twitter is a known warzone for all things politics. Between the political bots and devout supporters of left and right-wing candidates, there’s no expecting any decency on the platform when it comes to current events. However, I was shocked (and maybe I shouldn’t have been) at how many conspiracy theories have developed from the situation.
Theorists have gone so far as to doctor photos of the blast to suggest a missile caused the explosion. This, abundantly, has been proven false. However, on Twitter, many argued with the footage caught of the explosion. On any one thread about the incident, conflicting views about what happened circulated wildly. The blatant mistrust in the media and visual footage was rampant. Arguments about physics, semantics, and who saw what on the day of the bombing overwhelmed the information offered about what officials know. With every passing hour, more opinions are shared on the matter.
Where is the Love?
Twitter is exhausting. Conspiracy theories are exhausting. And yet, after a massively destructive explosion in a major American city, that’s where the Internet goes. Nashville, within a matter of days, became a hashtag and breeding ground for name-calling rhetoric. With all that’s occurring in the threads of news reports, it’s easy to distance the incident from occurring in a real place. Spectators of the incident and theorists of all kinds seemingly forget the real people and businesses impacted by the bomb. Nashville is hurting. And all Twitter can do is misconstrue what happened.
This response is not unique to Nashville. All year long, and certainly before 2020, social media has been a place for theories and hatred to run wild. And while many individuals use Twitter, Instagram and other platforms for activism, an equal number use it for the opposite. Emboldened by anonymity, conversations take place online that would never occur in person. In a world without social media, I wonder, would Nashville still be treated as the object of conspiracy?
Awaiting a Response
Despite his affinity for Twitter, Trump has been completely silent on the Nashville bombing. In the days since Christmas, he’s tweeted and retweeted several times, but not even thoughts and prayers have been offered to the city from the President. It’s unclear if he plans to respond at all, but he has apparently been briefed on the matter.
His silence on the issue affirms everything you need to know about American apathy: a tragedy is not just a tragedy anymore, there’s likely political reasoning behind it that must be determined before the “truth” can come out. And any person’s subjective “truth” will always be skewed toward the loyalty of their party. The United States’ polarization seeps into every aspect of life, from wearing masks to a literal bombing. Maybe Washington was right after all.
Image Credit: The Tennessean