I’ve seen this retweeted a few times on Twitter today:
and I’ve thought to myself: oh, that’s awful. This film seems to have brought out racist feelings in these people.
But then I’ve thought: hang on, it’s not that awful. These are only four people. Why do people go around making a big deal about four people saying something? I’m pretty sure you can find four people who’ll show terrible humanity about anything. Sometimes they’re the people who end up tweeting sick jokes in the wake of a tragedy; sometimes they’re the ones hurling abuse at people for no good reason.
What about the other thousands of people who’ve seen the film, and who might have come to different conclusions? If you were anti the Iraq war, would seeing American Sniper have changed your mind about it? Has this propaganda really served to achieve anything other than to entrench people’s existing views?
If it’s made some racists feel racist, that does add an air of legitimacy, of course. If a multi-million-dollar product tells you that your prejudice is right, that’s a powerful tool. But I wondered if the retweets were doing something else: if they were giving these racists and idiots more of a platform than they might already have had.
So some people said something on Twitter, so what? People say things on Twitter all the time. If you go looking, you can find it. I wonder if “a cursory search on Twitter to back up the point I’m making” is really the best way of making your point. Because I can find people on Twitter who saw American Sniper and hated it.
I found those by searching for “American sniper racist”. If you go searching for “American sniper raghead” you get something else. What conclusion can we draw? That the film is racist? That it’s made people feel more comfortable about their racism? That it’s made other people notice its inherent racism? That it polarises audiences? I don’t know.
And then I thought: I’m part of the problem. By writing this, right now, I’m doing exactly the same sort of thing I’m complaining about. I’m using “some people said something on Twitter” as a basis to try and make a point. Who am I to try and work out what motivation everyone had when they retweeted this picture? How do I know they’ve all decided that the film has made the people racist?
I think the only point I can make, if there even is one in there, is that “some people said something” isn’t quite good enough. Some people are always saying something. I’m saying something now. It doesn’t mean it’s of any value. Trawling Twitter to find people saying the thing you disagree with will always yield results – but it might not prove your point at all.