Opinion: Readers triggered by reference to assault-style rifle

It was a gun this time, but no topic seems totally benign when it comes to internet discussion

Working as a journalist means you get a lot of haters.

There’s a large and extremely vocal group out there who see ‘the media’ as deceitful fear-mongers, peddling misinformation to serve the purposes of whatever special interest group is ‘lining their pockets.’

Conspiracy theories tie the media to whatever shadowy figures and hidden agendas are on the menu that day. We are against ____________ (fill in the blank), or for _____________ (fill in the blank), depending on whether you are for or against ______________ (fill in the blank). We are subversive agents bent on the destruction of ______________ (fill in the blank), acting at the behest of _____________(fill in the blank).

Nonsense of course, but haters gonna hate.

As your friendly neighborhood sports writer, I’ve managed to avoid being a target for most of my 13 years at the Chilliwack Progress.

While colleagues dodge digital bullets coming at them from all directions, I’ve been able to throw up my hands and say, ‘Hey. I’m just here for the basketball.’

But that’s changing now. These days I find myself writing about everything from tulips to truck thieves, and last week I wrote about guns. More specifically, one gun that RCMP seized during an arrest in Chilliwack and referred to in a news release as an assault-style rifle.

Talk about sticking your foot in the piranha tank when that descriptive term showed up in the headline and article. Based on the reaction on Facebook, you’d have thought I’d taken that rifle and gunned down the late great Charleton Heston.

“The liberal media will ramp up fear mongering to justify their fearless leaders actions,” wrote one fan who assumes I am somehow connected to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and his recent gun legislation.

I am not.

“More FAKE NEWS perpetrated by liberal propaganda idiots who have NO clue what their talking about,” another typed.

Many posters identified the rifle as an SKS, a WWII era gun, which is useful info.

Lacking a background in guns, however, it’s nothing I would know and without encyclopedic knowledge of firearms and a catalog o’ rifles on my desk, it’s nothing I would know how to research on the fly.

So I went with the RCMP wording, and as I watched the vitriolic comments flood in, a thought crossed my mind.

What are some of these people hoping to accomplish with this sort of rhetoric? Is it just venting? Are they looking to take out a little frustration on the big bad entity that is ‘the media?’ Are they actually trying to bring anyone around to their way of thinking, or are they stuck in one big echo chamber where they just want to be angry, and be joined by others who are angry too?

It’s no secret that civil discourse has eroded badly. Most of the time, discussions about guns, pandemics, politics, religion, immigration, Coke vs Pepsi or whatever devolve into two sides yelling at each other over the fence while the silent majority slowly backs away.

But consider this.

Of all the feedback that article got, here’s the one that sticks with me.

It was emailed from a guy named Tyler.

“Good morning Eric.

I read your article in the Progress this morning. The indication that the firearm is an assault-style rifle is inaccurate. That is a WW2 SKS. Can you please amend this? Given the current climate around firearms, I believe it is important to be accurate.

Thank you!”

No Tyler, thank you.

You’ve provided me proof that not all hope is lost and there are people who can get their point across without being a _____________ (fill in the blank). And the next time I write anything about firearms, it’ll be Tyler and his email that I think of, and not the people who think they can change minds if they just yell louder.


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