When the online mob doesn’t want facts

By now you probably realize and — even accept — that Minneapolis was not cast in a purple hue during the Super Bowl halftime show and the symbol of Prince did not appear out of the streetlights below.

It was a digital projection, The Current’s blog reveals. The same sort of process that allows you to see the first-down line, or the ads in a baseball stadium. They’re not really there.

Too bad, because all competition for America’s coolest city would’ve ended right here.

Knowing what social media can do to a person’s career in short order, however, it was a little scary watching what happened to WCCO meteorologist Mike Augustyniak, who lives downtown and looked out the window at the reality below, and dared to tell people.

People did not want to hear it.

“Why don’t you go tell the kids about Santa Claus now,” said one response.

The social media pitchforks came out, which isn’t a really big deal unless you’re a public figure in an industry that wants its employees to give people what they want. They wanted fantasy.

It could’ve easily spiralled out of control and, in fact, it got heated.

“Who hurt you?” one person asked mockingly.

“Straight people,” Augustyniak, who is gay, replied.

“How do you keep your job at WCCO?” responded another.

These are dangerous waters for people in the media and for more than an hour, Augustyniak was Twitter’s punching bag before pulling the plug.

Asked how the reaction compared to what he gets when he blows a forecast, Augustyniak suggested there’s no comparison.

“Sports twitter is disgusting, and that’s a fact,” he said.

It was another reminder that when the online mob is loose, facts don’t matter.

  • Zachary

    I’m more irritated at how St. Paul keeps getting called a “suburb” of Minneapolis. Or worse – Woodbury.

  • BReynolds33

    He’s not wrong on any of it. Sports Twitter is awful. Disgusting, foul creatures that make political Twitter blush by comparison.

  • Jonathan Foster

    The local NBC news affiliate in Duluth reported it was real.

  • Postal Customer

    The Onion nails it (again)


    …the situation was identical in St. Paul, which they described as “a frozen, passive-aggressive suburb of Minneapolis made up of alternating churches and bars.”

  • lusophone

    I read a lot of the responses as just playing along with the ridiculousness of people thinking that was not special effects. The Santa comments read that way to me.

    I like Mike’s response that Superman doesn’t fly either. That at least leaves open the possibility that he exists, but he just gets around with some other mode of transportation, maybe Metro Transit?

    • theoacme

      With MT’s unique “schedule optionality” system, Superman would have time to tailor a new cape before getting to the scene of the crime…

  • Jerry

    Hmm…I think this story and the story about the flat-earther may be related.

    • Veronica

      Ding ding ding!

  • Gary F

    The next thing they are going to tell us that he was actually singing, not lips syncing.

  • Rob

    Twitter must be good for something, but I’m damned if I can figure out what.

    • It’s a great way to find out developing news stories first. Reporters almost always post a tweet while they’re covering a story first.

      • Agreed. David Begnaud’s tweets from Puerto Rico were stellar.

      • Rob

        But my life is not aided or harmed if I see or hear a news item a few minutes after it’s posted on Twitter. Still seems like an over-hyped, under-delivering deal IMHO.

        • In most cases we’re talking hours of difference.

          • Rob

            I would still suggest that, with rare exceptions, such time frames don’t matter on a practical level to the garden variety news consumer.

          • I couldn’t write this blog without it. You can see stories developing up to a full day before it bursts into mainstream news.

          • Kellpa07

            That matters more to journalists’ egos than the news consuming public.

          • Says the guy who’s not a journalist and hasn’t spent a single day in a newsroom. But, solid analysis.

            Every platform is full of people who pretend to be experts in endeavors they know nothing about. Ultimately, people need to use a variety of sources to establish who’s credible and who’s not on any platform and adjust their feeds, RSS readers, and subscriptions accordingly.

          • Kellpa07

            “Says the guy who’s not a journalist and hasn’t spent a single day in a newsroom. But, solid analysis”
            Different than saying “you’re wrong about that.” Scoops, especially on twitter are important to journalists, so important that frequently even basic fact checking is overlooked or incomplete. I will acknowledge that problem is not exclusive to twitter, but twitter exacerbates it.

        • Kellpa07

          Agreed. Twitter very often has initial bouts of reporting that get things massively wrong. As usual, the tweet correcting the mistaken tweet gets comparatively little notice. Something about truth getting its boots on. The drive to “break” a story seems to get journalists in trouble, and often does more harm than good.

          • Twitter is a platform . Nothing more. Nothing less. It’s just a platform.

          • MikeB

            It is that simple. And, you get to decide who to follow or not. Passing up a tweet that you are not interested is not like having a limb removed.

    • Matt Black

      I’ve often thought that and every time I get close to removing my account, I have an amazing conversation like one I had this weekend. I ended up chatting with a pub owner in London Sunday evening. Through our conversation, we’ve ended up planning a meet up over there when we visit with him and a number of other pub owners in the area just to visit, talk and explore the neighborhood. It’s the little things like that keep me coming back to that platform.

  • Mike Worcester

    I hope all the folks I saw changing their FB profile photos last night remain blissfully unaware. Or maybe they don’t care. Fair enough. It looked cool, and that’s alright also.

  • Brian Simon

    “People did not want to hear it.”

    You could put that in just about every story.

  • Kellpa07

    Wasn’t there a similar dust up during the Beijing Olympics? There were some fireworks during the opening or closing ceremonies that were television graphics, and someone thought NBC wasn’t clear enough about that.