LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – It was a legitimate question.
William McNabb had witnessed the coverage of the two mass shootings. Twenty-two people died after a man entered a Walmart in El Paso, Texas on August 3 and opened fire. After midnight the next day, another gunman killed nine others in a historic district of Dayton, Ohio.
The shootings have re-ignited a national debate on US arms laws and the need to consider new arms restrictions.
McNabb, who lives in a rural area near El Dorado in Union County, reacted on August 4 after Jason Isbell, a singer and songwriter with over 279,000 followers on Twitter, asked in a post why someone would dispute the definition of "assault" weapon ", adding that the guns were not necessary.
McNabb responded with his now infamous post.
"A legitimate question for Americans in rural areas," McNabb wrote. "How can I kill the 30-50 wild pigs that run in my backyard within 3-5 minutes while my little kids play?"
He didn't know that that question would trigger a social media storm that would have included more than 26,000 likes and more than 7,000 Retweets of his post. For comparison, Isbell's initial comment had about 59,000 Likes and over 8,000 Retweets.
"You've always heard of viral tweets," McNabb said. "But you never think you're about to become one."
McNabb's response, and his back and forth with Isbell, became the focus of countless memes that flooded the Internet. Most teased each other about 30 to 50 wild pigs running around in someone's backyard.
"It was really strange," McNabb said. "The first thing I noticed was the memes, which I found very funny."
In the coming days, McNabb's post appeared in the timeline of over 2 million Twitter users worldwide.
"In a sense, he earned his living from there," McNabb said. "I knew (Isbell) grew up in the south and I had my personal experience that it was very real for me regarding the wild pig problem. I didn't take long to think about the depth of the tweet."
For McNabb, the reason for owning an assault rifle to fight wild pigs was not a laughing matter, reported the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The native of North Carolina moved to Arkansas after graduating and lived in El Dorado before moving to a more rural area. He and his family enjoyed the peaceful country life for the first two years, but one spring day everything changed.
"My children were rather small at the time, but they were out playing when my wife screamed that there were pigs all in the yard," McNabb said. "I take my shotgun from the safe and go out the door."
He was greeted by something he had never seen before.
"They were wild pigs everywhere, from one end of the yard to the other," recalled McNabb. "I noticed that my wife had gone to the children and had control of my children. My children were safe. I then started shooting (at the pigs)."
McNabb killed three pigs before the pigs escaped.
"It happened so fast. It's where the feeling came from three to five minutes," he said. "It was a shocking experience. The children were small and these were rather large pigs, from around 300 to 500 pounds."
The pigs have returned three times since then, McNabb said, and they scatter after the first shot.
"I don't have a bunch of pigs running around in my yard every day," he said. "But I understand how some of my neighbors who have (AR-15) and (AK-47) in response to this problem might feel the need."
McNabb stated that the point was lost in the wave of jokes made at his expense.
"The pigs that cross the nation have been a crazy idea for people," McNabb said. "I received answers as to why I don't build a fence, but they don't realize that pigs can pass through a fence."
Without realizing it, McNabb had taken a step forward in the midst of a continuing arms debate.
"I was getting all the media requests, but I just wanted to avoid it," he said.
So what made his statement "30 to 50 wild pigs" viral among the millions of tweets that are published every day?
This could never be explained, said Professor Filippo Menczer, but he offered a theory about why a tweet gains traction.
"We find that this is more likely to happen organically if a tweet has a strong appeal in different communities," said Menczer, professor of computer science and computer science at the University of Indiana School of Computer Science, Computer Science and Engineering. , in an e-mail. "For example, if you risk retyping regardless of the source. Something very interesting for a particular community can spread very quickly within that community but don't go further."
Menczer said that if a tweet is retweeted by an influential user, in this case Isbell, the possibilities also increase because the tweet is exposed to many more people, especially if the influential user has followers in different communities.
Both positive and negative memes become viral, Menczer said, but generally positive messages are more likely to do so.
"For people affected by negative memes that become viral (often amplified inorganically), there can be consequences such as threats, trolling and cyberbullying," Menczer said.
McNabb suffered negative effects almost immediately.
"People started telling me they were driving from my home," McNabb said. "Some people were taking pictures of my home using Google Earth and publishing them online. People were threatening to call (the human services department) and let me take my children away. They called me at work.
"I was worried about everyone's safety."
At one point, McNabb said, a company used his Twitter profile photo – which included his daughter – to make coffee mugs and T-shirts.
"It was an extraordinary invasion of privacy," McNabb said. "I understand when you publish on social media that you are making this audience, but I have not seen the way it could affect my family and my business."
After the reactions to the tweet took a dark turn, McNabb contacted Yashar Ali, a freelance journalist who contributes to numerous national publications, to provide a statement explaining his reasoning behind the question he asked Isbell.
"Some people I spoke to said they used AR and AK because pigs ruined their farmland and courtyards," McNabb said. "I never owned a military-style assault rifle, but after the experience I experienced, it didn't seem entirely unreasonable."
The reaction to his original post has suddenly changed, McNabb said.
"I received enormous support," he said. "I had extreme left and extreme right figures who said they could see I was looking for a solution."
McNabb said he did not know the answer to the arms debate.
"I believe in the laws on the good sense of the weapons and in the controls of the precedents and in the closing of the gaps of the show of the weapons," he said. "Like most Americans, I'm tired of waking up with another mass shooting.
"There must be something we can all agree on."
Several national and international publications have made stories in the wake of McNabb's initial tweet, many of which have addressed the real threat behind a growing population of feral pigs in rural communities in the south.
"It's a significant problem," said Arkansas Game and Fish Commission spokesman Keith Stephens. "It is such a problem that the task force for the eradication of the wild pig of the Arkansas has been created and includes numerous agencies."
Wild pigs can be found everywhere in Arkansas. They live in the wild but come from domestic pigs released or escaped, said Stephens. The illegal transfer of animals for hunting has contributed to their spread, he said.
Pigs are not native to the United States and are considered an invasive species, a public nuisance and a threat to state resources. They are responsible for approximately $ 19 million in crop damage in the Arkansas and $ 1.5 billion in nationwide damage each year, according to the Game and Fish Commission.
"They compete for food resources, destroy the habitat by rooting and wallowing and eating birds, eggs and nesting fawns," said Stephens. "They also carry up to 45 bacteria, diseases and parasites, including trichinellosis, brucellosis and the swine herpes virus."
McNabb said he believed the misunderstanding about his tweet comes from a familiarity between rural and more metropolitan communities.
"That's why it's important to create a dialogue, but Twitter isn't the place for the debate," McNabb said. "Twitter can start dialogue, but people have to sit down to find common ground. We need to talk to people … Just because the situation is strange to you doesn't make it any less real."
Most viral tweets remain in the public consciousness for a short time.
"The attention span is generally short (hours / days), but sometimes it can be very long (months)," Menczer said in his e-mail. "We found that when something becomes viral, others will create more related content (true or false) to exploit this public attention."
McNabb also experimented. He said he sent a letter of cessation and withdrawal to the company that used his image without permission to make coffee mugs and shirts. He also recorded the phrase "30 to 50 wild pigs" and is creating a non-profit organization to link to it.
Fortunately for McNabb, another new sensation on the Internet – this is a video of a salmon flying through a tube – seems to have replaced his tweet from "30 to 50 pigs" as a new favorite Internet meme source.
Despite the unwanted attention he received, McNabb said he did not regret sending his original tweet.
"I learned (that) the nuances of the platform do not allow a thorough discussion due to the character limit," he said. "Maybe I could have formulated it differently, but the attention it brought to the wild pig issue was important. My family is OK and support has been positive recently."
But he has some advice for others.
"Think about what you publish," McNabb said. "Must it be said and told by you? I would advise everyone that literally everyone in the world can see what you say when you post it on social media.
"If you don't believe it, don't publish it."
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com
An AP member exchange shared by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.