Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gone in 20 Seconds

I touched on this briefly yesterday but it's worth elaborating on a little bit: Last night journalist and dick Nir Rosen was on Anderson Cooper's show to apologize for comments he made via Twitter about the recent sexual assault of Lara Logan. He took responsibility, called himself "a jerk" -- which, as alluded to above, doesn't even begin to cover it -- and once again announced that he had resigned his position as an NYU fellow.

What he didn't do, though, is really explain why he said what he said.

And you know something? I honestly believe that's because he can't explain it.

Asking somebody why he or she posted something really dumb on Twitter -- or anyplace else on the internet -- without giving a second thought as to the consequences of those actions is like asking a four-year-old why he wrote on the wall with a crayon. The answer will always be a dispirited, "I'on't know."

Last year I wrote a piece published here and at HuffPo that took a look at whether technology had advanced past our ability to think and to control our own rampaging impulses.

Here's what I said at the time:

"Through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter -- and, yes, even through texting, e-mail and blogging -- we've removed the need for context and contemplation as a prerequisite to opening our big mouths and can now spout an opinion to each other or to the world, occasionally with dire but all-too-avoidable consequences, without giving it, literally, a second thought. We've fractured and fragmented our communication skills to fit the new model of speaking -- one that only requires 140 characters, with as few vowels as possible. Our brains haven't evolved as quickly as our ability to express ourselves. We're officially a nation of knee-jerks...

Just a decade ago -- maybe even less -- the notion of taking a little while to think things over before rendering a decision still seemed like the wisest course of action, an action in and of itself. Now? Take even a day or so to measure your options and it's considered glacial -- because 24 hours, one full news cycle revolution on cable and in talk radio and the span in which 850-gazillion tweets were fired back and forth on Twitter, is like an eternity to us. While you were sitting there analyzing, Mr. Smarty Pants, everyone else was actually doing."

Particularly with Twitter, which is a form of communication that's just about as id-friendly and as instantaneous as it gets, we can now broadcast whatever idiotic impulse we have to the entire world.

Unfortunately, as was said so perfectly in The Social Network, "The internet is written in ink." Those little words on that little screen on your smart-phone may feel like the ultimate form of ephemera, but once they're out there -- they're out there.

Rosen just learned that the hard way.


Clay said...

I only post this because I had a similar visceral reaction to the initial CBS headline. Not the story: the headline.

Over the weekend, I'd read a story about Logan describing having been detained at some point during the previous week - a completely different incident. Then, earlier this week, when I saw the headline that said "Lara Logan Assaulted During Egypt Protests," I reflexively assumed it was in reference to the same detention incident I'd read about earlier and actually said aloud (luckily, in the privacy of my office), "Christ, Lara...give it a fucking rest already." I didn't bother reading the story, and I am a bit of a newshound.

Obviously, when the story blew up and I did go back and read the rest of the story, I was horrified at my earlier reaction...and morbidly relieved that I hadn't posted such on Twitter. I think this started in a similar way with Rosen. Where I think the "jerk" came into play was in Rosen's inability/refusal to acknowledge his initial mistake once it was pointed out, attempting to play the whole thing off as gallows humor.

I think the moral to this story is very likely closer to "read the story before you post a link and comment about it on Twitter, and if you make a mistake, fucking own it immediately" rather than "Nir Rosen doesn't think sexual assault is serious."

Anonymous said...

I believe it was Joe Rogan who said, "Trying to get something off the Internet is like trying to get pee out of a pool."

Alanna said...

Like most in my life, I have learned this the hard way. I have little to no impulse control with my words - which fits perfectly in my improv class - but has never bode well for me in grade school, HS, sometimes college, work and now...the interwebz. So this hits close to home for me. I even winced while reading his response "I don't know". Oh boy, do I.

Eric said...

Not having cable, I didn't see Rosen on Anderson Cooper. But I did read his nonapology on Salon.

Y'know, here's the thing: I can understand posting something stupid on Twitter or elsewhere. I've posted things on Twitter that I regretted, and comments online I've regretted, and even entire posts on my own blog I've regretted. But I'd like to think I'm man enough to acknowledge when I was being a complete and total dick.

And that's not what I see Rosen doing on Salon. Maybe he did it on Cooper, like you say he did. What he did over at Salon is offer a whole lot of deflection and excuses, with a little bit of "Boy, why are people picking on me when so many other people are so much worse?" thrown in for good measure. The secret to really acknowledging when one's been a dick is to skip all that crap and just keep it to the basic message: "I was a dick, and I'm sorry I was a dick," not all this other stuff Rosen throws in.

I'm not saying he isn't a nice guy. Frankly (and maybe this is a sign of my sheltered existence), I'd never even heard of him until this whole business. Maybe he's the nicest guy in the world. But so far, I'm not impressed. I don't understand why you'd go mouthing off on Twitter or anywhere else about an sexual assault until you knew what you were talking about, and maybe not even then, but even allowing for all the kinds of stupidity one can fall into--and the gods of stupid know I've put my foot, hell, my whole head into things without thinking--if you've been a dick, just man up and say you were a dick and don't try to gloss it, patch it, deflect it, whatever.

This, by the way, is the difference between a mensch and a four-year-old (I think). Sure, a four-year-old can't explain why he did something. But a mensch has enough self-awareness to see past a thoughtless action and perceive the inexplicable reason for it: the four-year-old says "I'on't know" and the mensch says, "I did it because I was acting like a dick and I'm really sorry I fucked up."

That's my two-cents' worth, anyway, and what I aspire to however frequently I blow it.