A (Not So) Funny Thing Happen on My Way to Twitter Today

Should I post this? I’m really not sure because there’s going to be blowback no matter what, but it’s the only way I hope you’ll hear me out.  Call this a learning experience/teachable moment.

I had a hard lesson in Internet justice today. Here’s the timeline:

Wednesday, July 15

11:45(ish) AM: Word had just come down that Kanye West had been confirmed as the headline performer for the closing ceremonies of the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. Not being a fan of the idea, I quickly wrote a post offering my opinion. In that first published version of the post, I referred to Kim Kardashian as a “skank.” It was dashed off in haste and anger. A cheap shot and a low blow, to be sure.

Not that long later, I had some sober second thoughts. Name-calling like that was unnecessarily mean and nasty, not to mention sexist. There was absolutely no need for descending to those depths. It was dumb to write something like that—and it was dumb to let the post go live before I had collected all my thoughts.

I went back and rewrote the post, deleting that reference to KK and expanding on my initial thoughts about the Kanye booking, self-correcting myself without any prompting..

After thinking it through, I came to the conclusion that hiring Kanye was the worst thing for a Canadian Pan Am Game while simultaneously being the best thing.  That became the focus of my post.

The revised post received a ton of traffic and Facebook shares. Global News came by with a camera to ask a few questions. I went to bed not giving anything else a second thought.

Thursday, July 16

9:30 AM: I was finishing up a few things before they closed the door on my WestJet flight to Jamaica where I’ve been invited to attend Reggae SumFest.  That’s when I saw the tweets. Twitter was going nuts.

I was roundly being called out by a number of people for my ill-advised use of the word “skank.” Even though the original post had been up for mere minutes, there it was in a screen shot for all to see.. I was being branded as sexist, a misogynist and as someone not worthy to be a member of the Polaris Music Prize jury.

It got worse. Several seemed to intimate that my faux pas offered insight into my real thinking and psyche, categorically proving once in for all that I must hate women—all women.  Others slammed me for being old, out of touch and “risible.” All my other work was called into question and subject to ridicule. My “deletion” of the original wording—I thought I was re-editing the piece—was slammed as it was a Nixonian/Area51/9-11 truthers coverup. A couple were obviously meant to hurt.

Horrified, I tried to stem the bleeding with an explanation, a mea culpa and an apology, but the Internet would have none of it. The retweets kept coming and coming all day.  My apology was rejected again and again as (a) inadequate; (b) insincere; or (c) for being sent in the wrong direction to the wrong people. The fireball of outrage just got bigger and bigger. A few came in ALL CAPS to emphasize their points. One saw this as definitive evidence that I disrespect all women.

Then came the Huffington Post article that kept the story going by repeating my initial indiscretion and then taking umbrage at my tweet pointing out that this was a classic “gotcha” situation. I mean, the original post was short-lived and quickly corrected to something more proper, respectful and appropriate. C’mom: Has no one ever said/written something they immediately regretted and then tried to retract? Maybe that works in the real world, but in the Internet Universe, good luck. At the same time, someone with my long tenure in the music industry is–and rightly so–held to a different standard.

[UPDATE TO ORIGINAL POST] Then came the Vice article, calling me “out of touch” and quoting the original post yet again.  And I’m not a rock critic, dude. I’ve never aspired to be one. I’m just a guy on the radio with a website.

(By the way, the writers of both stories never contacted me for a comment. Not that they necessarily had to given that these were also opinion pieces, but it would have been nice.)

Bottom line is that I learned four hard lessons today.

  1. Never publish a story—especially one with a strong and/or polarizing stance—without thinking it through very, very carefully. Words matter. Words have consequences. Get it right the first time lest you be misunderstood, convey the wrong message or just plain say something dumb.
  2. The Internet is always watching and listening. Once a storm starts, you’re powerless to stop any damage that it might occur.
  3. The Internet is forever. These comments about what I said will be out there until the heat death of the universe.
  4. See lesson 1.

To all those who were offended by my flippancy, I apologize. I’m really not a bad guy. I know this post will only throw more gasoline on the fire for some people, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t try to set the record straight even a little bit.

Hey, Kanye apologized to Taylor Swift and Beck for his impetuous actions. People seemed to grant him forgiveness.

Just remember that when you play in the Internet’s sandbox, you have to be prepared for its swift and merciless type of justice. Let this be a lesson to all who post anything anywhere. Think very, very carefully before you press “publish.”

Anyone want to retweet this with the same fervour as Twitter saw earlier today? Please?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38550 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

49 thoughts on “A (Not So) Funny Thing Happen on My Way to Twitter Today

  • Thanks for posting, Alan. I’m a long-time fan of both you and Kanye West, which puts me in a weird situation. Admittedly I didn’t see your initial post but read the Huffington piece and figured the online backlash would be over-the-top. People love to be outraged. To some people, nothing else that you’ve ever done will matter and you’ll just be that guy that fits their narrative as a sexist. But those people shouldn’t matter anyway because they’ll move onto the next thing tomorrow, labelling people and issues with as much depth as a puddle. Believe me, none of the people tweeting you are losing sleep over this.

    The fans, however, have a better understanding of who you are. By pumping out quality content for decades you earn the benefit of the doubt from people like me. I’ve had comments taken out of context on the Internet (albeit to a much smaller scale) and know how angst-inducing it can be. So you have my best wishes waiting out the shitstorm; please know that it will pass and your fans will still be here. In the mean time, keep up the great writing.

    • The Internet can be a wild place. It runs under is own rules and sometimes you end up being caught up in something completely unexpected. Like I said, I’m chalking this up to a being a serious learning experience.

  • All good Alan. When people latch on to a weak moment or poor choice of words it says more about them than you. You at least had the sense to say “you know…maybe that was a tad harsh…”.trolls are trolls for a reason and drama gets clicks, sells magazines or whatever. Especially when there is a kardashian attached.

  • Hi Alan! What is it they say in the entertainment industry? There is no such thing as bad publicity?

    To be honest you are not the only one that feels this way about the KANYEDASHIAN family. What are they actually famous for? It is a really dumb move by the PANAM group to sign these artists when Canada has a bounty of great musicians. If they wanted a karaoke singer….well I am available.

    Your faithful listener,

    • Everyone has an opinion on Kimye. They’re probably the most polarizing couple on the planet right now.

      • I’ve always been a huge fan of yours, Alan. And everyone makes mistakes- things like this can be forgiven. for sure. but the fact that you wrote it (forget publishing it) in the first place is telling. it means you thought it. whether your intent was to stir the pot, or it’s how you felt, or a mixture of both, you still thought it. and that doesn’t change. i’m still fan. Don Cherry has said worse things about women and I still respect his thoughts about hockey. I’m not looking to you to be a model for how to live my life. I admire your encyclopedic knowledge of music, and stellar interview/storytelling ability. but you still thought those words. it sounds like this experience has spurred an introspective in you, and that may be a positive thing. Still a fan!

        • Thanks. But we must be careful about accusing anyone of thought crimes. If we do, we’re all guilty.

  • Sorry Alan. The internet is merciless. You have done what you could. Stand back now and let it be. Something different will come up in a day or two for everyone to jump up and down about.

  • Hey brotha, s’all good here! My two cents always have that one person that you know has your best interest in mind read it over, but I’m pretty sure this one will check for quite a while lol, just don’t turn into a pussy with your opinions. If you’ve never offended anyone then I question your honesty. Sorry that’s more like 5 cents worth. Peace , relax a lessonlearned. Have a good wknd…….Paddyboy.

  • Hey Alan. You are now a victim of online shaming. There was a piece on this subject just this week and an expert in the area of this phenomenon advised that you do not try to apologize but just be silent and let the firestorm die. Trying to apologize only has the effect of fuelling the fire. Hope it works out in this case but my advice would be that you have said your peace and let it go no matter how strong the urge to reply to the criticism.

    • I think you’re right. Time to let the embers burn out.

  • Being Canadian, listening to your show has been and will continue to be part of my week/year/life – all of us are guilty of saying something off the cuff. You thought about it, corrected it and admitted it – there are few things more Canadian that your effort and candour.

  • To be honest, I’m not worried about a couple of nobodies trying to make a name for themselves as someone that called out Alan Cross. I’ll take an ‘out of touch’ you any day.

  • Damn man, that’s hardcore. Good for you for owning it all… and being human. lol. It’s not cool that peeps are hating on, misunderstanding, and dehumanizing you. Consider this blog post already tweeted to my (admittedly small) social media audience. I believe your good reputation will live long past this ‘blip.’

    Intriguing parallel (you touched on briefly): your faux pas is almost a regular experience for Mr. West, though I’m not sure how ‘forgiven’ he is by most critics.

    P.S. I’ve lots (of positive things) to say on the subject of Kanye/Kim, but perhaps another time. 🙂

  • I’m taking much more care these days to avoid click bait like the Huffpost article. I have less and less time each day for internet outrage. I suspect society as a whole is going to realize this. Hopefully sooner than later.

    As for any opinion of Kim K, let us not forget that what made her famous was a “leaked” porn video she made of herself.

  • Keep up the great work Alan! We have all had a time where we wished we’d thought twice before clicking send/post. Tell the complainers to have a look at all the rest of your posts. You’re never one to take a needless swipe at others.

  • Definitely a poor word choice but nothing to vilify you over. You made a mistake and genuinely tried to fix it. Everyone’s stuck their foot in their mouth at one point or another. I still like you, like everyone above me.

  • Man, in all honesty, it’s life. Kanye and Kim are both talentless buffoons who THRIVE on controversy for views. They’ve made ‘stopping to stare at the car wreck’ a fucking art form and a business model. As for Kim being a skank, didn’t she become famous for her and her mother releasing a self made porn tape she made? If that’s not skanky, then we need to redefine the definition of the word to include shit like that. I honestly don’t know anything else about her because I’ve barely seen so much as a full interview with her let alone a full episode of their ridiculous family, on account of they repulse me and I won’t give these kinds of attention seeking pop culture popularity whores the kind of attention they crave (take note masses, you’d do well to ignore these kinds of twits the media sells you as well). Kim is a talentless nobody who’s become famous and rich for releasing her own sex tape, showing her nasty ass on magazine covers, self indulgent books about herself to stroke her Kanye sized matching ego, and being associated with a douchebag like him through marriage. Who cares? You’re a far more intelligent and interesting person who comes across as honest and sincere, unlike those twits. You’re a smart and talented guy who’s self made. I can appreciate that you feel badly about this, but don’t lose sleep over it. You simply said what the intelligent members of society on the planet already feel about these morons and their family. People have opinions, and you’re entitled to yours whether others agree or not. Sorry, but I don’t buy into this bullshit that because you’re a public figure you should be held to a higher standard. That’s PC agenda talking, and plenty of famous celebrities and broadcast personalities have strong words and opinions about people and issues. Howard Stern and Lowel Green are both people who are considered to have strong words and opinions, but that’s what makes them interesting. Hell, just look at all the stupid shit Kanye says… he’s still doing just fine and you’ve got exceedingly larger amounts of intelligence and social appeal than that turd.

    I respect your apology and your sincerity with trying to fix this situation, but as far as anyone goes who wants to grab the pitchforks and torches… fuck them. They don’t dictate your life and your followers won’t be swayed by people like that, and if they are then those aren’t likely the kinds of followers you want anyways (in my personal opinion).

    The people saying you hate women and blah blah blah… well, screw them. They have an agenda, and it’s likely steeped in misandry under the guise of feminism. They’re wrong. This world needs more people who say what they think and less oversensitive PC whiners. Maybe if intelligent and influential people like you spoke out more about people like Kanye and his screwball fame obsessed nobody wife and her family, the stupid people sitting in the wings might pay attention and catch on that they are suckers being fed garbage content centred around talentless nobodies they are making rich.

    Seriously, don’t lose sleep over this. It will blow over, and anyone who keeps bringing it up and blowing it out of proportion will be seen as the douchebags they are for doing so. Keep it real.


      • You’re very welcome! I used to try and keep it short and simple for the simpletons reading along, but then I realized that they’re simpletons… so they likely stopped reading at the first big wordy word they came across. Now I just say what rambles off my brain, trusting that a few intelligent people who find conversation and the opinions of others to be interesting ways to spend a few minutes of their day will be reading along now and then. Welcome to my brain. Sorry for the mess.

        Oh yeah, I’d say follow me on Twitter, but I just set up my account, have no real idea what I’m doing, and apparently I’m VERY limited to what I can say there… but I’m up for a challenge! 🙂

  • Hey Alan,
    Thank you for this. I think everyone is guilty of having said something rash and sending it to the webverse. Few, however, recognize their error in judgement in doing so. It’s scary to know that we live in a society that chastise us so painfully for an error in judgement, but don’t acknowledge our efforts to rectify the situation. As a teacher, I always tell my students that if they own up to a mistake and apologize, I will have far more respect for them than if they sit back and do/say nothing. It’s something my own teachers would say to me growing up. It would seem that far too many people in the entertainment industry apologize for their actions, only to turn around and do/say something equally as bad. And more often than not, the apologies come ONLY after a media blitz of free publicity. And even then, it’s usually a publicist who composes said statement for them. To me, that is an insincere apology. You, on the other hand, almost immediately realized you reacted hastily, and took it upon yourself to try to right things. That right there, makes me respect you even more.
    We live in a dangerous time in technology where things we say will forever be floating in cyberspace. It’s unfortunate that the bad things–however far and few in between, are what people choose to focus on.
    As much as it pains me to know that you have fallen victim to media scrutiny, I too, will use this as a teachable moment for my impressionable young students who love the Internet. Even things written with the best of intentions can be read out of context.

    There’s a lot we can learn from how we handled things as kids. If this had been something that was said at school on the playground, an apology would be made and everyone would be friends again the next day. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve shown great character and after all is said and done, that fact will remain.

  • Hey Alan-
    In this digital world even the Auto-correct function on the devices at times seems to work against us.regardless of this whole thing ,you are still in my humble opinion,the best,most connected,and articulate person in the business.I look forward to your letter every day .
    The old fashion concept of grace and forgiveness is hard to find sometimes on the internet but those that really appreciate what you do,I,m sure will find it in themselves.

  • A former boss of mine had a very good piece of advice for me once: “You can’t win with these people.” So don’t sweat it. Read the comments section of any story on any news website and you will get a good sense for the class, character, and intelligence of the “internet” as a whole (i.e. they collectively have none),

    • Social media is today’s version of the all-seeing God who has many rules, is quick to anger and does not hesitate to dish out furious retribution. It doesn’t take much for the Internet to demand one’s head one a stick.

  • It will blow over and your advice to think long and hard before posting is a good one. Something else that might have helped in the case of the post already out the barn door is to clearly identify when edits have been made. Include an update paragraph, use strikeout, just don’t change the words without notice and/or explanation after publishing. Outrage is oxygen and the less fuel the better.

  • Comments written with a hot engine should not be posted until the exhaust has cooled… But we all forget that advice from time to time. The people who attacked you online also forgot that advice.
    Part of the rap music genre follows a hate-based theme, so you can expect a hateful response from some who hide behind their keyboards. They will soon find a new target and your small slip will be lost to history.
    For me, nothing describes Kanye more than his own words, lyrics from his song:
    “I am a god.”
    “I am a god.”
    “I AM A GOD!”
    “I am a god.”
    He’s truly a modest and gifted composer…
    PS: To close out “Toronto’s” PANAM Games, it would have been better to have chosen Drake.
    PPS: I first pronounced it “Can yee” but was told it’s “Con yea”… Con seems appropriate.

  • “C’mom: Has no one ever said/written something they immediately regretted and then tried to retract?

    Yes. Kanye!

    Maybe this irony will finally allow you to reflect on how silly your’s and other’s dogmatic hatred of the man is. Why do you deserve forgiveness while he deserves to have his character and that of his wife torn to bits?

    • Are you suggesting that Alan Cross has a “Dogmatic Hatred” of Kanye? Almost every post I’ve ever seen from Alan regarding Kanye has at least begrudgingly admitted that he is talented. One does not have to like Kanye’s music to accept that he is talented.

      I can admit Celine Dion has vocal talent with out having to like or listen to her music.

      However if you think Kanye’s wife is talented, I challenge you to provide proof. Ability to be famous simply for being famous doesn’t count.

      • You can call it what you like: Dogmatic. Hypocritical. Ignorant. What it’s not is justified. Nor is it about some sort of ambivalence toward’s the man’s music. Taste is subjective, and no one would begrudge Cross for simply excusing himself from the fandom that has developed around Kanye. But taste shouldn’t inspire someone to slander a person’s family or throw public hissy-fits about their very presence in a city – at least not anyone with a mental age over five.

        And where does Kim’s talent come into play? That question is mutually exclusive to the one that asks, “does this person deserve to have her value as a human being cruelly questioned in a public forum?” And once again, for anyone beyond an age that calls for mandatory afternoon naps, the answer should be clear: no!

        • Her value comes into question when she gains fame simply by releasing a tape of themselves have sex. I submit that…

          Never mind, this is not worth my time.

  • As far as I’m concerned, Alan, You are forgiven. One word of advice. If you wish to continue Tweeting and Blogging. You need to develop a thick skin or callouses. Look at Howard Stern. Do you think he would’ve lasted this long if he gave a crap what others thought?

  • Surely there are degrees of indiscretion when it comes to posting anything online but what justifies Twitter’s nuclear option in this situation? Hasn’t this level of outrage been a little disproportionate given the subject matter? Criticism and discussion and opinions are fine, but come on people… The descent into more name calling doesn’t help anyone. There are so many more serious issues happening in the world right now that should demand this level of attention and outrage but don’t. Issues that if fought against this passionately might actually have a chance at resolution. Be logical.

    • Shouldn;t you apply this logic to Kanye related ego incidents also then? if you can forgive Alan for this surely you can forgive Kanye also? Especially since we only see the media side of him?

      • I don’t have a problem with Kanye.

  • I like the way you’re handling this. This isn’t about “internet justice” or “offense culture”. This is about you saying something sexist and offensive and recognizing your mistake, owning up to it, and apologizing unreservedly. I respect that.
    My only observation about the ongoing Kanye hate is that I don’t believe we’d be seeing this level of backlash, vitriol, or petitions trying to reverse the decision if the non-Canadian musicians in question were Foo Fighters, Springsteen, or Aerosmith. There’s to some degree an underlying race aspect to all this that makes me uncomfortable, to say the least.

    • Perhaps. But Kanye is a polarizing artist, perhaps the most polarizing in the world right now. And I’m choosing to believe that this isn’t about race at all but results from Kanye’s reputation as being an arrogant boor. Let’s remember that even Barack Obama once call him a “jackass.”

      • agreed, but isn’t it a bit narcissistic in people to ban kanye because of their own opinion? What about people who actually enjoy Kanye music? Or the fact that the biggest Kanye downfall is his ego? What other crimes has he committed to warrant such villainy?

    • One more thing: imagine the backlash if the chord had been Nickelback or One Direction. It would probably be similar.

  • Alan long time follower, but also Kanye West fan. I disagree with you on the fact that Kanye is talentless but that is opinion. However, I am glad that you are apologizing. I would like to point out though that this experience seems similar to how the media attacks Kanye no? So couldn’t you take this experience and reflect to see maybe if its the same as Kanye? So wouldn’ you now know Kanyes perspective? I feel that Kanye gets emotional because so many people do not appreciate his music based on his ego.

  • You may remember a very similar thing happening to a similar person a couple months back, when the Toronto Star’s Peter Howell asked Mad Max star Tom Hardy if he wondered why there were so many women in the movie. The video went viral and he was branded a sexist and out of touch. I understand we say things that we wish we could take back and that one misstep shouldn’t define who we are and how we think. I assume the argument of most that won’t give you forgiveness is that someone who isn’t sexist wouldn’t think of saying “skank” to begin with. Whether there’s any credence to that thought, who knows, but one thing is for sure in both cases, is that the internet *is* forever and it *is* watching at all times.

    But we know that. That’s not new. That’s been the case for a decade now. And someone, especially, in your shoes, in the media, online, on air, connected more than most, should have known that already. That may be where the “out of touch” hate is coming from, people who absolutely do NOT take the internet for granted. Peter Howell also should have known that. His only excuse is that his gaffe was live. Sure he should have maybe run that question by someone or even had something prepared, but in the spur of the moment he did something stupid and it was caught on film.

    You had more than enough time to reread, edit, calm down before hitting “post.” I’m sure I’m just beating a dead horse and telling you things you and half the country have already thrown at you. So I suppose I’m writing this now more for anyone reading than for you.

    I have no doubt your higher standing is also making this more of a story than it needs to be. I don’t need to tell you half the planet has called KK more harsh things than “skank” across the internet for all to see. I’ve seen it myself. To be honest, you could have probably gotten the same point across using a less harsh term and gotten away with it… I mean what DO you call a woman who’s initial claim to fame was starring in a homemade sex tape with a hip hop star? Flirty? Fun-loving? A person who exercises poor judgement? Or do you call them what they are? Sure you do.

    Just not on the internet.

  • Alan,

    I don’t believe for a second that you are the problem. You do so much to raise the waters of Canadian Music and to go deeper into context and to keep the fires of music burning. I have learned so much about technology, entertainment and media through your efforts.

    You probably spoke in haste because KK received attention on Rolling Stone just by posing in front of a camera. The fact that Kimye is not can-con is not a moot point. It is legitimate. Her contribution to music and entertainment pales in comparison to yours. That is why you are upset.

    Your detractors have little understanding about the differences within the female demographic. Many great women make this world a better place through quietly doing great deeds of humility, working tirelessly, raising families and such. If anything your detractors are blind to these differences and the choices women make. I asked my MOM is KK was a ‘skank’ and she said yes. It is about choices. For your critics to see only women as one group is to be fooled.

    Your detractors of course pulled out the sexist card and shockingly avoided using the ‘creep’ tag. This is whiteknighting at its best.


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