The “Do What I Say, Not What I Do” School of Commentary

AMUSING POST-SCRIPT DEPARTMENT (a follow-up to my previous post):

Yoni Goldstein’s piece about how terrible ALL Canadian TV is did receive a few comments on the Huffington Post – Canada site — strongly disagreeing with him. This then led to him posting a follow-up piece…complaining about the lack of civility on the internet. It seems to be following a new trend of writers posting opinionated essays…then acting out-raged when people respond.

Oh, that’s not how he phrases it. He acknowledges comments have their place (though implies nice people would just meekly accept his opinions). What he objects to is the lack of civility in his critics…while launching into a tirade dismissing these critics as “bleating sociopaths” and “cranks” whose comments would be “laughed at” by editorial boards. He further suggests they aren’t “normal”, are uneducated, and aren‘t legitimate writers…like him.

Um…it’s easier to claim the high ground, man, if you stick to the high road.

And although I certainly agree that to be a good reporter or a journalist requires skill, training and aptitude, writing an opinion piece, as Goldstein did, just requires, well, an opinion, and an ability to put words together coherently. The wall between Goldstein and those to whom he considers himself superior exists mainly in his mind.

He even uses the term “troll” incorrectly — at least, as far as I understood the term. I thought “troll” referred to people who post negative comments for no other reason than to rile others (derived from the dual origin of the mythological monster…and a fishing lure intended to attract bites). Not to people who express a sincerely held belief, albeit, crassly.

By that definition, it was Goldstein’s initial post about Canadian TV that seemed Trollish. Because the irony is that little in his original post was intended as a thoughtful examination of his topic. I just naturally assumed his goal was to be a provocateur, and to get the hornets a-swarming. Maybe he just failed to anticipate how few people would agree with him (but how could anyone fully agree with such an un-nuanced stereotype?)

The funny thing is: the responses weren’t even that extreme (at least given the extreme tone of Goldstein’s original post). Indeed, many responded the only way possible — by simply mentioning (by name) Canadian shows they like. Does that make them “bleating sociopaths”? Sure, some posters, like heywriterboy (better known as scriptwriter Denis McGrath), lacked decorum, but McGrath tends to have a short fuse in his message board postings at the best of times. But Goldstein objects to Peter Keleghan (a well known Canadian TV actor) insulting him by saying “the Canadian content we really don’t need is Yoni Goldstein”…when Goldstein’s original post was meant to insult people like Keleghan by claiming it was a “plain and simple” fact that Canadian TV actors were inferior to American ones and ALL Canadian TV was bad. A bit of a kettle and pot situation, eh?

Goldstein’s post didn’t actually mark out any middle ground where his detractors could meet him…so why was he surprised they wouldn‘t seek it out?

Ironically, I recognize some of what Goldstein is writing about. I have encountered commentators who I have, gradually, come to suspect are “trolls” (after trying to engage them in a rational discussion and coming to the conclusion that’s not what they are looking for). I’ve also written things that, though expressing an opinion, I considered quite moderate, or at least where I attempted to lay out quite clearly the reasons for my opinion…only to then be “flamed” by people who clearly aren’t interested in considering another’s point of view.

Yet with that said, I’ve also sometimes responded to a nasty writer by taking a deep breath, biting my tongue, and writing civilly…and you’d be surprised how that can quickly diffuse the situation, causing them to scale back their own rhetoric and, before you know it, you are engaged in a reasonable discussion.

Indeed, read Goldstein’s bitter, snide post about blog comments…then read that “crank” Keleghan’s response to it, and ask yourself, who seems to be trying to fan the flames, and who dampen them?

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