Look, the wonderful thing about the Internet is that you can say whatever you want. Well, almost anything. There are a few things that will get you in trouble with the NSA or the FBI or the CIA or the secret star chamber I’m not allowed to talk about. For the most part, though, anything goes in America.
Which is a good thing. There must be limits on public speech, but those limits must be rare and specific. If you’ve got something you just have to say, you’ll almost certainly be allowed to say it.
Which isn’t the same as saying we have to help you say it.
Tuesday – or maybe it was last Monday night – SB Nation’s Angels site published a horrible blog post about Josh Hamilton. The post was later removed, but you may (if you must) read the whole thing here. The sentiments expressed by the writer were, at best, heartless; at worst, downright cruel.
Now, I should mention a few things here. One, I used to work at SB Nation. Two, I own some shares in the company; if everything works out, someday I might be able to purchase, cash on the barrelhead, that Subaru my wife keeps telling me we need now (you know, with the baby and the big mutt and stuff). And three, the author of this Halos Heaven blog post has written some unkind things about me.
But he’s written unkind, unfair things about many people over the years. He was also incredibly passionate about his team and highly committed to running the blog. The first quality is annoying, occasionally obnoxious. The second and third are prerequisites for running a popular team-centric blog for a company with big traffic and bigger ambitions.
I probably would have fired the guy a long time ago, because he seemed so unpleasant. But then again, any number of people have said much the same about me over the years. What’s more, I can report that the people who run SB Nation are smart, good-hearted people. They make mistakes, just like everyone else. I think it was a mistake to employ this blogger for as long as they did, because he didn’t deserve such a fine platform for his public hatred.
Well, he no longer has that platform; he’s been fired. Due, one hopes, to the inarguable charge of incompetence.
I will say this, though … The particular post was neither edited nor vetted. That’s how the blog network works. Really, it’s the only way it can work. There’s just not enough time or money for someone in a position of responsibility to review every post. Which is why we should cut the network, if not the writer, some slack. Yes, it was perhaps inevitable that this writer would do something like this, given enough time and the wrong bloated contract. But then, everything’s inevitable after it happens.
So what’s the excuse for some of the more heartless, thoughtless columns that we see in newspapers, and on hugely popular websites? Those are written by people who actually make a living at this. They’re edited, once or twice or three times. And after they’re published, and ripped this way and that way by hundreds of bright young minds, who gets fired?
Which isn’t meant to excuse anyone’s misdeeds. It’s meant as a rejoinder to anyone in the mainstream media who’s feeling even a touch of Schadenfreude or self-righteousness today. Because we can all be smarter, and kinder.