Oh. Hi there. Thanks for stopping by.
I thought I would welcome those of you who might be first-time visitors.
I’m Allan. I’m an Angry Black Lady.
Natasha Lennard’s article included the following paragraphs:
“What u said was that Obama was against what happened in NY which is inherently dishonest. U made like he lobbied against the bill,” read one tweet; “why did you lie?” demanded another; and “@maddow has Hate and Racism towards Obama!” wrote another. The playwright and journalist J. Samuel Cook tweeted, I feel sorry for all the #LGBT Americans whose victory last night in New York is overshadowed by @maddow’s and @ltdanchoi’s hatred of Obama.”
Allan Brauer, a blogger at AngryBlackLady.com, wrote that Maddow was refusing to acknowledge a quote from a letter Obama wrote to an LGBT group in California in opposition of Prop. 8. “I want to congratulate all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks,” Obama wrote in 2008. Others point to the fact that Obama’s view is “evolving” to illustrate that Maddow’s use of the word “against” did not do justice to the president’s view on marriage equality. [emphasis added]
Maddow may have been a bit too strong in her initial comments, but clearly she touched a fragile, irrational nerve in the body of Obama’s diehard supporters.
When ABL sought out the author for clarification, she acknowledged (via Twitter) that my comments were a “fair critique,” which suggests Lennard is differentiating my feedback from that emanating from the “fragile, irrational nerve in the body of Obama’s diehard supporters.” Hey, I’m a white male, so I’m accustomed to my opinions being given greater credence. But whatever. I don’t feel the need to slam other people for how they expressed their feedback to Rachel, even if I don’t agree with all of it.
I’ve had a few things to say since I joined the team here at ABLC, including some reflection on how people communicate via Twitter, and how some public figures are navigating this highly interactive, two-way medium more effectively than others.
But for now, a few thoughts in no particular order:
1. Thanks for calling more attention to the topic.
That’s primarily what those of us using Twitter to respond to Rachel are asking. Let’s explore this in question in more depth. I’m glad that Lennard wrote her post at Salon and I appreciate being cited in it. And I especially appreciate that she sees a fair critique in the example I proffer.
2. Ms. Lennard, have you actually read the comments section at Salon?
Or the websites of major daily newspapers and television networks? The conversation at Twitter is absolutely no different than any other online medium, except each comment is < 140 characters. There’s wheat, and chaff, and outraged apoplexy, everywhere. The condensed nature of the Twitter format takes away room that might be spent in other media hemming and hawing, and offering some praise along with the critique. It’s blunt. Just as members of some cultures express themselves more bluntly than others, and that bluntness can be misinterpreted.
Back when I still read Salon, it seemed to me that Joan Walsh’s own readers regularly blasted her in the comments over virtually everything she posted, and got into fights with each other as to whether she was right or wrong. I suspect you’ll also find heated conversations among supporters and detractors of Glenn Greenwald in the comments on his Salon blog posts.
When you’re actually expressing your opinions as your profession and earning a living at it, or even doing it for free as I do, your performance will be reviewed. This Internet 2.0 is a two-way street. Deal with it.
3. If you’re going to put ideas out into the blogosphere, you will get feedback.
The feedback itself does not reflect upon you; but how you choose to respond to it does.
If famous people, public figures, reporters, pundits and opinion generators want to express their thoughts but don’t want feedback, they should either refrain from posting content to Twitter; or post there but ignore the responses their content generates; or choose to engage with those who agree and/or disagree with them on an individual basis. But really, sighing and tut-tutting over how misguided, misinformed, evil or deranged one’s critics are is not a response to the meat of their complaints.
4. Part of the wonder of Twitter is its immediacy.
Many who use it value it for this kind of real-time response, and monitor their feedback to see how their ideas and opinions are being received. This can help alert authors to mistakes, misattributions, and possible misrepresentation of their subject’s views. A cat may look at a king. And even meow and hiss at him on Twitter.
Others treat it more as a fan-club space. Comments of praise are RTed, while criticisms are either ignored, brushed off, or even excoriated. Some of us do both: sharing and responding to disagreements and praise, while spotlighting the worst insults we receive for a kind of “would you look at what I deal with” catharsis.
5. Rachel is one of the better on-air personalities working today.
She generally goes farther than most to make sure she’s being accurate and fair in how she’s characterizing the views of others. One of her strengths is that she routinely checks in with guests she’s just introduced to confirm the accuracy of her set-up and introduction.
Rachel also runs a “Department of Corrections” feature from time to time, further emphasizing her sincere wish to make sure her program accurately characterizes the news, current events, and peoples’ political positions.
Rachel has a Twitter account, and promotes it on her program, so people feel free to use it to offer feedback, as I have. She seems to be able to take criticism, and even incorporate it into her future commentary, and it is in this spirit that I have expressed myself.
6. Some of us have made our case as to why we disagree with the words Rachel chose to use last Friday.
Rachel continues to insist that she is correct because her comment characterizes President Obama’s recorded personal views on marriage. I say she is incorrect because Obama has clearly separated his personal views from his policy and legislative position. Every time he’s been given an opportunity, he has indicated either before or after the fact that he supports the right of individual states to come to their own conclusion about the legality of same-sex marriage.
Therefore, to say that Obama “is against what happened here” depends on your definition of “what happened here”. On Friday night, when Rachel spoke those words, the context was “both houses of the NY legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage”. President Obama is nowhere on record opposing that action.
I DVR Rachel’s show daily and watch it often. I was watching live when she made the statement in question. I will almost certainly watch her show again in the future.
And I would like for her to acknowledge that there are multiple interpretations of what she said, and that there are perspectives from which what she said is incorrect. That’s the kind of thing I expect from Rachel that I wouldn’t expect from your average cable TV hack.
7. Natasha Lennard, the author of the Salon piece, knows how to use Twitter, but chose not to.
She has never availed herself of the Twitter medium, or any other communication channel, to ask me any questions. I even sent her a tweet to make sure she knew where to find me if she was interested in learning more. It’s odd, because she’s used Twitter to reach out to potential sources in the past. Though she’s not yet contacted me, she has updated her post, although only to add another link to Greenwald. Oddly, though she linked directly to several other peoples’ tweets in her original post, she did not link to mine, though she characterized them pretty accurately. But she chose to highlight a different sentence in Obama’s letter than I did. I spotlighted this excerpt:
“I support extending fully equal rights and benefits to same sex couples under both state and federal law.”
which I felt was a clearer articulation of a principle. Obama supports the actions that states take toward equal treatment of same-sex and opposite-sex couples. And that’s “what happened here” in New York on Friday night. It would have been interesting to converse with Lennard about the topic, and could have possibly made her reporting more informative.
8. I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled programming now.
I have some good stuff I was working on before the spotlight landed on me today, and I think you’re going to like it. But while you’re here, bookmark the site, check my archives, follow me on Twitter, and read some of the Twitter conversations I’ve documented via Chirpstory.
And thanks for visiting!