EDITORIAL: Rushing to judge

From presidential campaigns to smaller-scale issues closer to home on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, we live in a rush-to-judgment world.

In this increasingly rush-to-judgment-world – in which quickly formed opinions are posted online and nearly instantaneously rewarded with retweets, likes and shares – it behooves us to take a step back.

Certainly, most of us have preformed our opinions on general topics based on our years of experience, research and thought, but to prejudge a specific incident in the news because of age, creed, ethnicity or even profession is foolhardy.

On the grand scale right now, we see this sort of prejudice south of the Canadian border, where presidential campaigns are being built on a pillar of mankind’s basest fears.

There are now routinely reported incidents of violence, all because of such preformed opinions.

On a much smaller scale – yet no less fearsome – we hear closer to home this week of reaction to a South Surrey resident’s experience with two local real-estate agents that have led to actual threats of violence.

In this case, an online post told of a woman whose recently-widowed father received a sympathy card from two agents, who included their business cards and offer of help “with your real estate needs when the time is right.”

The instant response was one of insults and abuse. Once it was reported in the media, the reaction swelled, with reported death threats and misogynous messages aimed at the agents.

Now, even had the issue been exactly as some reported, there would be no excusing this sort of reaction. What sort of person threatens a stranger because of apparent insensitive behaviour?

That there were potential complexities to the story, however, should have given anyone pause before hurling any sort of criticism publicly.

It turns out, the agents met the widower while making cold calls through the neighborhood, when he informed them of his loss. They left with the impression that he was potentially interested in their services, and followed up with an expression of sympathy included with their contact information.

And it sounds like all concerned – the widower, the daughter and, belatedly, the agents – agree this last move appeared crass.

But it wasn’t as simple as two agents tracking down grieving spouses to make a sale.

While most who expressed criticism based on this mistaken belief likely didn’t cross the line into abusiveness, they should question whether their comments were like the sounding of a ‘dog whistle’ – a tone heard in U.S. politics today – for those who did.