When it was revealed that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombings – were of
Chechnyan Chechen descent, Americans quickly took to the internet and social media to voice their anger – and to certain extents – even hatred of a country that they knew little about. This lack of knowledge was displayed in no greater light than when many of those impetuous commentators mistook Chechnya, a republic that falls under the Russian Federation, for the Czech Republic, an independent Central European country. This erroneous preconception was a story in itself, prompting the Czech Ambassador to the United States to issue a statement clarifying the difference between Chechnya and the Czech Republic.
@superleeds93 fuck the Czech Republic. I hope we bomb them one day and wipe them out. So feegeep
— Snowflake (@JustColton) April 19, 2013
There are two ways to view this unfortunate mistake and the role social media has played in it. This is clearly an event manifested and allowed by the existence of social media. Though many of those same people would still have those mistaken sentiments, the advent of social media allows them to voice such uneducated and unjustified perspectives in a way that is not only embarrassing for them, but embarrassing for Americans as a whole. As an American student studying in the Czech Republic, it’s almost shameful to admit that I share a heritage with those people. How could I explain to a Czech I encounter how they were wrongly being portrayed as this ruthless country with an unjustified vengeance against America? It’s simple, really. While those who quickly jumped to the incorrect conclusion that Chechnya is the Czech Republic and that the U.S. should quickly rebuke them for this terrorist act were unjustified in doing so, it would also be impulsive to critically attack Americans as a whole for the mistaken perspective of a slim minority. Just like how the acts of the Tsarnaev do not reflect Chechnya’s sentiment toward America, the thoughtless tweets and statuses of a few misguided Americans do not reflect Americans as a whole. Only because of social media did this situation become magnified and turned into an international predicament.
Yet this is not to say that social media serves as a negative influence in the world. Because the erroneous tweets, statuses, and posts confusing Chechnya for the Czech Republic became so well publicized, this forced many – who although did not go as far to mistake the two entities for each other but nonetheless knew little about them – to do a bit of research and learn some basic information about them, enough to distinguish one from the other so that this sort of problem does not perpetuate into the future. Social media magnified the problem and made the mistake seem larger than it actually was, but in doing so it forced many to question how much they knew about Chechnya and the Czech Republic and thus learn more about them and the region as a whole.