#MuslimRage: Thoughts on Twitter hashtags and big media fails

Twitter isn’t exactly in its infancy anymore, so you would think that media organizations would know in 2012 how to properly use it. Apparently not.

Newsweek’s cover story for this week is headlined “Muslim Rage.” So I can see where the idea for the #MuslimRage hashtag came from, but at the same time I just can’t believe they approved this crap.

I’m not even Muslim and I’m offended by the fear-mongering and sensationalism on display. Newsweek knows a thing or two by now about sensationalism, so no one should be shocked by the magazine cover really. It’s practically their trademark. However, it’s the level of epic trolling they decided to bring to Twitter that is shocking.

Twitter’s Muslim community was classy and handled this attempt to religion- and race-bait people for page views with pure comedy.

As a member of the media, I know how easy it is to screw up. I know that people you don’t even see or talk to on a daily basis can make decisions that will leave you doing damage control on social media. Once I even defended Newsweek during the whole “OMG, THEY USE STOCK PHOTOS!” debacle (an over reaction, in my opinion). Most people don’t know what it’s like behind the scenes. Most people don’t get that there is a system of checks and balances that becomes convoluted the bigger the media organization becomes.

Yet none of these things excuse the #MuslimRage social media campaign. Why? Because someone in the Newsweek newsroom or offices sat down in a meeting, thought of this hashtag, said it would be a good idea and pushed it through to the Internet.

This is why diversity within media groups is so important. When newsroom staffs are homogeneous, things like this slip between the cracks, unchecked and everyone ends up asking themselves, “How did we not know people would be offended by this?” I believe if an actual Muslim man or woman, high up in the food chain, said, “Hey guys… this is a really bad idea,” then Newsweek could have saved itself from the social disaster it’s currently trudging through.

But instead, Newsweek has to learn the hard way.

Media doesn’t suffer exclusively from hashtag mishaps. Similar things have happened in politics (#areyoubetteroff), food (#McDstories) and fashion (#Aurora and #Cairo). It’s just proof that Twitter is not anybody’s PR machine. It’s a living, breathing democracy and once you put it in the universe the users will do whatever they damn well please with that ‘it.’

But it’s much more profound when it happens to a member of the mass media. Journalists like to pride themselves on being so smart and yet, journalists can’t take a moment to do a smart thing like step back from their keyboards and think before they tweet. A very careless mistake for a professional to make, especially today because everyone knows the Internet is forever. Here’s to hoping Newsweek doesn’t forget this anytime soon.

One comment

  1. […] Muslim Rage aside, Brown tried to broaden the appeal of the newsmagazine by taking out the ‘news’ part. Or rather, by including more opinion, commentary and photos. In the process of doing that, they become more sensational and more concerned about creating compelling covers (or as some would say, crazy covers to compete with Time) instead of creating compelling content. […]

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