A couple of days ago I wrote a blog post for the first time since I can remember. The subject was trolls - the internet kind, not the under the bridge kind. It could not have been more timely as I learned earlier today that a local "troll", one Elaine Murray (@emlaughsallot88) had her account suspended from twitter. Either last night, maybe even earlier today. As a result, I find myself in the unenviable position of having to defend one of London's most despised and vitriol-filled people. Let's be clear, not because I think she is right -- simply because she has been wronged.
Nothing happens in a vacuum. Well, wait ... perhaps I should back up a bit. There is no way of knowing why the account was in fact suspended. I should be clear that I actually tried myself to appeal the suspension earlier today -- but as it turns out one cannot challenge any account being suspended but their own. I guess it makes sense - but it is a shame, as I did feel compelled to help if I could. However, I cannot. With the possible exception being this -- to do what I can do ensure that it never happens again. Perhaps we should start with possible reasons why it was suspended ...
My initial thought, and one echoed by many, was that she was 'reported as spam' - which is likely the worst of all the reasons possible. Oh wait, I have a whole bunch of disclaimers to make, which I might was well get out of the way now. (Yes, I expect this whole post to be like this - my mind has a LOT of things I want to cover, simultaneously, but I'll likely grow tired in a few minutes and give up - it's sort of my thing.) First of all, for the sake of brevity, anything that follows should be prefaced here with 'in my opinion'. I hope and trust that goes without saying in a personal blog, but it is possible that some of things you will read going forward may not be factual, but do remain nonetheless what I believe to be true, hence opinion. Furthermore, some people are going to recognize yourself in what follows - despite my rage (and now emboldened by a few adult beverages) I will be careful only to quote what has been said publicly - and DMs and private conversations will remain confidential.) Now, where were we? Ah yes, my beloved #LdnOnt hashtag. In short, it stands for 'London, Ontario' and if the content of the tweet is related to this city (or surrounding area) the hashtag is valid. There is no one out there that reads more #LdnOnt tweets than me. I can say this with confidence because as it turns out I read all of them. I am not alone in this of course, but the best anyone else could hope to do is tie me - which I know many do. Do I get mad when local real estate agents and/or local businesses flood the search? Of course. Do I report it as spam? Of course not. To be clear, if I decided it was worth my time and energy to call everyone's mother a whore using that hashtag, in my opinion (oops!) it would be valid - provided they all lived in our beloved forest city. I won't of course - but that's not the point.
The fact remains that if you're talking about #LdnOnt the hashtag is being used properly. In this case, if "Elaine’s every little thought and slanderous opinion" is in fact related to #LdnOnt - she has every right to use the hashtag, regardless of how you feel about what she is saying - or how she is saying it. It might be hateful crap, and likely is - but is still deserving of #LdnOnt. I spent much of the day thinking this was the reason -- too many people had reported her for spam ... and while this idea made me both disappointed and furious, things quickly got a lot more ominous ...
About 2:00 (PM) today I got a tweet from @NotElaineMurray (account now apparently deleted - seems totally legit and reeks of transparency) that the issue was in fact that Elaine has called someone a moron and/or squirrel-lover or something. (I'm now forced to guess here - because as I mentioned, the account is gone and therefore so is the comment.) First of all, really? Second of all, REALLY?!! Are we so thin-skinned that we cannot handle this type of verbal abuse? Perhaps more importantly, who is next? Are we about to lose Butch McLarty off twitter for things he says about Orser, the Rippers (I pray this is now over) and countless others? Perhaps Oliver Hobson for calling someone a 'moronic idiot'? Or, and let's be fair here, our beloved city councillor Nancy Branscombe who once (in)famously called one of her colleagues a 'bullshitter' via a tweet during a live council meeting? These examples are by no means more offensive, despite the fact I tended to agree with most of these assessments at the time. Elaine can be mean, misguided and perhaps even certifiably crazy - but I'm of the opinion that she gets it as bad as she gives - and I think it is worth noting that she likely did believe the person was in fact a moron and/or squirrel-lover, despite the fact she was likely wrong. (Inexplicably, this comment appears not to have been honoured with #LdnOnt. Although I suspect I know towards whom it was aimed.) For all the talk of free-speech and engagement, this is somewhat telling nature of the true nature of London, and I would suggest marks a dark day. Melodramatic? Perhaps. But abuse? Is this really why her account was suspended? Am I the only one currently living in a glass house? (Worth noting: I've read your tweets.)
I'm not the first to write about this as it turns out. I purposely took some time to take a hike with my family (it was lovely) and hopefully clear my head - although I admit my anger has barely subsided. My good friend, Sean Quigley, who I agree with almost all of the time wrote a blog post earlier. In fact, before we continue I'll suggest you take a moment to read it, which you can do so HERE. Sean is quick to point out, and I hope is the case, that twitter's terms of service allows them to suspend your account if a "large number of people are blocking you". I encourage people to block others, (while I'm hesitant to do so myself) and hope and trust that 'report as spam' has not become the new 'block'. The worst I can personally do to someone is the dreaded 'unfollow' which is a fate worse then ... well, I AM Canadian after all. Back to point, Sean is 100% right that he has every right to block - as we all do, but if that was not in fact the reason for Elaine's banishment then we all have some explaining to do.
I'm actually willing to accept some of the blame for this. I actually believed the hype. There have been countless articles about the number of citizen groups that have sprung up locally as of late, and the suggestion here (in my mind at least) is that London was somehow unique and we were somehow (this is likely my optimistic nature speaking) on the verge of making a difference. The #LdnOnt hashtag has been embraced to an almost unmatched level and I thought we had some sort of all-inclusive, let's-work-this-shit out thing happening. It felt good. I'm starting to realize I was wrong. We all were. It is things not unlike what happened today that makes people skeptical and actually creates the Elaine Murrays and London_Watchs of the world. (Side note: I actually went drinking with 'London Watch' recently - and while 'they' (avoiding male/female pronoun - not to be confused with the plural) may be a lot of things, they are decidedly not Elaine Murray. Oh, but I can ALSO report that they told me earlier today that they "(were) attacked months ago - had to sign off on some goofy Twitter promise to get reinstated. Others may get that same opp(ortunity)." Yes, you read that right -- this is not an isolated incident.) Of course, what seems to be the prevailing opinion on twitter today is (and I'm paraphrasing) is "I didn't have anything to do with Elaine's suspension - but she deserved it.". Hard to argue with this - except for one simple fact, she didn't.
Perhaps the timing is purely coincidental, but methinks some people doth protest too much:
No one was Morris. But wait, didn't Elaine and your wife have an argument a few days ago? If only there was a way to go back in time and check ... oh wait! There is!
To be clear, I not actually suggesting these things are actually related, but the timing sure is, well, how should it be said? Oh, I know ... the 'optics are bad'. While Elaine's modus operandi has remained unchanged, her twitter status sure has not been as fortunate as of late. I don't actually believe in conspiracies (but Elaine sure did - R.I.P) but the immediate and full support that Megan received (once again - to be clear - I understand why) certainly could have been a factor in today's events - if only for the sheer number of blocks. So, what's next?
I've had more than one person tell me they were thinking of quitting twitter because of all the politics and bullshit. I tell them they should, as twitter is clearly not for them. I've got no 'skin in the game' and wore the fact that I was unable to be emotional affected by twitter as a badge of pride. I can no longer make such a claim. I was upset the day that Stewart Blair left twitter and I am equally incensed today. "But Lincoln", you say, "Stew left on his own accord and Elaine is a crazy bitch." It's hard to argue with these points - but I will anyways. This is a dangerous path we are going down and a trend I would prefer not to see London associated with. I had a front row seat to the twitter conversation that led to Stew's decision to leave twitter and while I won't profess he was without blame - I would be hard pressed to say he was in the wrong. Similarly, I sit here trying to justify why Elaine now is not currently on twitter and find myself coming up short.
Earlier today, Abe Oudshoorn (@AbeOudshoorn), who I barely know outside of twitter but consider a friend nonetheless, said the following:
Yet, here we are. And as much as Abe is great and Elaine is terrible - the fact remains that this is a fight Elaine deserves to win. I desperately want Elaine back on twitter, and Stew even more so. We need differing opinions if for no other reason than to assure ourselves that our own opinions are right. To validate them. As a wise man (Mahatma Gandhi) once said, "Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding." This is clearly not the exact quote I was looking for (I grow increasingly tired and am not yet out of beer) but if we truly believe in free speech and engagement, this is not a 'as long as I agree' or ' unless they're a bully' proposition. You're in or you're out. Do or do not - there is no try. (Yoda) So yes, I'm willing to fight. I'll even go into the said battle admitting that on paper I'm on the 'wrong side'. It's not a decision I take lightly, but the time is always right to do what is right. (Martin Luther King Jr.) Enough of the quotes. I'm done. (Told you I had no stamina.)
Unlike others who (seemingly) falsely claim it, I actually do value opinions that differ from my own. In the future? Block - yes, but (falsely) report for spam -- not cool. I'm not asking you to feel bad, or even like her -- I don't. But if you don't at least recognize that an injustice was done today ... well, we're going to have to 'disagree (hopefully) without being disagreeable' (Stew Blair - RIP). I should add here that if I end up being conservative or 'right-wing' in any way as a result of this entire shit-show I will never forgive any of you. (I'm not a scientist, so I assume like ebola or homosexuality, it must be catchy.)
In closing, while I am in total and absolute disagreement with almost everything Elaine says, I completely stand behind her right to say it. I suspect that many of you (and thank you for it) who asked me to be more vocal of my own opinions on my little dog-and-pony TV show will be less supportive in this sentiment going forward. Which is fine. It was only ever only one man's opinion to begin with. My own. Which I went out of my way not to make public. What's way more important is all of our opinions. Even those we don't like. That's the deal. We all want to be heard, and hopefully to have our ideas agreed with and embraced. I get this. Well, I understand it. That's all Elaine wanted as well. If she said it loud enough and often enough we would all see the errors of our ways. But we didn't see. And now we never will. Because whose opinions we're actually right? Ours were. So I guess we won -- where's the victory party?
"When you are winning a war almost everything that happens can be claimed to be right and wise." - Winston Churchill