The Sniper Team

Recent events have made this a parlous sort of title for my weblog column but read on and you’ll see why I wrote it.

On my Facebook today a post prompted a series of exchanges – between people with whom I am familiar and people who are complete strangers. I hasten to add that I did not intrude into the exchange. The root cause of the fight, as it will be of many others, was the reports we received of the events of the recent hotel shootings in Las Vegas.

There was a great deal of anguish shown by the various people involved in the discussion and eventually it started to spill over into sexual politics, cross-accusation, and nastiness. The person who originated the thing then called an end to the discussion. One of the participants claimed a sort of victory. It’s an occurance that happens frequently on Facebook.

I could not help being drawn to compare it to some of the practices outlined in a book written by a Captain C. Shore about British army sniping in the world wars. Not the Las Vegas thing…that is yet to be seen for what it may well prove to be…but the use of the spotter, shooter, and decoy system in scoring victories on social media.

Why this should be seen as desirable, in what is supposed to be an on-line community, is sometimes not clear, but the thing that is evident is that there are frequent occasions where a person sets up a tempting post to invite comments and one of their friends sits waiting until a target reacts. Then there is a brief flurry of outraged and biased virtue-scoring posted to dominate the unwary target.

If the person caught in this barrage responds with a counterattack that seems to answer the question or puts the sniper in a bad light, the spotter – acting as originator of the whole sequence – shuts it down by declaring an end. In some cases they can weave back and edit out the target’s posts. The sniper team is left to publicly do the little dance of victory of whichever social army they fight for.

Happened on the computer today to someone else – happened to me some time ago with a different sniping team. The only remedy I could see at the time was to defriend the spotter – the sniper was not on my list.

I’m warier these days about what I say to whom. I rarely defriend anyone, but I do sometimes switch them to the unseen track. And when I meet them in person I am careful to restrict my speech to ” Yay Yay” and ” Nay Nay ” as per biblical instructions. Because all the rest is bound to be sin and sorrow.

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