The funny thing about The Internet is that when you throw a bunch of stuff at it, people will eventually notice you. But they'll never notice the things you want them to notice. You write something you think is incredibly important and heartfelt or whatever, and it hovers there for a moment before fading into the ethers. Alternatively, you make some stupid off-hand joke like "LOLOL THIS DOGGO LOOKS LIKE BUTTS" and you wake up the next morning and it has two million hits. The reverse can also be true, but it's a crapshoot, is what I'm saying.
I receive *tons* of "Hey, check this out!" or "You should write about this" links from strangers via social media, as well as from people I know via text, etc. Saturday morning a stranger sent me a link to the website of a private corrections company's website – a company that is a major ICE contractor – including a picture of a prison bus full of baby car seats. Other than a very quick scan to ascertain that it was real (it was, and it was the official corporate website) I saw great "Get a load of this shit!" potential in the picture and reposted it on Facebook and Twitter with a throw-away joke:
No deep thought went into it – I simply found the picture shocking and the phrase "prison bus for babies" funny. I realize that car seats can accommodate a range of children's ages beyond "baby." But hold that thought for a moment.
By Monday, half the internet had seen it and Snopes had written it up ("Mostly True").
When conservatives share things on the internet, there is absolutely no pretense whatsoever of fact-checking or truth. They just fire it out there and it becomes Truth through repetition. When anyone to the left of, say, John McCain shares something that circulates widely, it is dealt with through a predictable and effective strategy of parsing it to death.
Gun Nuts have this down to a science. Ignore the substance of a claim and focus exhaustively on some minor detail that is wrong. "Ha ha can you believe this idiot expects us to listen to her when she doesn't understand how .223 and 5.56 are slightly different?" That sort of thing. They parse the details, which of course must be correct in every possible facet, and ignore the point.
My post was not, obviously, the result of years of investigative journalism. I made zero attempt to hide anything from anyone – including in the post the full link to the company's own website so that anyone who cared to could read in their own words how they put this in context.
Yet two things were, in predictable fashion, beaten to death by critical commenters:
1. The company's post was from mid-2016.
2. The bus is for "field trips" for the private prison company's own Charter School it started to get more money from ICE
For the first point, how could that be less relevant? Does the post being two years old mean the bus no longer exists? Of course not. Second, leave aside momentarily the high likelihood that "field trips" is some kind of creepy euphemism. The larger point is, ICE has so many small children in custody, and they are held in custody for so long, that it needs to set up its own school system to handle them. That, and not what specific use the bus in the photo is put to, is important.
Finally, taking artistic license with the phrase "prison bus for babies" is a fair criticism insamuch as the bus is not literally being used to imprison babies, but here's the thing – I'm not the goddamn BBC. I make jokes on the internet, and the photo depicts something from a company that exists entirely to build and run prisons. When Prison, Inc. buys and outfits a bus, calling that a "prison bus" in a tossed-off, "funny to take the edge off the horror" kind of way is within my rights. And, to whatever extent I, Internet Joke Guy, is responsible for factual accuracy I included a full link to the source website so anyone could evaluate it for themselves. In social media sharing terms, I think that was pretty goddamn responsible. Here it is! I didn't make this up! See for yourselves, in their own words!
In closing, it was fun to experience the double standard first-hand. Right wingers make shit up out of whole cloth, believe it unquestioningly, and circulate it enthusiastically. I tried to call attention to something quite awful using a picture I knew would be attention-getting and a caption that, in my Online Voice, underscored the part of this that should be alarming – that ICE has tons of small children in custody and is holding them for so long that it had to pay someone to make a charter school to put them through K-12.
Go ahead and ignore that part and beat up on minor details, though. That should help.