A wake up call for those with a prominent platform

In the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attack there has been a lot of soul searching but the one that has come to the forefront are things said by politicians (past, present and those who wish to enter politics) along with those in the media and how those ‘hot takes’ contributed, each it its own way, to moving the Overton window further to the right thus making what would have otherwise been unacceptable modes of discourse to suddenly enter into the mainstream. I am not saying that a single person caused it but rather it was a culmination of many different people over many years that fed into the monster. I’m going to put some observations out there and I’ll let you take from it what you like:

  1. I’ve had a look back at my time back when I had a YouTube channel and was involved in politics and I was always shocked even back then when politicians would stoke the flames of prejudice for political points scoring. Did I have some hot takes myself? off the cuff remarks? sure but they were never like what the likes of Winston Peters, Don Brash or recently a tweet regarding post by Stephen Berry (ACT Party candidate) from 2013. What was the most shocking thing I said? “marriage should be privatised” to which I was asked by a reporter “wouldn’t that allow polygamy?” and my response was a flippant “a girl and two guys, a guy and two girls – its all good”. Cringe worthy? sure, but hardly in the same ballpark of Don Brash and his “Kiwi/Iwi” campaign.
  2. It is possible to be critical of something without descending into hatred, racism and bigotry but to avoid that descent you actually have to know what the hell you’re talking about. Nothing irritates me more than reading a newspaper where the journalist is completely clueless about the subject that they’re reporting on – great, you have a journalism degree but that means diddly-squat in the grand scheme of things if you can’t even be bothered educating yourself about the difference between a niqqab, burkha, chador and a hijab. It is abundantly clear that there are far too many journalists who are grossly unqualified for the subjects they’re covering resulting in masses of misinformation being propagated with the newspapers themselves of little interest regarding accuracy. Then the situation is compounded by the fact that these media outlets are more concerned, when hiring, whether the person they’re interviewing has a ‘journalism degree’ rather than whether they’re qualified to cover a given subject. Friendly tip to the editor of the major newspapers in New Zealand – you don’t need a journalism degree to do something that any person with a humanities degree can do given that understanding primary and secondary sources, cross examining credibility and context etc. are part and parcel with getting a humanities degree – mine is in Religious Studies and Philosophy.
  3. People change and evolve – what they might have said 10 years ago might not represent them today and I am reminded of that when I was watching this video (at the bottom of this article) of a gentleman who went from being a neo-nazi to someone that fights neo-nazis. That maybe at the extreme end of the spectrum but the point is that people can change but whether you give them a second chance isn’t about what they claim now but what their actions actually are. Take Tucker Carlson for example, who has been raked over the coals for his racist and xenophobic views. Tucker Carlson is the prime example of what happens when you ignore the festering sore that is racism and xenophobia by writing off some like that as someone with ‘spicy hot takes’ when in reality he was making it pretty damn clear even in the early years what his views actually were. In other words it is all very well to say that what happened in the past is no longer you today but what have you done to distance yourself from that past?
  4. The social media companies need to do a better job at policing their platform and it wouldn’t require much effort. Take the second video from CBSN – a casual look through the comment section then combine that with all the people who downvoted the video – you’ve easily got 2000 people just then you can ban from the whole Google platform and then share those details with Facebook who can see whether any the of the details (email, IP address etc) match up with users on their platform. How long would it take? around 30 minutes worth of work.
  5. If you have a platform – look and learn about the type of people who are quoting what you write and who is reading your articles based on the feedback they provide either directly (assuming you publish on a website that has a comment section) or indirectly such as your article being shared on one of the big websites like Reddit. If you’re getting undesirable characters giving you ‘mad props’ for what you’re saying then maybe it is time you reflect on what you’re writing and whether those are the sort of people who you want your work to be associated with. If your intention isn’t to attract those sorts of people then have a good hard look at what you’re writing and how they’re interpreting it – if you’re using ambiguous language then the net result will always be an audience willing to inject their interpretation rather than allow you, the writer, to speak for yourself. Yes, and if it means you have to clarify what you mean when you use certain terms then expand and keep doing so ensure that no ambiguity is there – that it doesn’t require the user to know your repertoire of writing to understand what you mean as the user will only understand what you meant to say based on what you mention specifically in that article.

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