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.


  1. I was indeed disappointing to see the people responsible for bringing us news and facts from around the world stoop to attacks on your day job.

    I would agree with you Ted, that drinking gin for a while certainly isn't helping anyone, certainly not the gay woman working at the vodka bottling plant.

    On the other hand it is our global responsibility to protect the basic human rights of all people around the world. It's not a privilege white position, it's a human(e) one. And negative thoughts about "others" always have and always will lead to negative and aggressive behaviour whether physical, verbal or otherwise.

    Love your show and greatly appreciate your choice to put your opinion out there for scrutiny. All the best

    Anonymous (just kidding )

    Matthew Schnarch, I own Cafe Pave stop on by for lunch and chat one day.

  2. "What's unnerving is that one side in the debate has decreed that the only opinion anyone has a right to is THEIR opinion"
    You're not telling the whole story here. You were invited multiple times, on multiple radio stations, to argue your point of view. You ignored them all, blocked journalists who were disagreeing with you, and shuned any intelligent discussion about the topic. You are your own victim here.

    1. I am neither accountable nor obliged to defend my position at someone else's whim, especially in a hostile environment, which is what I was "invited" into. The so-called "journalists" I blocked were abusive, and I'll manage my Twitter account as I see fit. My blog speaks for itself. And how about having the courage of your convictions to sign your name?

  3. My twitter account is private so I can comment all I want on stuff and no would would see it. I contemplated "unprivatizing" my twitter account to come to your defence. Then I realized, there is no point. You cannot change how people think (not meaning you)and unfortunately, my generation and those after me will always be on their high horse. I read every "horrible" comment and blog you wrote and I saw an expression of an opinion. You said nothing wrong. This is coming from an educated women in her late 30's who has 2 degrees and is open minded. That is what is most important! open minded! Who am I to judge and attack your thoughts on your private blog and twitter account. You express them on your part. Who cares if I disagree. (they make sense) Boycotting vodka makes no sense (which by the way, most vodkas being boycotted are not even from who are the smart ones there...) I've learned in the past month, "not worth it" you do not like what I think, say, do. Don;t listen, read or look at me. Simple. Social media is great but it's taken over the intelligence of most. I don't always agree with you but darn it yesterday p'd me off big time. I'll end with this. Hypocrite does end with an "e", typos and mispelling is possible still today but it does not change the meaning of the word. You were still able to read it, you understood it,... Thanks!!

    signed me
    (white italian middle class girl from the east end)

    1. "My twitter account is private so I can comment all I want on stuff and no would would see it."

      i.d. troll = your opinions worth less than nothing.

  4. Hi Ted,
    I don't fully agree with your arguments either, but I agree you have the right to express them in a respectful way, which you have done.
    Couldn't agree with you more on your comment about what people "dare" to say on Twitter that they would never have guts to say in person.
    Keep up the great work!


  5. An annoying (but correct) person once said to me that email was a terribly un-nuanced way to have a conversation. I think this translates to many forms of social media as well. Too often it is easier to spout off 140 characters that sound snappy and clever that we would never EVER say to someone in real life than it is to respectfully agree or disagree with that same person. (Depressingly, respectful tweets seem to garner fewer retweets and favourites than snarky ones do - and in this culture of "How many people like me now?" it seems to be more about the reach of your tweet than the respect given to the recipient - and I daresay to the twitterverse in general.)

    There are so many better things to do in a day than be mean on twitter (or anywhere) but we're all wearing cranky-pants and being an anonymous douchebag with attitude helps us to feel better about our stupid jobs and our annoying responsibilities.

    Obviously, when given more than 140 characters, I allow myself to use questionable sentence structure and words not recognized by various accredited dictionaries - but I'd still prefer that than find out I was the recipient of a Twitter "douchtastic fucktard" award.

    1. Where are the Douchetastic Fucktards being held this year? I'm hoping beyond hope for an invitation, if not a nomination.

    2. (Immediately begins to scout locations for such an award ceremony. Wonders if the bar will serve vodka.)

  6. As always, Ted, you have expressed your point of view intelligently, eloquently, respectfully, and without holding back. I don't always agree with your perspectives, but I am always interested,entertained, and often provoked to a deeper insight. Which makes you, in my opinion, excellent at what you do. What is happening in Russia is frightening on so many levels, not just for the specifics of the gay rights issue, but for the underlying way of looking at the world that it represents. We had enough of that in the last century, and it didn't turn out so well. Yet, I have to agree with you on the effectiveness of responding by boycotting. It is naive to think that it will be effective given the regime in question. What your blog did was stimulate thought on the issue, which is a good thing, unfortunately it is also an invitation for angry, cowardly, anonymous pot shots. I, for one, support and appreciate what you do and how you do it. Keep up the great work. Peter Cohen, Montreal.

  7. Hi Ted,

    This exchange of twitter jabs and low blows has affected me to a surprising degree. It’s kept me up at night, and yet I only “know you” as someone who I've listened to on the radio for years. I ask myself why?

    Throughout your career you have expressed your views publicly (as that’s part of your job), but never with the intent to alter people's opinion necessarily, and certainly not to generate conflict for the sake of getting attention. In this case you said that you knew there would be backlash, but you were thinking about backlash from a 20th c. perspective I would imagine. A strongly-worded letter to the editor that MAY make it in to the local paper, a few calls into the station, filtered by an intern. But good God are we ever far from the 20th c. Which brings me to why your public altercation has taken up so much my mental head space.

    Part of it is the band wagon-esque public shaming brought on by aspiring journalists in their 20’s, but mainly because it has highlighted the terrible power that today's social platforms have to unsettle and disturb individuals. Rightly or wrongly, I couldn’t believe the power that these insignificant fools had to rattle someone of your experience and talent. Why didn’t you just ignore them? Was it because this new form of expression made it so much harder to ignore the critics? Or was it because you just desperately were trying to make the dupes understand what you meant?

    Twitter is freedom of speech in it’s simplest form, but it can become a street fight at the drop of a hat, and as in the street, those with nothing to lose will always come out the winners. When you were reduced to name-calling with a traffic reporter, it was funny, but it was also like watching a man facing his demons. But like me, and many others, your demons aren’t gay rights, or masculinity, they are simply age. “The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” You make a good point Robert Frost, but the morning doesn’t give a shit about the afternoon, and there’s nothing afternoon can do about it.

    Paul Spence

    1. Since even newborns die, an age as an argument (oups! 5 words starting with "a") becomes totally useless. Nobody knows , where is the personal finish line. So, telling someone that he is and old fart, thinking that oneself will never will be the same is not smart. From that viewpoint, wisdom is a more valid criteria in a discussion. That's why "not handsome" Mr. Bird wins in comparison with "handsome, but soon to be not" Mr. Spence. Speaking of gay fuss, my classmate and a very good friend is gay. I know he's gay, he knows he's gay. But he doesn't try to explain the whole world and the lower level of stratosphere that he's gay and proud. Guess why? Because, he is gay, he is rock, he is handsome. But most of all, he is smart.

    2. Hi Choibolsan,

      Perhaps I wasn't clear enough - I included myself in the category of being old by saying "Like me, and many others" despite being "only" thirty-eight (definitely old to a dead newborn mind you). I maintain that the demons Ted and a lot us of face in the wake of the incredible changes social media have wrought, is staying relevant while maintaining our dignity. Ted got dragged into a mudslinging affair on Twitter with a bunch of kids just out of school. Some of these kids publish 100's of tweets a day. It's second nature to them to vomit their most inane thoughts into the world. How can you take what someone like that Tweets to you, no matter how serious the issue? I strongly doubt that this affair affected them nearly as much as it did Ted...

  8. Don't worry Mr. Bird. If I follow your radio work, you've passed the "journalism test". (Joke)