RIP Manson? How awful! How untrue.

The mastermind behind a murderous cult whose members slaughtered seven people on two successive nights in 1969 died of natural causes last week. The prevailing reaction online was a satisfied sayonara with a few "finallys" mixed in. The second most common response was horror at the sheer number of people tweeting "RIP Charles Manson."

"You won't be catching RIP coming out of my mouth! Scumbag!" said one affronted user.

"Not only disturbing, but also a very sad reflection on society today," mused another.

There was just one problem: Barely anyone was actually tweeting "RIP Charles Manson," and those who were fell into four categories. First, those confusing him with Marilyn Manson. Second, those pretending to confuse him with Marilyn Manson. Third, those making jokes of other varieties. And finally, the very, very few earnestly mourning Manson.

The Manson jokes that made their way across the Internet teased out themes that explain why so many took those jokes seriously.

"RIP Charles Manson," said "Silicon Valley" star Kumail Nanjiani. "Sure he had his flaws, but who among us doesn't."

"Had the pleasure of meeting Charles Manson at a charity do once. He was surprisingly down to earth, and VERY funny," said Scottish comedian Limmy.

Anyone who stopped and thought for even a second would see that this pro-Manson sentiment was spoofing the rest of us when we argue about any public figure.

And we like to argue. The rabid response to the nonexistent RIP epidemic displayed the ordinary amateur commentator's readiness to leap into a fight without thinking, no matter how ludicrous the premise. Even when it means arguing about the legacy of a convicted murderer, we're all just too eager to be mad online.

Molly Roberts works in The Washington Post's opinion section.

 

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