Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Twitter wars - the debrief
Aside from being emotionally draining and costing me precious nap time, yesterday's Twitter backlash against my blog on Sochi and gay rights was a fascinating exercise in social media, political correctness and the mindset of "journalists" in 2013.
The internet in general and Twitter in particular represent the best and the worst of everything. It's at once an invaluable tool for information gathering and instant communication, and a cesspool of hyper-aggressive and all-too-often anonymous trolls whose dialogue is void of the common courtesy supposedly mature adults extend to one another when they have to look each other in the eye. My only regret yesterday was that I allowed myself to be sucked into that pigsty of online puerility. I should have held myself to a higher standard of behavior, both personally and professionally.
When I wrote the blog, I knew there would be a backlash, but that was part of my point. Gay rights is a polarizing issue. What's unnerving is that one side in the debate has decreed that the only opinion anyone has a right to is THEIR opinion, and anyone who doesn't share it unconditionally is shouted down as a bigot and a homophobe. I defy anyone to explain how honest moral misgivings - faith-based or otherwise - automatically translate into fear, hatred and bigotry. That's exactly the kind of sweeping generalization the moral high ground crowd claims to abhor. The great irony is that the same people who preach tolerance are stridently intolerant of dissenting opinion.
Which brings us to the emerging breed of "journalist". Of the dozen or so people who called me out on Twitter yesterday(and who knew a dozen people could create such a din?), all but a couple described themselves as journalists, and most of them are in the early stages of their media careers. Two have fulltime jobs as Montreal Gazette reporters, and they were the only two who engaged me with courtesy and respect. The rest are self-styled social crusaders who do real reporters a disservice by misrepresenting themselves as journalists. Anyone who approaches a current events issue with pre-conceived notions and a fixed social agenda has checked their objectivity at the door and by definition is not a journalist. It was also telling that they attempted to discredit me by denigrating my day job as a sports talk show host, as if that makes me unqualified to have an opinion on anything other than where the Habs are going to finish this season. The presumption that they're the only ones intelligent and informed enough to comment on issues that "really matter" speaks volumes about a pomposity born of insecurity, and reaffirms that the only people they're talking to is each other - hardly the skill set required in an industry where success and relevance hinge on connecting with a broader audience.
It's a different media world than the one I came into 35 years ago. I've tried my best to keep up with the changes. One thing that never changes is the truth, and sometimes the truth hurts. Put a band-aid on it.
I'd also like to thank everyone who stepped up for me - publicly and privately - and especially those who said that they didn't agree with my blog but were unsettled by the smug sanctimoniousness of some of my detractors. Interestingly, most of the support tweets and e-mails came in after 5pm - when people got home from their jobs.