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.
- 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.
- The Internet is always watching and listening. Once a storm starts, you’re powerless to stop any damage that it might occur.
- The Internet is forever. These comments about what I said will be out there until the heat death of the universe.
- 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?