This week, British journalist and feminist essayist Suzanne Moore wrote a column for The New Statesman titled Seeing Red: The Power of Female Anger. While otherwise pretty on point, it contained a really unfortunate line about men preferring the body type of “a Brazilian transsexual.” For obvious reasons, it was a pretty offensive way in which to invoke transgender identities, and a lot of people were upset. At this point, Moore probably could have apologized for her insensitivity, and the whole thing would have been forgotten about. Instead she went into full meltdown, making a series of awful tweets that only dug her deeper. The full summary is here, but, here is one of them just to give you an idea:
Awful. She also griped about being the victim of language policing and Twitter mobs. Worse, still, was how many other journalists who ostensibly should know better began their reflexive wagon circling — among others, Caitlin Moran and Charles Arthur. Maybe this isn’t unique to journalism, but the way in which other writers refused to even consider that Moore might be in the wrong, even as she dug herself deeper, was astonishing. The general sentiment is pretty well summarized by that Moran tweet linked above: “We are commentators! The gall of holding us responsible for our commentary! This never happened before Twitter!”
In the end, Moore took her ball and went home, deleting her Twitter account merely because she was called to account for her language. Owen Jones of The Independent lamented “Twitter storms:”
Poor helpless writers, forced to bear the agony of being told they’re wrong.
This reminded me of something drastically less important: baseball journalism. Because on Wednesday, after not a single player on a Hall of Fame ballot overflowing with worthy talent was elected, Jon Heyman took up (well, really, continued to promote) The Wrongest Cause:
Putting aside that Jack Morris as a worthy Hall of Fame candidate is completely ridiculous for a laundry list of reasons, note that Jon Heyman thinks “[inter]net negativity” is a contributing factor in sinking Morris’ candidacy. Matt Gelb, bracing himself for certain backlash against the BBWAA, spoke of ”arrogant Internet bullies chastising anyone who resists their groupthink.”
Similarly, when Dayton Moore traded a ridiculous bounty of prospects for James Shields and Wade Davis in early December, writers exhibited bizarre defensiveness about the Royals GM. Danny Knobler penned a hilariously whiny column that began, “No surprise, the Twitter world hates what the Royals just did.” Ken Rosenthal wrote “woe to any GM who parts with [prospects] in this hyper-critical, Twitter-crazed era.”
Here’s a fucking memo to sports writers, British journalists, baseball general managers and whoever the hell else: Sometimes you are wrong. You didn’t start being wrong when Twitter was created. There are instances of you being wrong years and years before that. Sometimes you engage in lazy analysis, or write offensive things. This, too, believe it or not, predates Twitter and any other social media outlet you could name.
Twitter is not “hyper-critical,” it just abolishes the illusion that every precious opinion you put on the record is owed some super special deference because of your occupation. It does this by putting you on a more-or-less equal platform with the people who consume your work, who think critically about it, and form their own opinions. Sometimes they’re wrong. Many times, maybe. But sometimes you are wrong, and Twitter isn’t obligated to stop and act aghast at that prospect.
Presumably you’ve exposed yourself to this because it’s a powerful way to promote your work. That is the trade-off. It’s not altogether different from when you accepted a job at a bigger newspaper, or had your blog bought out by a large media outlet, or whatever. So stop mournfully eulogizing the death of discourse at the hands of new media every time someone on Twitter thinks you’re incorrect. Stop whining about it.