Trolls, Banning, and Openness – Oh My!

Over the last few weeks there has been an increasing war of words on twitter. This happens with some regularity on twitter in London. We use twitter a lot in the forested city and there are some, me included, who use it to argue points hard. The problem is that can sometimes devolve into name calling. Today, Elaine Murray, aka @emlaughsallot88 on twitter, the frequent comments poster on almost all London Free Press articles, has had her account suspended.

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that Twitter banned her for spamming or abusive behavior. Twitter says, “Spam: You may not use the Twitter service for the purpose of spamming anyone. What constitutes “spamming” will evolve as we respond to new tricks and tactics by spammers. Some of the factors that we take into account when determining what conduct is considered to be spamming are:

  • If a large number of people are blocking you;
  • The number of spam complaints that have been filed against you
  • If you post multiple unrelated updates to a topic using #.“

The above may indicate some of the reasons why her account was suspended but there is an underlying issue here that I think needs some airing.

Over the last four or five months there have been a number of posts by a number of folks about blocking people on twitter, about hearing everyone’s opinions, and about being more inclusive in hearing differing viewpoints. This is all laudable and I agree with these points in principle. BUT they should not become shackles to enduring personal attacks or in continuing to hear viewpoints when they are argued only to inflame and lower the conversation. I have seen this behavior in Elaine’s arguments with Megan Walker last week, and I have seen a number of people go after Glen Pearson, and many others in personal attacks and innuendo a number of times. This is an ongoing behavior pattern.

The problem is that in the argument about being open and fair and hearing everyone’s opinion, there must come a point when we recognize that these arguments are only about creating a climate of hostility and attack. At that point, I draw the line and move on. I block and at times report for spam or abusive behavior. I have not done this for Elaine but have for some others.

Now some will argue that the “left” gang up on the “right” on twitter or that a group of “like-minded” people will bully the others who disagree. That this “left” group is not open to debate and discussion. I don’t buy that argument for one simple reason. It is a choice to debate or to devolve, and in my opinion many of the people I am talking about  choose to devolve and lower the conversation with innuendo and attack.

Do I want to see honest, respectful, and open debate stifled? No, absolutely not. Do I want to see people banned from participating? No, absolutely not. Will I engage with someone who continually devolves the conversation to juvenile name calling. No, absolutely not.

In our need to be seen to be fair and open and engaged we must recognize that there are some that prefer inflaming to engaging and at that point I block and will often defend others who are being attacked. I don’t feel sorry for Elaine at all, though there is a freedom of speech line here,and have no guilt what so ever about calling out those who crash the conversation just to inflame the debate. Fairness and openness is important to me but it must not become a cudgel to allow abuse and derision to occur unanswered or without consequence. Engagement is about the conversation not about scoring points.

Happy Birthday to Me

I share this one hour before my 45th birthday and so  I would like to say Happy Birthday to me. I will receive well wishes and maybe some cake and have a drink with some friends and my wife and it will be good. But that’s not the real reason i am wishing myself a happy birthday.

I am wishing myself a happy birthday to remind my self of where i have come from and how I got to where i am and the many people that made being me possible. These are some of the  many  great gifts i have received.

I have so far led a wide and varied life from my birth in Wales to my moving to Canada to my work in music and the arts to being married and having a child who, as i write this, is at the grand age of 16. I have worked as a dishwasher, selling newspapers, in technical support, as a director, in construction, a teacher, an actor, a worker in social services, and advocate in mental health, and currently as an executive director for a great organization. I have also created a college program, a theatre company, and been an artistic director. I have travelled and stayed put. I have made a million mistakes and had some great successes. This is a great gift.

I have also been through a number of tragedies as a child, a teenager, a young man, and now as a parent and a husband. I lost my father when he was way to young and wished my mother had an easier life. I have watched as people in my community have suffered from poverty and hardship and sometimes had to admit that there was nothing further i could do to help them. I have at times been selfish and thoughtless and have more than once bitten off way more that I could chew. But this to has made my life richer for the learnings i have gained , some of which i had to repeat a number of times.This is a great gift.

But most importantly it is the people in my life that have made the difficult times bearable and have made my successes possible.

There is a wide community in a number of places i have lived and the people in it that I have been privileged to know and learned much from. From the most vulnerable to the most engaged,  the most idealistic to the most creative,I have always had the privilege of knowing a wide community who have given me much and allowed me to join in. This is a great gift.

I am wealthy in the quality of my friends and the time I get to spend with them. Ken, Ed, Don, Garner, Tim, and Glen are very close to me and my life is so much richer for knowing them. They spend the time with me, listen to my often wild ideas and give good counsel when i ask. Most importantly they are willing to laugh with me when times are good and offer solace when things go off the rails. They have invested their valuable time to grow our friendship. I know that I can call on them at anytime and they will answer. I have learned much from them. This is a great gift.

My mother and my step father are always welcoming and always reach out to know how is the world with me and i with it. My step father is generous with his time, shares in my often odd sense of humor, and has spent innumerable hours with me on the water sharing the generosity of his time in our joint passion. This is a great gift

My mother has led my brother, sister, and I through very difficult times as we were growing up and made sure to instill in our bones that she was always there for us no matter what the cost to her or the circumstances we got ourselves into. She is my hero. This is a great gift.

My Brother with whom i have fought and argued and very often been jealous of for his quick mind but is the one person in the world who in a look and a few words can have me howling on the floor in laughter. He has a wonderfully warm, welcoming wife, and two bright and wonderful children who call me uncle. This is a great gift.

My Sister who would torment me in high school years by standing in my bedroom door way and singing the skinamarink song and doing the actions to get me to wake up and get on the bus for which i gave her the payment of throwing things at her. She is a great music teacher and has been so wonderful to my daughter in the understanding and empathy she has shown. She too has two amazingly alive and bright children who call me uncle. This is a great gift.

My Daughter and her presence in my life has fundamentally changed who I am and how i see the world. On meeting her I fell hopelessly in love with her smile, her nose, her eyes, her hair, her toes, her knees, her ears, and every single part of her and who she is. She has struggled and fell, gotten up and triumphed, and continually surprises me with her insights and generosity. She has given me the privilege of being her father. This is a great gift.

My Wife has given me everything. She has been my port in the storms, comforted me in the bad time, laughed with me in good times, told me when I am being stupid, celebrates when i am not, has birthed our daughter, and been a mother who never gives up and loves our child fiercely. She has selflessly given her time to others who struggle, allowed me to help when she needs it, and has made for our daughter and i a home. My life would be so much less with not in it. This is a great gift.

I have received many gifts in my 45 years for which i am truly grateful. Thank you to everyone in my life who has hung out, shared an idea,  and allowed me to be a part of your lives in small ways and large. This is a great gift.

Happy Birthday to me.