The blog post I dare not publish

By Caitlin Kelly

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Actually, there are several.

Maybe you have a few as well.

These are not posts that are deeply and personally confessional, but my (generally left-leaning) opinions on politics and my disgust with where we’ve ended up in 2018.

Here’s a recent New York Times column by Michelle Goldberg that expresses it well:

It’s a natural response — and, in some cases, the right response — to try to hold the line against political reaction, to shame people who espouse shameful ideas. But shame is a politically volatile emotion, and easily turns into toxic resentment. It should not be overused. I don’t know exactly where to draw the line between ideas that deserve a serious response, and those that should be only mocked and scorned. I do know that people on the right benefit immensely when they can cultivate the mystique of the forbidden.

In February, Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist who has garnered a cultlike following, asked, in an interview with Vice, “Can men and women work together in the workplace?” To him, the Me Too movement called into question coed offices, a fundamental fact of modern life, because “things are deteriorating very rapidly at the moment in terms of the relationships between men and women.”

Having to contend with this question fills me with despair. I would like to say: It’s 2018 and women’s place in public life is not up for debate! But to be honest, I think it is. Trump is president. Everywhere you look, the ugliest and most illiberal ideas are gaining purchase. Refusing to take them seriously won’t make them go away. (As it happens, I’m participating in a debate with Peterson next week in Toronto.)

I shy far away, here and on Facebook and usually on Twitter, from so many political subjects — gun use and abortion, being two of them — that will only provoke trolls, bullies and harassers.

I have no time, energy or appetite to get into fights with ghosts over this stuff, no matter how passionately I feel about them, which I do.

It’s become a world of virtue signalling, spittle-flecked (out) rage and worse.

I see some bloggers sticking resolutely close to home with soothing/inspiring images and posts.

I get it.

I wish I dared.

But I don’t.

 

Are you also holding back on your blog and other social media?

48 thoughts on “The blog post I dare not publish

  1. I don’t hold back anymore Caitlin. I have the luxury of being an outsider looking in and don’t have to worry about where my next pay cheque comes from, or whether an editor will refuse to use my work.because of pressure from above. In fairness, most things that happen over there affect me but some things affect me because they affect my country.
    So much sickens me like the deaths in schools caused by young people not in full control of their tempers having access to weapons. Just reading about the number of deaths is upsetting.
    The rise of the vitriolic right and the welcome give to racists like the KKK.The refusal of the man voted to be President to act like one, preferring to tweet all day.
    The withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement, it’s refusal to sign up again for Iran and the nuclear agreement showing the US cannot be trusted to keep it’s word. The dismantling of Obamacare with no viable replacement, The tax rebate for the 1% which has created the largest debt the US has ever been in. All these things and more upset me which I can speak out against without fear of retribution.
    I’m sorry your hands are so tied but maybe you can manage a silent cheer when any blogs come out with an opinion you share but you cannot share with others. It’s a shame because I imagine your writings would be very effective against the injustices, But believe me I do understand why.I do acknowledge that these ramblings are mine alone and I don’t suggest your opinions are the same.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    1. Thanks for this.

      My silence/cowardice is less about any professional repercussions — damn the torpedoes — but the very real issue that many women now face of being threatened via social media with death, rape, and doxxing — the publication of all our most intimate details. I don’t think I’m that important (for sure) but I have no appetite for that kind of attack. And it happens to women and it’s frightening.

      I was bullied mercilessly last year by (!) a bunch of women writers in an online group and had to block them all on Twitter and was even worried they would harass me when I spoke (as I am doing today again) at a writer’s conference. It’s hard to explain how insane people get online.

  2. Jan Jasper

    This only relates tangentially perhaps, but I have cut way back on the time I spend on Facebook; I am fortunate that I don’t depend on social media for making connections that lead to income. The only reason, for me, to spend any time on Facebook is to spread the word about causes such as the National Resources Defense Council, or the Equal justice Institute, or Planned Parenthood, or others that I support. I also use Facebook to share information about progressive candidates I support who are running for office around the nation. In both cases I encourage my Facebook friends to follow their work and donate money. But I no longer read much of anything in my feed, partly because I came to realize it was a big time sink, but also because I was seeing a suspicious number of graphic, violent images, which I begin to suspect were placed in my feed deliberately, based on what algorithms could infer about me – just so I would get worked up. The outrageous revelations about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have supported this hunch. Sorry that this doesn’t relate directly to blogging, I don’t have a blog myself, but it is about social media.
    Another related topic is whether it makes sense to try to reason with, say, the friend or relative who is a Trump supporter. Call me close-minded, but I have no friends who are Trump supporters, and if I had a relative who was, I would probably have nothing to do with them. Nick Kristoff in the Times has written about the value of talking to people with whom you disagree, and he speaks eloquently about people who he grew up with in rural Oregon who are good people, and many of them are Trump voters. I am always moved by what Kristoff writes, yet ultimately I haven’t changed my mind. I can’t say I’m proud of it – it’s just how I feel. I can’t make nice with people who are in the process of ruining what used to be a fine, albeit imperfect, democracy.

    1. Thanks for this….All good points.

      I enjoy Facebook for the contact it gives me with far-flung friends and colleagues, but am sick of the arguments people insist on having with one another.

      I agree that listening to “the other” is important — but I, too, have no ability to sympathize at this point with anyone who supports the current President. He is making history in a way that horrifies and scares millions.

  3. WordPress is the only form of social media I participate in. While I don’t mind commenting on the posts of others, as I am sure you are very well aware, I haven’t written a post on my own blog since last October. It seems that now, more than ever, the purpose of “discussion” is to prevail, rather than to understand. Reductio ad absurdum has changed to reductio ad nauseam. It’s like the Phantom Tollbooth: “Don’t say there’s nothing to do in the doldrums”, with the tweezers and the big pile of sand. People whose arguments have no legs will split hairs endlessly, without conceding the tiniest fraction of a point, until they wear you out, at which time they will return to the original point of discussion and claim “victory” over the entire thing. It makes me sick.
    I have lots of opinions that would only bring me headaches while doing nothing to advance the dialogue should I express them. I don’t have time for that.
    I hope your encounter with doctor Peterson goes well for both of you and that the entire discussion will be elevated. That can only be good. See ya.

    1. Thanks…

      No encounter with Peterson for me.

      I grew up in, and return to ever more frequently now to, Canada — a nation that prizes civil discourse. On a recent trip to Montreal I got into a lively POLITE conversation with 2 men there who were discussing their political points of view. Both were opposite. Both remained calm, respectful and polite.

      I miss that. I think the notion of civil discourse is almost lost — and with it a great deal of potential progress.

  4. I hold back A LOT. Especially on Facebook. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a snarky comment only to delete it before I ever post it. Maybe I should be a little bolder, but I’ve always kind of been this way.

  5. This is the only form of social media I really use. I was always suspicious of Facebook and also found it tiresome too. But I don’t need to use it as an income generating tool. I write about narcissism (although much less now) and as a result have encountered various species of narcissists and other assorted cretins. Writing about narcissism can be messy. If I suspect that the commenter is trying to engage me in confrontation, I just thank him or her for sharing and then I move on. I like to leave the comments so people seeking education on this can get a balanced view. Sometimes though, it’s just not worth the irritation, so I think I get what you mean.

    1. Exactly!

      I do enjoy Facebook and Twitter — just went out for dinner last night here in NYC with someone I only “know” from Twitter, a sportswriter from Ohio, who I would never have met otherwise and had never met. He’s here for a writing conference. We had a great time.

      I am very careful to be chipper and upbeat (most of the time) on Twitter. Not to be saccharine, but to send a message — this is me, at my best. I don’t see the value of adding more rage and vitriol to the mix at this point.

  6. I do hold back, but in part more out of a sense of respect I suppose, as I recognize that I can be a tad evangelical ( or so my father has told me).

    It is because of him I take a middle way when I write on these politically charged subjects on my blog. I value opposition, and since my father and I differ so much on our ideologies, it has provided me with a point of view I would only see on TV. Call it a generational gap, or maybe dementia? har har. : )

    Also, I hold back since who really wants to be lectured to? I’m not the Washington Post. AND…ya catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

    It is a balancing act.

    1. Thanks…well said!

      I agree with you about anger on the Internet. We only “know” one another in very limited, edited ways, so when someone is angry there is this “normal”, i.e. they live at that boiling point, and is that attractive? To whom and why?

      I prefer rational argument.

  7. i generally tend to offer a more subtle approach to sharing my politics and practices, though i do integrate my beliefs and thoughts into what i choose to write or post as a natural part of who i am. if someone reads my blog on a regular basis, it is clear to see where i fall, though more through inference and choices i make rather than because of a direct statement. there are always people out there who will choose to respond in a negatively aggressive manner, and when that happens i just acknowledge it and move on, choosing not to get into a debate about it with someone who is not really wanting a discussion. in your profession, as well as mine, i know that it’s important to maintain somewhat of an ambiguous stance on things, though there are times….

    1. Technically, journalists aren’t supposed to publicly declare any sort of allegiance — certainly in the U.S. — because we are expected (especially if you have a FT job and an employer with a social media policy) to remain impartial and objective.

      We aren’t, (as human beings), but we have to maintain that facade. Some do, some don’t.

  8. Well, you know me, Caitlin, and I don’t hold back (see my blog posted last night entitled “the Gaza killings”). But I totally understand why you – as a freelance journalist – might feel the need to not openly rant. Who wants to antagonize or alienate potential publications that might offer writing assignments?

    As for Facebook (ew) and Twitter? Get rid of them.

    1. True!

      I actually still enjoy using Facebook (with very mixed feelings about their ethics) and Twitter. I’ve found several jobs and clients through Twitter. For the self-employed, staying less visible is really no longer an option.

  9. I do not think that I censor myself so much as I choose to concentrate on the things that I can control, to cultivate my own garden in areas where I know I can claim expertise. Why waste my energy on flamewars?

    1. This is the heart of it, for me.

      I feel a kind of despair and resignation that is appalling and demoralizing. Until or unless we can engineer political change, nothing WILL change. And, at least in the U.S. right now, it feels hopeless to me.

  10. Yeah, I do hold back. It’s partially because where I work, you have to be very careful about what sort of opinions you post online, but also because I just can’t summon the energy to post my anger sometimes. Not to mention all the people directing their anger at me if they disagree with my opinion and telling me I should kill myself or something dumb like that.

      1. I’ve experienced places where discourse can be civil and kind (outside of Facebook groups for like-minded people, that is), but it’s rare and usually either comes down to a shared desire (like with the #SaveLucifer campaign, which I’m pretty heavy in) or wherever the discussion is being held is already a very positive place (once on a YouTube video about new writers for Doctor Who, I left a comment about how I’d like to write for the show, and it got such positive feedback). Other than that though, it’s pretty much rolling the dice ninety-percent of the time.

      2. How do you define “knowing,” though? Because with the fandoms, you get a lot of strangers communing and sometimes working together over a shared love of something. Is there a form of acquaintanceship and trust based on that?
        Or am I over thinking things?

  11. Steve

    Thank you for your always thoughtful posts. This is something that I have been thinking about. I value my coworkers for all they contribute, and worry about how I compliment those contributions. I would never want to hurt my relationship by being too personal, but we’re going to work close to each other and have those celebrations of achievements.

    1. It’s tricky! It’s all public and it’s all permanent.

      Sree Sreenivasan (who coaches on social media best practices) said it well: Whoever you are in real life, you’re like that on the Internet — but BIGGER. So you have to be the best version of yourself, I think.

  12. The blogs I (at first) dare not to publish are usually my best ones and the ones I always get asked about. I have a few in the waiting line at the moment, but I’m not ready yet. I will be. They are rather personal than political though.

  13. I am fairly cautious about what and where I comment on social media, in part because it’s too easy for brief remarks to be misunderstood, or for what I am trying to say to be misappropriated. I think it’s necessary to be careful because the frameworks of communication that social media provides also lend themselves to misinterpretation and, ultimately, to bullying – particularly in Facebook groups. Surprisingly, I’ve found that the points of tension aren’t limited to the classic ‘don’t go there’ topics (sex, politics and religion). I think it speaks much of the human condition that this is so: people seem able to hand their sense of self-worth on any intellectual construct and then react badly when it’s challenged. Including, I discover, battleship design. I kid you not.

    I’m perhaps less circumspect on my blog, where it’s possible to be a bit more discursive and thus outline an argument and proper rationale for what’s being said. Even there, caution is needed: it’s a form of brand, and even in long-form writing it’s possible to tip various sacred cows, often inadvertently: I think I mentioned in another comment here about the way I was stalked, earlier this year, after publishing a post that referred to the conventional historical view of New Zealand’s Treaty of Waitangi.

    The problem, as always, is that abuse on social media is costless to those doing it, often anonymous, and the system provides a framework for bullying which is almost impossible to stop. It’s not a great indictment of the human condition. It worries me: many people are, indeed, reasonable and can have a reasonable conversation via comments – even agreeing to disagree in civil manner, and maybe the course of discussion will come up with new ideas that neither party has thought of, to the benefit of both. But so often this doesn’t seem to happen: instead, it seems people have to win, at all cost, whatever it takes. I guess for them it’s a form of validation of self in a world that, for them, is also a zero-sum game. And social media often facilitates them doing so. Sigh…

  14. This is a big issue that for me goes beyond the blogging and social media realms. How much of ourselves do we reveal as writers? It’s a constant struggle or perhaps a balancing act. I tend to blab far too much about myself in business contexts which can be good for breaking the ice and creating trust, but quickly puts you in potentially dangerous territory. And because of social media, it’s impossible to draw a line between what you write for different audiences. I have tried, by having separate work and private/writing profiles, but inevitably the two converge. So it’s a compromise, and increasingly I tend to avoid commenting and sharing views without taking the time to consider the fall out.

    1. Exactly. I am “me” on Twitter — i.e. often playful and fun (not goofy) because that IS my brand. If you want stuffy/corporate work, that’s not me. But I agree, drawing the lines is a challenge — how personal to be and how professional and who perceives them as such?

  15. Seshadhri S.

    I have actually written about something that I feel may be taken as a controversial topic in view of current events in a certain part of the world. It’s also a matter of perspective I think, because while I find my writing non-offensive, a friend of mine thinks that if it is read by the wrong people, it could be misconstrued. I think it is not just about striking a balance act but also about seeing how much criticism you can withstand.

  16. ladyzoeblog

    I do, BIG TIME!!! The few times I’ve dared to have any kind of opinion about something -even something as silly as the tradition of smashing wedding cake on the face (I hate that)- I have received awful hate comments. I would think an appropriate retort would go something like, “I think it’s playful and fun” or “but it takes the seriousness out of it” Not “You f*#@ing idiot, is that all you can think about?!”

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