Wrestling With An Alarm Clock by Team TIG
Most teachers of facilitating difficult conversations share the wisdom of equanimity. That is to say, in entering a conversation that is potentially troublesome, we should try not to make things worse, and to actively listen before reacting and responding. This means listening with the intent of understanding, without judgment or blame. Easier said than done, but it can be an opportunity to learn, and to challenge the assumptions we may have internalized unconsciously.
This approach can aid in discerning that which may be insensitive from that which may be truly hateful and offensive. We all possess sensitivities, even while we aren’t all sensitive to the same things. When our sensitivities are offended, surely this should not be a self-granted licence to be insensitive and hateful toward others, as a self-serving rationalization for words and actions that are lacking in ethical principles. Insensitive words are not the same thing as, or evidence of hatefulness and prejudice.
It follows that the accusation of insensitivity and the accusation of bigotry are not the same thing. In the former, a verbal or written response that explains how sensitivities have been offended, is often enough to persuade others of what they may not have more fully considered. It can be an intimate and authentic exchange where people learn, and even change or alter their words and actions. A false accusation of hateful and bigoted speech can unjustly cause untold harm to an individual and their livelihood.
Currently, The Islands Grapevine (TIG) is involved in such a dispute. The sensitivities of some readers have been offended, and TIG has continued to offer a forum for anyone to explain where its contributors have been insensitive, while its editorial policy is strictly enforced and nothing TIG has printed has been hateful bigotry. Notably, TIG’s critics have not responded to these invitations because they have nothing to provide as evidence. TIG has reached out to the parties involved twice, and both times TIG has been rebuffed.
TIG has attempted to resolve the dispute privately, and believed we had, but apparently the wilful misunderstanding has continued, where a determined “vanguard” of hatefulness has been directed at TIG on Denman Island Facebook Bulletin Boards, ironically wrapped in a performative sense of community. A small and determined proxy group argues for TIG’s demise with hateful slurs, and denies that Bronwyn Schuster did anything wrong, where Schuster has publicly admitted to the wrongdoing TIG exposed.
After a rash of belligerent and hateful posts directed at TIG on the Denman Island Bulletin Board (DIBB) were left uncensored by the DIBB “moderators”, the weekly posting of The Islands Grapevine was removed from DIBB, the entire newspaper censored. When pushed to explain, moderator Mary Wood declared that the “majority” of DIBB membership felt that TIG contained hate-speech, while providing no evidence. How Wood can claim a majority of the 2600 members of DIBB agreed with her decision is not a mystery. It is a pattern of disingenuous behaviour, where there are clearly two sets of rules on DIBB.
On Facebook, local comic Megan Rose has circulated an unfunny sendup, showing loyalty to her friend Bronwyn Schuster by making a series of false claims. Firstly, sarcasm is not comedy. But more importantly, Rose falsely claims TIG has performed a character assassination of Schuster. A character assassination is when a person is falsely accused, where Schuster has admitted to the malfeasances and misusing their position. It’s an ironic projection of the character assassination that Bronwyn Schuster and friends have smeared on TIG and its contributors. Rose claims to represent the views of the wonderful and talented Women’s Craft Collective, when not all of its members agree with her position. See you next Thursday, the day TIG is published each week.
A weekly printed media is a far more sober location for public discourse, as compared to the brave typing on social media, where a reactive and emotionally charged comment is immediately gratifying to its author, and most often escalates conflict and leads to entrenchment of opposition “camps” in a competition of who can be more outraged in performing signals of virtue and righteousness. The Islands Grapevine and its curated editorial policy is here to stay after 32 years of community service, and counting. Wrestling with an alarm clock doesn’t prove you are awake.