Social media has made it easy to create the idea of activism. All it takes is for a compelling video to gain traction. Suddenly everyone is sharing content and signing petitions to aid the cause. This can be a good thing to bring injustice to light. It can also be a breeding ground for fake news and the spreading of lies. How many people actually research the content they have chosen to stand behind? What happens when after the discovery that you have compromised your own credibility due to inaccurate information?
Given the history of race and wrongful conviction in this country, the viral video of Rodney Reed’s case seemed believable. Sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a White woman, the video implies that he is involved in a miscarriage of justice. Petitions instantly were signed and shared across the internet. Citizens were encouraged to call in to the Texas DA offices to grant Reed a new trial and hopefully exonerate an innocent man. Even celebrities lent their platforms to the cause. This story took an extreme nosedive when Amanda Seales posted a 10 minute video explaining that she regretted signing the petition. In the video, we learn that Reed has actually been linked via DNA evidence to multiple rapes, one even including a 12-year-old. Upon searching Supreme Court documents, we learn that her comments have some validity. Seales, however, did misspeak when she stated Reed murdered another woman and was acquitted. Suddenly the innocent man the nation swiftly rallied behind is not what he seems.
What is dangerous is that the initial video in and of itself was true. The crime he was being sent to death for likely does not have enough evidence to successfully convict him again. However, there is still one huge caveat. The other cases he was linked to were not tried because of this case’s capital punishment verdict. A lot of the evidence from the others has now deteriorated or been destroyed. Which means these cases cannot be handled with the same effectiveness. In a very plausible worst-case scenario, he could be exonerated to potentially harm other women upon his release. That information was purposely left out of the narrative to push a different one. While it is doubtful that the video had malicious intent, it did not give the full scope of Rodney Reed’s prior violent crimes.
The unfortunate reality of the situation is this is not an exception. Similar tactics to this are being used to sway presidential elections so there is no surprise that it trickled down to other mediums. People automatically take anything that is presented in a professional manner as factual information. The only real way to prevent feeling and being duped by the fake news generation is to do the research. Even news station can lie or get the details skewed. At the end of the day, celebrities and activists are human. They can and have gotten things wrong. At this time, Rodney Reed’s execution date has been stayed. We can only wait to see what the future holds and what new details emerge in this case. Hopefully irreversible damage has not been done.