When people complain about the relentless snark and bile of the internet, I never get it. Maybe I’ve just feathered too comfortable a nest for myself in Reader, on Twitter, and here on the Sesame Street of Snarkmarket. Whatever the case, the complaint just never rings true. It never corresponds to my actual experience of the internet.
Tonight, it does.
I’m not going to write about this at length, but I do want to make two small contributions to the conversation (mostly snarky, mostly bilious) about my former colleague Jim Romenesko, my first employer the Poynter Institute, and my friend Julie Moos. (Here’s the post that kicked it off, just in case you’re not already inside this particular filter bubble. None of this will make any sense if you don’t know the backstory.)
First: I like Choire Sicha’s thinking and writing a lot, but man was it hard to read this post. To my eye, it goes beyond criticism: Choire’s post is cruel. And so much of the Twitter pile-on, from so many people I admire, has been similarly cruel. It’s been painful to watch. And so, finally: I get it.
Second: I think it’s fair to summarize the public response to Poynter’s assessment of Jim’s editing as: “Are you kidding me? Nobody cared about that anyway!” There’s also a twist of: “You guys at Poynter over-intellectualize everything.” This is, I guess, an easy response, but it’s also an unsettling one in an era when we (read: the people who read Romenesko) criticize so many other institutions precisely for being opaque and thoughtless.
Listen: there is value in thinking through problems in a structured way. I read Julie’s post—the articulation of a considered, collective decision by many people at Poynter—and yep… I totally disagree with the conclusion. But I admire the clarity and transparency of the reasoning, and I wish we had more institutions working and writing this way. When they do, we ought to argue with them in good faith. I mean jeez, I swear I’m not reaching for false equivalency here… but don’t you think “nobody cared about that anyway” is easy to abuse? Don’t you think it’s been abused before?
Okay, that’s it.
I am, of course, deeply biased by my debt to Poynter and my friendship with Julie and many others there. Poynter was the first place I worked after college, and it’s the place where Matt and I sat in a little computer lab and cobbled together EPIC 2014.
But even so, I’d like to think I’m arguing something general and reasonable here. Simply put, it’s this:
- YES to public reasoning rooted in real values.
- NO to cruelty. NEVER to cruelty.
If it was all floating in from far away, just another toxic cloud from Mordor, I wouldn’t bother writing anything. But it’s not. It’s coming from people who read this RSS feed.