'People Who Thought Chechnya Was the Czech Republic,' Collectors' Edition

It's becoming harder and harder to be ignorant of ignorance.
More
[optional image description]
publicshaming.tumblr.com

Twitter and Facebook, at their best, mimic person-to-person conversation: They provide a way for people to chat -- and laugh and argue and share -- unconstrained from boundaries of geography. And then, even better, they archive the conversations we have, giving our interactions a kind of dual residence in the worlds of real time and permanence.

The catch in all this, of course, is that sometimes our conversations are not terribly worthy of archiving -- at the Library of Congress, or in our own feeds. Sometimes the stuff we write is silly. Sometimes it's tasteless. Sometimes it's incorrect. And sometimes it's all three at the same time.

Take the tweets below. They were posted, for the most part, last week, after we learned the identity of the alleged perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombings. They were posted by people who didn't seem to know the difference between "Chechnya" and "the Czech Republic." (And, in some cases, between "Chechnya" and "Czechoslovakia.") They have been archived by Twitter, and collected on the aptly named Tumblr "Public Shaming," under the heading of "The Definitive 'People Who Thought Chechnya Was the Czech Republic' Collection."

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 2.31.59 PM.png

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 2.32.37 PM.png

The Chech/Czech confusion was evident on Facebook, too:

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 2.33.18 PM.png

Should you want it, there's more -- much more -- at the Public Shaming Tumblr, here

What's remarkable about this, though, is not (just) that people didn't know the difference between two very different places. We're all ignorant, in our own ways. It's instead the shape that ignorance can take when it's expressed, and manifested, on the Internet. With the web's particular affordances -- personal comments made public, ephemeral thoughts made permanent -- ignorance (not to mention hatred, not to mention kindness, not to mention joy) can now become its own kind of media product. It is no longer geographically isolated. It is no longer temporally constrained. It is now a thing -- an object -- to be mulled over and laughed at and, either way, made aware of on its own terms. It is circumstance, transformed into evidence. 

Jump to comments
Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What's the Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life?

A group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders predict the future of livable, walkable cities


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In