Twitter and the Professional Athlete

Chris LongAs anyone who reads my blog regularly knows I’m a huge sports fan and being from St. Louis that means I follow the Cardinals, Rams, and Blues pretty closely. It is a story from the St. Louis Rams that caught my attention today.

Most people are aware that a number of professional athletes use Twitter to Tweet their thoughts. This can be a revealing insight into their lives although I don’t follow any athletes nor do I read many Tweets. Chris Long of the Rams was being interviewed after a practice session during what are called OTA (Organized Team Activities).

In the interview he was asked what it was like to be back on Twitter. Long took a break from using Twitter during the off-season but is now tweeting again. If you watch the interview I linked he is asked the question at about 1:00.

He started to give the boring sort of answer that athletes often give to questions of that nature but then stopped himself, thought for a moment, and gave what I thought was an incredible answer. “It hasn’t felt that great,” he said. “I was actually happier in general when I wasn’t on it.”

What was his reasoning? Happily he went on to explain with a forthright honesty that came out loud and clear to me. “It’s just sobering. Twitter is an awful reminder of what’s out there … it’s bad, it’s bad.”

Chris was talking specifically about the LeBron James situation. James, arguably the best player in the NBA and potentially one of the best in the history of the league, is in the midst of his fourth straight NBA Championship series of which his team has won the last two. The air-conditioning went out early in the game and by the last quarter James began suffering severe cramps. He was unable to finish. A lot of nastiness ensued from Twitter. James is both very popular and much hated. That’s its own story. Let’s get back to Chris Long.

“They probably think the same thing about me, but, oh well,” said Chris with a shrug. I can tell you for a fact that there are quite a lot of people out there saying extremely hateful things about Chris Long. I read comments on stories all the time. Long doesn’t “probably think” people are saying nasty things about him, he knows it. In Long’s return to Twitter he defended LeBron with supportive tweets.

As a professional athlete and as a man who uses Twitter, Long cannot claim immunity from attacks or say that people shouldn’t be cruel. People have the right to say vile and nasty things about Long and James. That being said, I can only imagine the immense self-loathing that must fill a person in order for them to spew such awful things. I know some of my readers will think I’m exaggerating the level of vitriol on Twitter. I’m not. When you read some of the comments it is an “awful reminder of what’s out there.” The hate and the anger that boils just below the calm surface of our everyday lives. In your neighbor perhaps, or the person next to you in line at the grocery store, or a co-worker. It’s sobering to think of someone so close, so filled with anger.

Would that everyone could worry more about themselves and less about others.

And that’s what Long’s little speech reminded me. What is Libertarianism all about?

It’s not getting to do what I want. It’s about having discipline, self-control, and a sense of personal responsibility so that I can do what I want and let you do what you want.

Good for you, Chris Long. A tip of the hat.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

The best laid schemes of Dongles and Men

Twitter FiringThe tech world is currently in an uproar because of this.

In a nutshell there was a conference for developers using an open-source programming language called Python in which two male attendees were supposedly making crude jokes about dongles and forking. Both are legitimate computer terms rich with humor potential. Use your imagination. A female attendee grew disgusted with the jokes and snapped a picture of the men and tweeted about it.

The result is that one of the men telling the jokes was fired as was the woman.

To give some clarity I’d like to elaborate on the male dominated culture of IT. It’s male dominated. It’s nerd dominated. Nerdy males sometimes don’t have the best social skills. Ask anyone who knows me. However, it can also be misogynistic. Really, really misogynistic. I’ve seen some things. My job as a technical trainer takes me to many different companies and I’m often immersed in the backroom getting things setup before class. I’ve seen women IT staffers treated like garbage. I’m talking, “Go get us coffee” type behavior. Crude jokes about body parts. I’ve seen women employees who needed help from the IT staff treated in humiliating fashion, forced to almost beg. I’m not saying it’s common, I’m not even saying I’ve seen it frequently, but I’ve seen it.

It’s quite likely that the women who tweeted the message was just fed-up after being immersed in that atmosphere. It’s quite likely that the men meant no harm or even knew they were being offensive. I don’t know, I can’t say for sure. Maybe she lied and there were no crude jokes? Maybe the guys were intentionally trying to humiliate her? It’s impossible to say.

What is clear is that two people have lost their jobs. Why?

I’ll take it at face value. They told some off-color jokes. She was a little peeved and tweeted it. That’s the end of their part in this. What happened next has to do with the companies that employed them. One company decided to fire the jokester. When the internet storm began to slam the other company because of the tweet-instigated firing, they fired the tweeter.

In the end a company can generally fire people for any reason other than one protected by the government; age, sex, race, religion, etc. If they want to fire, they can fire. The publicity from the tweet was bad for both companies although the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity isn’t without merit. Both companies were afraid and that’s the crux of the issue.

Ok, I’ll finally get to my opinion. What is happening to the United States? We have become a nation of cowards. Our politicians tell us to be afraid, our media tells us to watch out what we say, our employers fire us for the least sin. We eagerly attack anyone who makes a mistake and roast them on the spit of public opinion. Fear is not our friend. Fear is the enemy. When we embrace fear, and that is all the two firings represent, we destroy freedom.

My most recent novel, the Sword of Water addresses the concept of fear directly. There are two characters who embody the opposite ideas of how to treat fear. I’m going to include an excerpt here from both of them.

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High Priest Amalagaz talking to his son:

“Do you see what a little fear injects into the relationship?” said Amalagaz with a smile as he leaned back on the cushions, a satisfied smile on his face. “As I have told you many times, you must befriend fear, you must take it close to your heart and understand it completely, fully, intimately. Without fear you cannot rule. Without fear your subjects will overthrow your throne and burn you on a pyre. They will rape your wife and they will murder your children. You must instill fear in their hearts and then they are yours. You must make them afraid of you. Your enemies must fear you and they will react to your moves. Your allies must fear you and they will do as you say. If your enemies don’t fear you then they will take the initiative, they will deploy their forces with vigor and energy. If they fear you they will hide in their citadels and await your approach hiding behind useless defenses, slowly sapping their will to fight, waiting for you to conquer them.”

Taragaz stared raptly at his father, “Fear.”

“Yes, my son. It is not limited to your enemies; it is your most potent weapon in driving your people. Tell them the enemy is plotting against them, tell them the enemy is waiting to destroy them, tell them that the enemy is lurking behind every shadow and they will do anything to stay safe. They will throw their own children onto the flames to keep the fear at bay. Lie to your people to inflame them. Wipe out a little village on your border and claim it was your neighbor’s rapacious armies. Tell them that an unknown enemy is building a fleet, arming ten thousand soldiers for an invasion and they will jump up and shout your name as they kill anyone who speaks against you. The voice of reason is the first casualty to the blade of fear.”

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Jon Gray to Silenia:

“There’s always reason to fear,” said Jon waving his hands to both sides. “The world is a dangerous place. Someone might be lurking around every corner, waiting to stick a dirk in your ear. You could fall off a horse, you might slip on the ice and break your leg, get an infection, die. You might fall out of a tree because you climbed too high and smash your brains on a rock.”

“So, you’re telling us to just do anything without thinking about the dangers?” said Sorus. “Come now, Jon. These are children. Do you mean to frighten them?”

“She is already afraid. Fear is the great enemy,” said Jon. “Fear can destroy a man or an entire nation.”

“Or a little girl,” said Silenia trembling but standing firm before Jon.

Jon nodded his head and smiled narrowly at the girl, “Exactly. I say that there is much to fear. Sorus suggests we must use caution because of those dangers. He is not far wrong, but we must never succumb to fear. Fear is the tool of evil. Fear is the tool of the despot. The first time you hid from your siblings you did so because of fear. Did that help you?”

“No,” said Silenia, blinking back tears as the memories flooded into her mind with such vividness that she suddenly felt back in that place, hiding, always hiding. “Eventually I had to come out and they used the flat of the knife on me,” she sniffled.

“Yet was it ever easier to hide the next time and the time after, wasn’t it?”

Silenia nodded her head, pursed her lips together, and stifled another sob, “It got easier each time.”

“Fear is the enemy,” repeated Jon. “Sorus, when you were a boy and the others were being chosen as squires did you stand up, did you shout out?”

Sorus shook his head, “I was smaller, sickly.”

“Did not standing up serve you well, each time you failed to say something was it easier to remain silent the next?”

Sorus nodded his head, “Yes, each time was easier, but it did work out in the long run though. You arrived in Elekargul and now I’m here.”

“True enough,” said Jon. “But would you rely on luck, on coincidence, to drive your life?”

“No,” said Sorus, Jerichi, and Silenia in the same whispered tone.

“When your father first murdered an innocent in front of you, Silenia. Did you say anything?”

Now the girl was crying, “No, I didn’t say anything.”

“Why?”

“I was afraid.”

“Fear destroys nations,” said Jon. “People think that it’s fine to say nothing when they see an atrocity, when they see evil. It’s easier to let it be than to get involved, it’s dangerous to try to stop something like that. When you let evil have its way, when you stand idly by, then people who do evil are emboldened. They think they can do more evil and no one will stop them. A petty man with a petty life sabotages a good man to get ahead. An inferior warrior gets an ally to weigh down his opponent’s armor and gains a promotion. Then he becomes a captain, then a general and he promotes his equally unethical companion. Then the battle is lost, the war is lost. All because the person that saw it happening was afraid to step in and do something.”

“But they might die if they step in,” said Jerichi his hands now at his side and his voice barely audible.

“They might,” said Jon. “They often do.”

“What good does it do if they die?” said Jerichi.

“What you are asking me is, ‘What good does it do to conquer your fear and act?” said Jon with a snort. “It makes a nation strong. It inspires those around you to do the same.”

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Would you take the advice of Amalagaz or of Jon?

Make no mistake, the firings were based on fear. So many other options were available. I’m not going to discuss them today. Fear won again.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt