The power of hashtags: A mighty tool for enabling Groupthink

But, by and large, the tool primarily serves as a boon to the mob — as a rallying cry for a pile-on, and an unhealthy means of assuring that your offerings are directed at people who will back them up with vigor. Any tweet that has “#tcot” or “#p2” or “#uniteblue” attached to it is invariably more stupid than one without, in large part because the author is expecting affirmation and not criticism. That goes double for anything that is sectarian along non-ideological lines. And, apparently, it goes triple for any movement that is provoked by tragedy. The most recent example of the lattermost is the #YesAllWomen hashtag, which appeared in the aftermath of the weekend’s shooting in California, and featured a cabal of online performance artists who had not only taken the ramblingly misogynistic manifesto of a very sick young man at face value but had quickly employed it as a general cudgel against all men. One tweet, thrust into the universe by Adelaide Kane, claimed that “Not ALL men harass women. But ALL women have, at some point, been harassed by men.” This, Kane, suggested, was “Food for thought.” More than 5,000 people evidently agreed, retweeting and favoriting it until it had risen to the top of the trending lists for all to see. What does one think happened to anybody who dared to question whether this was, in fact, true? Was Twitter a virtuous means by which a “dialogue” might be started? Or was it merely a “framework” within which the Sisters of the Travelling Hashtag could band together and dismiss as a “rapist” anybody who displayed the temerity to challenge the hive?

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