Comment of the Day: “Observations On The Instapundit’s Tweet”

twitter-bird-censoredBy purest happenstance, today was dominated by the ethics issues raised by tweets about the Charlotte riots from two commentators who couldn’t be more different, conservative pundit-professor Glenn Reynolds and Seattle Mariners catcher Steve Clevenger. Both issued excessively undiplomatic tweets to express their dismay at the state of U.S. race relations as demonstrated by the events unfolding in North Carolina. Both encountered the race-baiting, intimidation and attempts to chill free expression that are increasingly emerging as the standard weapons of the political left. Both saw the response to their words raise issues of double standards and the dangers of criticizing even the most indefensible conduct, like rioting and looting, when the rioters and looters have the sympathy of the news media, the politically powerful (and cynical) and sufficient numbers of social activists.

Both episodes also highlighted the dangers of using the deceptive simplicity of Twitter to express opinions and ideas that require more nuance and care.

Putting the cap on spontaneously generated “Controversial Tweet Friday” is this Comment of the Day by Jeff H, one of Ethics Alarms’ longest tenured commenters:

This is one of the reasons I try my very hardest never to use my Twitter to make someone’s day worse. It’s not that I haven’t had arguments on there every now and again, but as far as I know, I have very seldom been blocked for it. That’s because I try to keep it all elevated to a certain level or respect that we should all have when talking to strangers. (I did once get blocked for a Rickroll…)

I agree that him saying that is basically acceptable hyperbole and did nothing to further endanger the protesters (that they weren’t already facing by being on the highway. I say, if you block the highway for a protest, you’re a total jerk. I’d rather you make it home safely after doing something so stupid, but if you don’t, it will be entirely your own fault.)

Twitter as a format leads to snap thinking and quick condemnations like this, on both sides. It’s honestly a terrible format to try to say anything constructive. Even the “delete your account” tweets from Hillary that some people praise strike me as just saying “shut up” in a different way. How unproductive. The sublime tweets are vastly outweighed by the bad ones, to the point where I call Twitter The False Equivalency Machine.

If Twitter wants to make itself a place where nobody says things like this, I don’t think it is possible. Even if they drummed every conservative voice off the format, I do not believe the atmosphere would change significantly. The nastiness about other stuff would just become more apparent.

The shortness of the format, when responses will be at their hottest and tweeted out at the peak of emotional response, will always mean that it will be a hot bed of cruel behavior. Nothing will change that, until we as individuals take a moment’s pause, let things go, and be the best versions of ourselves we can be on the Internet.

See, you can’t fit this in a tweet. But you can fit, “fuck you, go die, hope your children are sold into slavery.”

But so can “have a wonderful day, here’s an apple pie.”

11 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Social Media

11 responses to “Comment of the Day: “Observations On The Instapundit’s Tweet”

  1. Long Post Warning:
    I was thinking about a particular topic as I drove home from work today, about why people, mostly people on the left, justify and rationalize the behavior of looters during riots. After reading Jacks initial post regarding Instapundit, I went to read the linked Reason.com article, and then checked out the comments section. One person, with the screen name Krabapple, made the following comment:

    “Yeah sorry I can’t take seriously moderation from a company that allows the hashtag #killallwhitepeople but not this.”

    This sentiment ties in with the thoughts stirring around in my head as I drove: Why isn’t behavior like that, hashtagging a desire for white people to die, called out for the despicable behavior that it is? Aside from the obvious (and maddeningly stupid) idea that white people cannot be racially discriminated against because “privilege” (which brings up a whole ‘nother set of issues), I believe it is because people who agree with this hashtag, or similar ones, are either 1) too ignorant/uneducated to understand how illogical and unethical double standards like this are; or, 2) educated, but have lowered the standards of acceptable conduct for certain groups of people. I understand how bias mixed with ignorance has blinded the first group into rationalizing away their behavior; I don’t understand why people in the second group can’t see that their behavior is deeply racist.

    A similar argument is made by Derrick Green, of Project 21, in a video I came across on Youtube some months ago (link provided at the bottom of this post). One of the points he made, in a rebuttal to the accusation that voter ID laws were racist was, to put it simply, “why are white people expected to be able to acquire IDs but blacks can’t?” It’s a point also perfectly encapsulated by Michael Gerson with the simple quote, “the soft bigotry of low expectations”, a quote that I feel doesn’t get NEARLY enough traction as it deserves.

    When trying to identify whether or not I’m embracing lowered standards in a particular group (as a PE teacher, I’m constantly adjusting the difficulty levels of activities, and at times, recognizing that I have expectations that are too high/low for a certain age group) I ask myself, “would I expect class B to be able to accomplish this task?”. And depending on the answer, I adjust. Simple enough. When trying to identify this in adult behavior though, I use myself and/or fictional adult children that I may have someday as the guide: Would I accept this behavior from myself and/or teenage/adult children of mine? In the end, the only people whose behavior I have some level of control over, and whom I can punish for failing to live up to expectations, are myself, and my (fictional, future) children. (When I picture them, they’re usually riding around on jet packs, seeng as how they’re in the future and all…)

    When I see someone speed, I ask myself, “would I accept that behavior out of myself? What about my kids?”. I would accept speeding out off myself, but not necessarily out of my kids. However, getting into a fight with peers when provoked past an acceptable limit, I might accept more from my kids, than I would from from myself, as I expect a higher level of self control with myself (which doesn’t make it right, and I would still make sure my kids knew that, and had a very serious talk with them, etc.).

    So, the point is, the level to which I will justify, excuse, tolerate, or enable the behavior in a 3rd party is usually the “high point” of “bad behavior” that I would accept from myself and/or my kids. Golden Rule and all.

    So when I see educated, “logical”, “reasonable”, “equality-minded” adults, rationalizing other grown adult’s bad behavior (looting stores in the midst of a protest/riot), I continuously think to myself, “Yes, the issue (killing of a black man at the hands of police, regardless of whether it was justified or not) that set this off can touch off already-frayed emotions, I get that. However, why do you (presumably) have standards for behavior for yourself, or your kids, standards that you look for in the general public all around you every day, that you don’t hold these looters to?”

    And I truly believe it is rooted in a subtle racism. A thought that “‘those people’ can’t be expected to behave in the way that ‘I’ would, but its ok….I don’t expect them to. Because they’re mad. I know I get mad, and when I do, I channel my anger in non-destructive ways, but, again…I don’t have that same expectation of maturity for ‘those people’. But I do want to shield them from scrutiny, because I see them as oppressed, and want to protect the oppressed, so I will lash out at those who point out the obvious wrongness of their action, but don’t understand the motivation. But I would still never act in such as way. And I would be mortified if my child did.”

    Now, I know a lot of the preceding was built upon assumption, and straw-manning, but I would welcome others, anyone, especially those inclined to defend the behavior of the looters, to please explain to me how having lowered expectations for a groups of adult, capable people, engaging in obviously illegal actions, in spite of their being angry/upset/frustrated/mad, is not inherently racist….if you wouldn’t act in such a way yourself when similarly provoked.

    Because, as a black man, for the life of me, I cannot look at this looting, this stoping on cars, this stopping traffic, and think anything other than “THIS is why there are people out there who still think so little of us. Because too many of use live down to that lowered expectation.”

  2. crella

    There’ s a meme going around FB with an engraving of the Boston Tea Party overlaid with something like “White people say it’s not a legitimate protest if you destroy property..” (I can’t find it now to copy the quote exactly, but that’s the essence). Really!? The other humdinger from this month was “White people just can’t seem to,get over 9/11 but they want me to get over slavery?” This bilge is spread around as profound wisdom, declared ‘brilliant’, ‘genius’, and spread by people I know are smarter than that.

    It makes me sick. I really just feel sick at the state of things.

    • I don’t even understand the 9/11 vs slavery meme…was 9/11 a crime against whites? Is that how black people see it?? And even if there was some equivalency there, the argument seems to be “X people can’t get over something from 15 years ago, but want me to get over something from 150 years ago.” There’s no logic to that sentiment.

      • crella

        Anything and everything is being cast as black vs. white. That’s probably one of the more ridiculous ones, as surely not only whites were affected by 9/11. However, it was hailed as ‘telling like it is’ and had several hundred positive comments.

    • All political memes are stupid. I regard anyone who posts one stupid as well. It’s a tell: if that kind of simple-minded mush impresses you as persuasive, you are too dumb to vote, hold a responsible job, raise children competently, or be trusted with any responsibility tougher than dog-walking. I mean it.

      Those are especially terrible. “White people say it’s not a legitimate protest if you destroy property” translates into “People like me are stupid, because we don’t understand why white people who say this are right.” The Boston Tea Party was illegal and unethical: this is the rationalization called “The Unethical Role Model.” And I’m from Boston.

      “White people just can’t seem to get over 9/11 but they want me to get over slavery?” is much worse, brain-meltingly idiotic. It is almost a good argument for forced sterilization.

      • crella

        I agree.I’ve already unfollowed the offenders. The point of the Tea Party one, judging from the comments, was that white people do it too, so shut up about North Carolina. So much ignorance in so few words.

  3. zoebrain

    “Nothing will change that, until we as individuals take a moment’s pause, let things go, and be the best versions of ourselves we can be on the Internet.”

    I’ll try. Maybe then the lies we tell ourselves will become true. By pretending to be a better person in public than you are in private for long enough, you might actually become that better person.

    Worth a shot, anyway.

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