Yours truly had an interesting situation earlier this week when I got into a “discussion” on Twitter with a TV personality. I use “discussion” in quotes because…well, I’m not sure what else to call it. It wasn’t quite a Twitter “war” and, with that service’s 140-character limit, I’m not sure it could truly be called “discussion.” All I know is that I wasn’t looking for any conflict with this person although I can fully see how his reaction to my statement would not be positive. My “tweet” that started it all off was actually directed at another person that knew exactly what I was talking about, the full context, and the level of frustration that accompanied it.
Perhaps strangest of all was that this TV personality decided to spend his time on me, an absolute nobody with only 110 followers on Twitter, and even then most of those are probably just spam accounts. Yet, somehow, he perceived me as a threat to the reputation of the program he works on even though I like his work as an individual.
Regardless of how one would label this exchange that went on via Twitter, it is actually a very small version of something that is happening all over the world right now. Those currently in power — whether it be in politics, media, or business — are late to the party regarding the new power of social media to spread critique and get people organized. Worst of all, instead of adapting to this new breath of freedom that has been introduced into public discourse, it is being attacked in all of the usual phony ways and, in many cases, attempts are being made to scare people enough to stop using social media other than to follow commercial accounts or go back to the days when nobody knew exactly what to do with Twitter other than post what they had for breakfast.
That those in a position of power would dislike and try to lessen the effects of services like Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, and even Facebook is certainly not surprising. What does surprise me somewhat is that many are taking the tactic of attacking “We the people” as being too ignorant to understand what it is we want out of Product X, Service Y, or Program Z.
Usually, the power structure has an easy scapegoat to try to distract people from their failings — a certain muckraker (somebody like Ralph Nader in his early days) or, the eternal cause of all problems, the media. Now we have come to a time when the public’s voice can be found and heard by anybody with even the smallest understanding of how to properly use a search engine. Sure, one was always able to write an angry letter to a person in power, but now everybody has the ability to post it online for all to see and judge.
The attempt to stop this is starting to reach new lows. On a legislative basis in the United States, more and more bills are trying to be shoved through Congress to weaken free speech on the Internet. More striking is how some entities are going after individual citizens that have done nothing but express an opinion.
One example of that is a recent case in the American Midwest. A man there was upset that a local radio station fired two hosts that he greatly enjoyed. He expressed this view online and encouraged people to boycott the station until those hosts were rehired. In answer, the owner sued this man claiming that he was engaging in slander and that his actions were unfairly hurting the company’s reputation and income.
There lies the big problem in all of the current battles over Internet freedom. If the ability to speak freely over the Internet is allowed to be legislated and controlled beyond obvious things such as inciting violence and engaging in true libel and slander, there will be no way any person or grassroots group will be able to fight a corporation or government entity with all of its resources and well-paid attorneys.
This possible loss of the public’s last place to have any say in how things are done is why I feel it is so important to not just fight on our own to keep the Internet from being legislated into another version of cable TV, but also to spend time explaining to the still many less tech-savvy citizens among us why this is so incredibly important…so much so that those standing against it are engaged in one of the very few, true bipartisan efforts as wise conservatives and progressives realize what is at stake.
Back to the more personal level where this all started…of course, I did not expect the TV personality that got into it with me on Twitter to suddenly “see the light” and start bashing the hand that feeds him. Even after informing him that I did indeed know exactly how hard it is to work live on the air and be part of a big production after he attacked me for being ignorant of those facts, I could not even get him to the point I had hoped of understanding that I did not hate him or any of the technical crew and that we would just have to agree to disagree on the resulting end product once it passed through he hands of the producers.
Then again, even that was probably asking too much. As it turns out, the broadcasting entity in question seems to have a small but concerted effort to discredit those like me that believe they are ruining a piece of once-great television programming for no reason other than they are so stuck in their own insulated bubble of power and prestige that they cannot see how it affects those of us of all ages on the receiving end who can no longer understand what is going on once it goes through the hands of the producers and hits our TV screens.
So…to you, Mr. Television Personality, just in case you are reading this as I know you are still following me on Twitter, I will say that I am sorry that my calling your program’s end result “trash” was so upsetting even though you said that it did not sting (if it didn’t feel like such a zinger to you, why such harsh responses?). I also repeat in a more expansive way exactly what I said on Twitter and what I have been saying on subject-related blog comments sections for years now…your work individually is highly appreciated as well as that of 99% of everybody else that works both in front of and behind the camera…because I do know all about the study, preparation, time away from home, and pressure everybody on that crew deals with.
That being said, I still stand behind my statement that what you and everybody else on that program do ends up being trash. While I know there are many factors causing this, you know as well as I do that ratings are falling and that the angle upon which I base my complaints is a factor in that. Whether you or your more high-profile co-workers are being directed to “tweet” things that are meant to marginalize such opinions or your responses to such criticism is done solely on your own accord, I would think it would be better to ask yourselves and those above you to spend some time honestly reviewing our concerns rather than trying to frame those of us that do not like your end product anymore as not being true fans or simply ignorant.
Finally to you directly, if you are puzzled as to why things have gotten to the point of using a word like “trash” (and worse by others), it is because our concerns and complaints have gone almost completely un-addressed ever since things started, in our eyes, going in the tank several years ago. As I also said to you on Twitter, perhaps this was good for you to know exactly how I and others felt when your boss responded to a certain complaint by telling us, “Tough” (and, how interesting that the particular “vermin” in question was, years later, scaled back dramatically once some of the media began taking up the cause).
For everybody else reading this…I have intentionally left out who and what this is about for two reasons. For one, I am not trying to make myself famous by getting into a public argument with a celebrity. While I do believe I have legitimate criticisms about this particular program plus the broadcasting experience and knowledge to back them up, naming this person here — even on a place that receives less attention than my meager Twitter audience — would just be grandstanding on my part and that’s not my bag. Besides, despite our differences, I actually like this guy so I have no desire to seem like I am trying to get others to pile on when the real target is those above him.
However, second and most importantly, it does not matter who the person is or what the programming is about. It’s like a business exercise in school where one is asked to work the problem of creating, producing, and marketing a “widget” in order to think of things in an overall manner rather than the minutia of a specific product. The problem is that “power” of all types is having a hard time dealing with those of us speaking up to it through social media and that their tactic of calling the people ignorant or using out-and-out lies about our desires and agendas is only making things worse…because, if we keep fighting, this just might be the first time in a long time that the power structure loses.
Ignore us, belittle us, even sue and jail us…the time has passed when those in power are not going to have a sore spot because I am by no means the only person on the Internet that is going to keep sticking it to The Man. For those that have lost the balls to take criticism in good spirits, look at themselves to see if complaints are justified, merely stick up for their bosses without thought that they could be wrong, or — worst of all — be a part of a corporate attack dog army, then you are The Man just as much as any of the ones that have their mansions and private airplanes that could not give a damn what regular, working people think as long as they keep it to themselves. While certain members of the television media might work harder and longer than even a regular guy on a construction site, it is still a privileged position with perks that regular folks could never imagine…not to mention nobody can ever say that working in TV was the only job they could get.