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After the mass shooting in Las Vegas last night, it’s time to invoke the 72-hour rule for shootings and terrorist attacks. The rule is: offer immediate sympathy and aid for the victims and their families, but shut up about the political implications, and for crying out loud stop trying to score partisan points for at least 72 hours afterward.
This is partly out of consideration for the victims and their families, who deserve not to have their grief exploited. Or, if we’re being realistic, they should at least have a brief respite before their grief is exploited. But the 72-hour rule also exists to protect you, the commenter—whether amateur or professional—from saying something embarrassingly stupid. Or, if we’re being realistic, this should at least provide a brief respite before you go off and embarrass yourself later.
Right now, cable news shows and newspaper websites and social media feeds are full of wild speculations about the shooter, his motives, the weapons he used, and the political reforms that will supposedly prevent something tragic like this from ever happening again (but probably won’t). Most of it will be wrong. Even the stuff that is not just a rumor on the Internet but seems to have a legitimate source will be wrong. Even things announced by the authorities in the early hours of the attack will be wrong. People speculate. People jump to conclusions based on incomplete data. Insiders make up facts and pass along incomplete, poorly understand information because they like attention from reporters. Eyewitnesses misremember events or pass on speculations as if they were truth.
We know all of this, because it happens with every mass shooting, every terror attack, every controversial police shooting. It takes days, weeks, months to filter through all of the noise and sort fact from fiction.
The one advantage normal decent people have when others violate this 72-hour rule is it that their stupid and foolish posts, issued before they have the slightest idea what really happened, reveal for all who they really are and who they really hate. And all too often, that hate isn’t aimed at the murderous killer who gunned down dozens of innocent lives.