All of this has implications for democracy. While disinformation and polemics may stimulate a broader public conversation about social concerns such as gun violence, the relative incivility of these narratives which included polemics and insults are unlikely to increase users’ tolerance to individuals’ championing opposing perspectives—which is an important precursor to consensus-building . Conversely, fact-based narratives, particularly those discussing May’s mental health, could assist in consensus-building regarding health care in America. Even the personal narratives shared by students may help those holding opposing points of view regarding issues such as gun control better understand one another insofar as these stories can help individuals find areas of unanticipated agreement. Disinformation, in short, is bad for political conversation, political debate and deliberative processes.
Arguably, Trump will go down in history for his catch phrases and unconventional political use of Twitter. It is not clear, however, whether historians will be kind to him – or us – when they look back at our political discourse. The good news is that we can control how we engage in tough conversations, and that through this process of engagement we will learn more about ourselves.
Overall, narratives about school shootings vary dramatically in terms of the kinds of topics discussed as well as the civility of the discourse. More importantly, it appears that civility is directly related to the opinion entrepreneurs, who drove the narrative creation on social media and helped spread (in)correct information.