[NOTE: For the “jump the snark” language, I owe credit to Gardner Campbell.]
It was a lovely Thanksgiving morning and I was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with my wife and two kids (my son is 8 and my daughter is 4). While watching, I had Janetter up and running on a laptop so I could occasionally check Twitter to see what friends and those I follow were saying. Watching a major TV event with Twitter as a backchannel (of sorts) is one of my favorite uses of Twitter. As the performance by the cast of Kinky Boots began, I took to Twitter to chime in. I posted a mostly snarky/sarcastic tweet as I’m inclined to do. I feel like that has become a part of my identity on Twitter; I just don’t take myself too seriously in that space and like to joke around.
Later that day, I learned that a screenshot of my tweet was being used on the Huffington Post Gay Voices site as part of a story about the outrage by the right wing to the inclusion of Kinky Boots in the parade. I was (and still am) horrified. While the sarcasm intended by my tweet1 was clearly not obvious, anyone who knows me even a little bit knows how mislabeled I am in that post. Since the post ran, I have received countless replies from people who had not followed me to that point and who, evidently, took the HuffPo piece at face value. I won’t share those replies here as many of them are NSFW. The replies continue to flow in, even as I write this post. I also received one very nasty email2.
There is a lot to be learned from this episode, and I’m still processing it all. For now, I’ll just say a few things.
To those who took this occasion to use me as the target of their LGBTQ advocacy campaign, please, PLEASE direct your efforts elsewhere3. First of all, I am on your team; I have ALWAYS been a strong supporter of equity and social justice, especially for those underrepresented in the democratic processes. You’re barking up the wrong tree. Second, I have no power to effect change on the issues about which you and I care deeply . Please consider using your considerable voices to address policymakers and continuing to mount serious legislative campaigns for gay rights. I’ll support you 100%; I always have. In fact, I hope you’ll consider joining me in efforts to get gay marriage legalized in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where I live now. That would be fantastic.
To those who responded to perceived hateful language with nasty, hateful language… well, I don’t even know what to say other than hypocrisy and ad hominem attacks get us nowhere.
To the editors of The Huffington Post Gay Voices site, I hope you’ll do better next time. I’m no journalist, and I don’t even know if HuffPo counts as journalism. But, it seems to me there was a time when people did a little homework before publishing something to a wide audience. Consider adopting some kind of standard of evidence as you mount advocacy campaigns through your widely read publication. You have a powerful platform, and, as you know, with great power comes great responsibility. Just a little bit of research on your part might have led you to realize who I am, what I stand for, and, therefore, the intended sarcasm of my tweet. Cherry picking tweets and decontexualizing them to craft an argument is bad rhetorical practice by any standard of which I am aware.
Ultimately, I think my friend and colleague Gary Stager is right. He sent me a DM which said, in part, “comedy is hard.” Indeed, Gary. Thanks for the reminder.
I’m not ready to give up on social media, yet, but this event has shaken me. It’s incredibly frustrating that the vast majority of those who chose to attack me on Twitter won’t see this post because they don’t follow me and likely have little to no connection to anyone who is in my Twitter network. Social media and networked life is complicated that way. For now, I’ll probably reassess my comedy routine and stick to the boring Twitter updates. #GoDuke (that’s not offensive, right?).