Dear Media: Stop Turning Every Twitter Flame War Into National News

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A few days ago a girl in Utah posted some pictures of her prom night on Twitter. She was wearing a red cheongsam, a traditional Chinese dress, that she had found at a vintage store in downtown Salt Lake City. Naturally, someone on Twitter had something to say about that:

“My culture is NOT your …. prom dress,” a man named Jeremy Lam tweeted days later, sharing the photos she posted. “I’m proud of my culture, including the extreme barriers marginalized people within that culture have had to overcome those obstacles,” Lam also wrote. “For it to simply be subject to American consumerism and cater to a white audience, is parallel to colonial ideology.”

This represents one of the big problems in America today. Not the dress, mind you. I’m not going to weigh in on that. The problem is that the Washington Post—among others—routinely turns trivial local stories into national news based on nothing more than a tweet that attracts the usual mob and then the usual counter-mob. The true story here is that one guy steeped in anti-colonialist theology got mad and pounded out a tweet. That’s it. The rest is inevitable because, you know, it’s Twitter. There’s always a mob willing to play follow-the-leader.

When this stuff becomes fodder for national news, it makes you believe that America is just a gigantic culture war playing out at all times. It’s not. At least, no more than it’s ever been. But social media makes it look a lot bigger than it is, and the national media plays along. Knock it off.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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