Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Twitter and the evolution of social media outrage

   I am forever befuddled and bemused by the unique phenomenon of social media outrage - both in its selectivity and the rapidly-evolving cycle of backlash.
   Let's start with the backlash.  During its relatively brief life span, Twitter has become a convenient platform for righteous mob indignation.  Anyone who tweets anything perceived as being outside the socially-acceptable norm is set upon by an army of social justice warriors and hashtag activists whose fundamentalist fervor smacks of the same intolerance they claim to abhor.  It wasn't long before the self-appointed Twitter thought police became a parody of themselves, and disproportionate social media outrage became a running gag among the majority of people who don't devote their time to looking for reasons to be offended.  Of late, I've noticed SJWs trying to swing the pendulum back the other way by arguing that superfluous outrage doesn't preclude the right to be offended.  They're not wrong, although as usual, they overstate their case.
   The most fascinating aspect of social media outrage, however, is how it's targeted.  In the past two weeks, professional hockey players Morgan Rielly and Dustin Penner were pilloried online - Rielly for saying in a media interview that his teammates "shouldn't be girls" and Penner for cracking wise on Twitter about whether he required sexual consent from his girlfriend.  Rielly made a poor choice of words in describing the frustration of losing, while Penner - who's well known as a Twitter jokester - hit the "send" button when he clearly should have opted for "cancel".  Both subsequently apologized, but not before being subjected to the full wrath of the pitchfork-wielding, torch-bearing progressive Twitter hordes.
   Meanwhile, two far more consequential Twitter incidents involving current or retired professional athletes were met with relative silence.  A tweet erroneously posted on TSN alleging adultery between Toronto Maple Leaf Joffrey Lupul and teammate Dion Phaneuf's wife, Elisha Cuthbert, and a series of tweets promoting the violent rape of former major league baseball pitcher Curt Schilling's daughter were both widely reported in the media, but neither incident got much traction with the SJW crowd.  The difference?  Rielly and Penner were high-profile perpetrators, while the celebrities in the latter two incidents were the victims.  Aside from Schilling himself and a law firm representing Lupul, Phanuef and Cuthbert, forming a posse to go after the relative nobodies who were behind the tweets in those cases didn't seem to be high on anyone's priority list, even though the content of the tweets were far more offensive and potentially damaging than anything Rielly or Penner said. 
   I don't doubt the altruism of do-gooders who want a warm and fuzzy world where we all sing Kumbaya around the campfire, but whether they recognize it or care to admit it, the righteous Twitter mob are the online version of a big game safari.  They're only interested in taking someone down if the trophy is going to look good mounted on their wall.  
   They would do well to be more consistent in practicing their principles.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Maybe he meant Oakland Seals

   
   Get your affairs in order.  The end of the world is nigh.
   Don Cherry was assailed on social media this past weekend for bashing the seal hunt - not for defending the seal hunt, but for callings its practitioners and supporters "savages" and "barbarians".
   Apparently, I'm the only person on either side of the tree line who assumed Cherry was being sarcastic when he chided Hockey Night in Canada colleague Ron MacLean for ordering a seal burger while MacLean was on assignment for Rogers Hometown Hockey in St. John's, Newfoundland.  After all, the Coach's Corner star is the very antithesis of the traditional kale-eating, hemp-wearing, moss-burning seal hunt protestor, whose ideological standards fall neatly in line with Cherry's longstanding "left wing commie pinko" bogeyman. Seal hunters, on the other hand, are Cherry's kind of people - honest, hard-working Canadians trying to make a living off the land and through the natural food chain.  So when he went after MacLean, I thought it was obvious that he was feigning disgust and taking a subtle shot at opponents of the seal hunt.  
   Sadly for Cherry, there's no room for nuance in today's hair trigger society. Within minutes, he was trending on Twitter as public enemy number one for the seal hunt industry, which itself has historically been targeted for outrage and condemnation.  Cherry's half-baked Twitter apology only served to muddle his position, and leave a bemused nation wondering whether its most famous blowhard has lost his edge.  
   The only logical explanation I can think of is that Cherry thought MacLean had resorted to cannibalism and was eating former members of the defunct Oakland Seals. 
   Mmm...Ted Hampson.
   

Monday, February 9, 2015

Last stand at the KIC Country corral


   Friday was my last shift on 89.9 KIC Country.  It's been a year and a month of the most eye-opening experience in a radio career that's spanned five decades.  
   When I say "You like country music - you just don't know it yet", it's not just a promotional platitude.  I was vaguely familiar with old school country when I started at KIC, but I had no idea of the hip, accessible nature of modern country music.  Artists like Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Zac Brown, Florida Georgia Line, Sugarland and the Band Perry have brought country music out of the sticks and into the broader cultural mainstream.  Self-appointed purists and other critics might say the genre has sold out, but on the road to success, mass appeal leaves "cool" in the dust every time.  
   It's also been invigorating to discover so many new artists after playing and listening to the same classic rock records for most of the last 40 years.  Not to denigrate classic rock - it's one of music's most enduring genres, and has enormous influence and respect among modern country artists.  The Doobie Brothers and Motley Crue country collaboration albums and Gretchen Wilson's ongoing love affair with classic rock are proof enough of that.
   KIC Country exposed me to a brand of music and a lifestyle that otherwise would have passed me by, and for that I'm forever grateful.  Thanks for listening, and keep on supporting KIC Country, because they deserve it.
   

Thursday, February 5, 2015

One way or the other, Brian Williams must go

   Never mind the NBC Nightly News - Brian Williams is no longer fit to call Friday night bingo numbers at the community center in Snortwheeze, North Dakota.  The veteran newsman's credibility is beyond repair, as shot through-and-through as the helicopter he wasn't aboard flying into Baghdad in 2003.
   Falsely claiming to be on a chopper that was hit by a rocket propelled grenade isn't "misremembering".  It's flat out lying, like spinning an uneventful Staten Island ferry crossing into a yarn about the time you were on the Titanic. That Williams expected to get away with continuing to perpetuate the lie is a testament to his own hubris, and a complete miscalculation on his part of the power of social media.  It speaks volumes about the rapidly-changing mass media landscape that crew members of the helicopter that took the RPG fire used Facebook to expose a lie told by the anchorman of a nightly network newscast.  Even at that, Williams wouldn't go quietly into the night, amending his story to say he was in the same flight group as the stricken chopper, while the military personnel who were actually there insist Williams didn't arrive on-scene until an hour later. 
   We all make mistakes, but a calculated lie from someone whose professional mandate is to deliver the truth is inexcusable.  As a journalist, Brian Williams can never be trusted again.  He has no place in the NBC anchor chair, and if he doesn't have the decency to resign, he should be fired, yesterday.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Lunatics tighten grip on madhouse

   It's becoming increasingly difficult to separate reality from satire.  Three times in the last 24 hours, I've had to do double-takes to make sure news headlines I was reading were from mainstream media sources and not send-ups from comedy sites like The Onion or its Canadian cousin, The Beaverton.
   "Fidel Castro Still Not Dead" is just bad journalism, ranking up there with "Plane Doesn't Crash" and "Leafs Don't Win Stanley Cup."  Stating the obvious is not news.
   "Former Red Power Ranger Allegedly Kills Roommate With Sword" is as absurd as it is tragic.  That the suspect is identified by his D-list celebrity status is a sad commentary on modern cultural priorities.
   "Toronto Girls Hockey League Tells Coaches Not to Touch Players" goes beyond absurd.  The blanket ban on gestures as simple and harmless as tapping a player on the shoulder or helmet to congratulate them for a good shift is another exasperating example of the lunatics running the asylum.  Common sense is in such short supply that it should be added to the rare earth section of the periodic table of elements.
   How did we get here?  High-profile sexual abuse cases involving former NHL players Theo Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy dramatically raised awareness of child predators exploiting the minor hockey system, resulting in more rigorous screening and monitoring of volunteers.  That's as it should be, but draconian decrees like zero tolerance on physical contact between coaches and players is not only idiotic - it's counter-productive, because it creates an atmosphere of mutual discomfort and mistrust.
   That's not what I want for my kids, which means it's up to me to get involved.  We have a right and a responsibility as parents to dictate the terms of our children's upbringing, and to call out educators and other outside-the-home authority figures who impose their own prejudices and hangups to our children's detriment.  The alternative is another generation of "victims" who view everyone and everything with suspicion and value entitlement over responsibility.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Everybody take a pill, CSIS is not the Gestapo

   Maybe it's because I don't have anything to hide, but I'm not overly concerned that Canada's new anti-terrorism laws are going to result in routine and widespread violations of civil liberties.  Among the family, friends and co-workers with whom I regularly associate, none has expressed an opinion one way or the other on the federal government expanding the powers of CSIS - the country's civilian spy agency - probably because none of them are planning to bomb the library or shoot up a shopping mall.  In the existing geopolitical climate, better safe than sorry makes sense.  
   However, the suspension of logic and common sense is standard operating procedure among critics of  the Harper government, whose visceral dislike for the Prime Minister precludes any objective assessment of the facts.  Their poster girl is Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick, whose post-menopausal ramblings do a disservice to anyone who actually tries to mount a thoughtful and credible argument against the government of the day, whatever the issue.  Mallick and her ilk have become increasingly shrill and hysterical as public opinion continues to trend in the Conservatives favor at the expense of the Liberals and Mallick's fantasy boy toy, Justin Trudeau.
   Whether or not you agree with his measures, Steven Harper has shown decisive leadership on the anti-terrorism file.  In a solid, functioning democracy, I'll take my chances with a government dedicated to my family's safety and security over the hug-a-terrorist, kumbaya mentality that values a committed jihadist's rights in the same regard as our's right up until he kills us all.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Shut up now

   Defining legacies never turned on a dime the way it did last night at Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix.
   The media scribblers and talking heads had already set the tone before the game.  If the Patriots lost another Super Bowl, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady would be properly scrutinized for being a "flawed" dynasty that went ten years between championships and lost twice as heavy favorites against the New York Giants.  It's a ludicrous premise, but sportswriters and broadcasters aren't fussy about talking points when there's column space and air time to fill.  Some will try to fill that space and time by claiming the Patriots are proven cheaters, but games are won by execution, not by stealing signals or marginally deflating footballs.  
   Right-thinking football fans everywhere owe the Seattle Seahawks a debt of gratitude for sparing us the tiresome discourse by making the worst play call in Super Bowl history, handing the Patriots the championship, and cementing Brady and Belichick as pro football's most enduring and successful quarterback/coach partnership.  I take no joy in making that pronouncement.  Belichick is the king of the sourpusses and it's not as if Brady is wanting for accolades and good fortune, but to attempt to diminish them in their professional capacities smacks of willful ignorance.
   All is not lost for the "tarnished legacy" crowd, however.  They still have Peyton Manning to kick around because despite being the active leader in virtually every passing category and the all-time leader in more than a few, he has still "only" won one Super Bowl, the bum.