The online reaction to couple of recent news items illustrates once again the dangers of what I’ve come to call “Twitrage.”

Twitrage happens when someone sees an item in print or on the Internet, gets offended, then immediately takes to Twitter or other sites on the Web to trumpet their outrage, all before taking a closer look to see if there’s really anything to be offended about.

For our first example, we turn to Amanda Carpenter, whose Twitter feed describes her as a “Speechwriter/senior communications adviser to Ted Cruz.” Sen. Cruz’s designated mouthpiece was mightily incensed over the idea that in these troubled times, President Obama would be frivolous enough to host a concert by teen idol Katy Perry at the White House.

“Do they even care about optics anymore?” she tweeted, before comparing all the important things her boss had been allegedly working on: “Israel, border crisis, Internet taxes, NSA, FAA. Iran. Not Katy Perry concerts.”

Only problem was, Ms. Carpenter had missed the fact that, not only was the president certainly working on all those things as well, but that the concert was a benefit for the Special Olympics. As one of Cruz’s fellow Republicans once famously said, “Oops.”

After this was pointed out to her, with a few questions as to what, exactly, Cruz’s office had against benefit shows for disabled children, she deleted the tweets in question and apologized — not to the president, the person she’d actually insulted, but to her Twitter followers. Obama Derangement Syndrome means never have to say you’re sorry to the president.

Then there’s the liberal outrage directed against State Sen. Richard Ross of Massachusetts, after The Boston Globe’s website reported the Republican senator was sponsoring a bill to require divorcing couples to get court permission before dating.

It’s pretty much standard language in a custody order that neither party can have “unrelated overnight guests of the opposite sex while the children are in their custody.” The theory, and it’s not an unreasonable one, is that it would be upsetting to children to have someone who’s not Mom or Dad stumble out of the former parental bedroom yawning while the kids are eating their morning Froot Loops.

This bill, however, went even farther than that. It says that in a divorce proceeding “the party remaining in the home shall not conduct a dating or sexual relationship within the home until a divorce is final and all financial and custody issues are resolved, unless the express permission is granted by the courts.”

Got that? For divorcing couples in Massachusetts, the bill as written would require judicial permission to even date until the case is settled.

We should all be pretty outraged about this, right? Sen. Ross is pushing a major invasion of personal privacy and liberty, right? Certainly there’s been much headshaking and finger-wagging on Twitter, as well as on liberal blogs such as Jezebel.com and ThinkProgress.

“Hard to believe a small-government Republican would want to make you check with the government before having sex,” tut-tutted Alan Colmes’ blog Liberaland.

But, as so often happens with Twitrage, there’s less to this story than meets the eye. As reported by Boston Magazine, “the bill has no legislative sponsors, no support, and is in no way under consideration by anybody.”

It seems there’s an old tradition in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts called “the right of free petition,” which allows private citizens to submit just about any bill they want to the legislature for consideration. You want to propose legislation to make putting pineapple on pizza a capital felony in the Commonwealth, you could do it. The only requirement is you’ve got to find an actual member to file the paperwork.

According to Boston Daily reporter David S. Bernstein, “many legislators aren’t even aware that they are allowed to deny a citizen petition request.” Just because a proposed bill gets filed doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, or even that the person who signed off on the petition cares enough about it to bring it to the floor.

As it turns out, this same bill has been proposed by the same guy, an 83-year-old codger named Robert LeClair, for years, and it never gets anywhere. LeClair clearly has an ax to grind, but nobody in the legislature is turning the grindstone for him. So everybody just calm the heck down.

In these times of instantaneous worldwide communication, false or incomplete information can, in the words of the old saying, “be halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” So can the indignation from the kind of stories that cause both liberals and conservatives to say “isn’t that just like those [insert your favorite bogeyman here]” before they have all the facts.

So let’s be careful out there.

(9) comments

Tom Hill

So true Pearlharbor. But Dusty has always been good at having his facts straight. Trouble is, to keep your facts straight and run interference for the democratic party at the same time, this type of column is pretty much all you can do. There are not many facts to broadcast or to discuss at length in a column that support his party's current shining achievements.

Keith Miller

Mrs Pearlharbor...I feel very bad that I have been addressing you as "Mr". I was reading some comments about another subject and discovered my mistake !!

My apologies...Pappy

Keith Miller

Mr Pearlharbor...I agree... as I have previously stated Mr Rhoades was The Pilot's star pitcher, but has long lost his pitching arm, throws only junk and spitter balls. I have come to believe that Mr Sunflower and Mr Rhoades are one in the same, both produce incoherent babbling drool !!

Mr Francis...you may be right.

Mark Hayes

Rhoades does not provide a point of view, he promotes himself, he will write, say and do anything to achieve those goals for gaining attention, and he should be recognized for that talent, it has worked well for him.

gail hanley

Pappy, for me it isn't so bad that Dusty, takes a point of view. That's what columnists do but it's the fact his column rambles on about totally irrelevant topics that don't directly impact our community or our world. If it were comic relief to be effective he'd have to be more even handed. So it doesn't rise to that genre. I just expect more thought to be put into a column that exists on the same page as one who hits a home run every week.

Keith Miller

Hasn't been that long along that your king was on Leno explaining how bad his bowling was...It's like the Special Olympics...laughs hard...did you forget that one ?? Don't remember you writing about that !!!!

gail hanley

Again, you've nailed irrelevant.

Frank Staples

"Not to the president, the person she'd actually insulted". Really??? Was he working on all those things Dusty, or was he playing golf???? C'mon, this bowing low to your idol, no matter how much of a liar, non-leader, America hater he is really is getting old. Open your eyes Dusty and take an honest look at this charlatan. He is not worthy of respect and will certainly get none from me.

Mark Hayes

From the position his head is, opening his eyes would only reveal Obamas large intestine.

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