Social Media, Press at it Again in ‘Pearlgate’

What do a string of pearls and a red hat have in common? Some would say they are simply fashion accessories, others would say they represent a cause the individual wearer supports, while others try to contend they are symbols of oppression, hatred and mockery.

Buried beneath the recent public overreaction in response to these items, there lies a deeper issue, the absolute hysterical disconnect between reality and fantasy, between fact and fiction.

This past week, a controversial firearms restriction measure appeared before the New Hampshire House (HB 687 – Red Flag Legislation). The measure would have allowed law enforcement to enter a person’s home without a search warrant and confiscate that which is deemed a deadly weapon from the individual. The individual is not charged with any crime, and based on this bill, would have the right to “petition” the court for the return of any seized items (at his or her own expense). It is not my intent to discuss the merits of the law today (refer to a past article on Red Flag laws (, but instead the drama that arose during the debate.

Supporters and opponents of the bill appeared before the House. One group was the Women’s Defense League of N.H. Most WDLNH members are mothers and came to the House to testify about the legitimate concerns if bills like HB 687 were enacted.

Many WDLNH members wore a string of pearls, an item the group adopted several years ago as a symbol that represents “support of the Women’s Defense League and support of actual women’s rights (press statement by the WDLNH).” WDLNH also handed out pearls to supporters, including elected officials. What started as a simple symbol of support turned into Pearlgate, as dubbed by some.

The outrage machinery immediately kicked into high gear, with a flurry of Tweets from the hearing falsely claiming the pearls were meant to mock supporters of HB 687. Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, tweeted “Male New Hampshire lawmakers on the hearing committee wearing pearls to mock @MomsDemand volunteers and gun safety advocates,” which was followed by the Twitter mob mentality certain to occur when real facts are ignored. Watts later admitted she was unaware WDLNH had adopted the pearls years ago, but didn’t care, reiterating “These lawmakers decided to wear symbols that essentially mocked the process (Union Leader).”

CNN, USA Today, MSNBC, Huffington Post and others carried the story instantly as the Tweet mob sprang into action. Politicians like Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker immediately sided with Watts’ distortion of the symbolism and attacked the pearl wearers. Not only did Watts pervert the true intent of wearing the pearls, but people such as Booker, Harris and an undisciplined media willingly fanned the flames of discontent, likely for more internet click counts than to report the facts. But this is just another example of the mob mentality that has taken over social media, and the polluted mentality of what has become of modern-day journalism in this country.

Just a short time ago, the Twitter mob and media rushed to judgment before all the facts were known, and maligned and misreported on an event in Washington, D.C. The infamous incident concerning the interaction between Nick Sandmann, a 16-year-old student from Covington Catholic High School, and Native American protester Nathan Phillips, should be fresh in our minds. Sandmann’s only real crime was wearing a red MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat. That was all the social media mob and undisciplined press needed. The social media attacks and misreporting concerning Sandmann were merciless.

As if the Phillips-Sandmann incident weren’t enough, the Jussie Smollett hoax only helped reinforce the destructive nature of the social media mob and their willing allies in the press.

Just like the Smollett hoax and Phillips-Sandmann incident, people wanted the pearl story to be true. It would have validated what they believe this accessory symbolized in the eyes of the outrage machine. If you wonder what the destructive nature of a mob looks like, and how the reckless actions of some in the media aggravate the situation (increasing their click-count and ratings), just consider these incidents.

I get it, maybe you don’t like firearms, or think President Trump and his supporters are vile. You need to hate, to be outraged, to attack. However, concerned mothers wearing pearls and an innocent 16-year-old boy wearing a MAGA hat are not the enemy. Just as those who wear Pussyhats, dress in “Handmaid’s Tales” costumes, or dress up as a giant vagina are trying to advance their cause with their choice of symbols, they are not deserving of being physically attacked or falsely maligned. They are merely people who hold a different opinion than you, but remember they are your neighbors. What these three stories demonstrate, is that we fail as a society when we try to advance whatever cause we support by using a false narrative.

As for those in the media, how many more times are you going to rush in like fools, where wisemen would proceed with caution? I guess we’ll find out when the next Pearlgate, Smollett or Phillips-Sandmann type incident occurs.

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