Social Media Faux Pas

Roland S. Martin is a friend of mine. I said it and I own it. I have known him since my intern days at the Baltimore Sun through our affiliation of the National Association of Black Journalists. He helped me get an interview for my first full-time job at the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

If you have not read, Roland stepped in it this week on Twitter. He used his personal twitter account as a way to enjoy the Super Bowl with friends. Where it gets sticky is that he has over 95,000 followers and is a popular political pundit on CNN. One of his tweets made light of the David Beckham underwear ad that aired during the game. Specifically he insinuated that no self respecting man would have enjoyed the add. He advised Super Bowl party hosts to “smack the ish out of” any man who enjoyed it.

The result is an angry LBGT community and calls for him to be fired by CNN because of the tweet and their belief that it promotes violence against homosexuals. While I have my own opinions on the meaning behind the tweet, again because I know Roland and the fact is that he has been ribbing Soccer as the true football for the 16 years I’ve known him. His followers don’t have such personal perspective.

This is a tightrope across a canyon that social media poses. How comfortable and open can public figures be? Remember he is a pundit, he is paid to be opinionated and feisty. A task that is not hard for my friend. My questions are plentiful. For CNN his boisterous and controversial beliefs are exactly why they hired him. This is similar to the reason Rush Limbaugh has a radio show.  No one wants to hire the lukewarm talk show host. However, alas there is a line. To chirp or not to chirp? If you can’t hang loose why do it? Social media has allowed each of us to socialize with the people who know us and those who don’t. While I can’t tell you exactly what Roland meant by his tweet, I can say that if I were in a room with him and I challenged this statement out loud; he would have razzed me for having been captain of my high school soccer team. He also would have let me have it for bouncing one too many of those balls off my head causing the swelling that is my large forehead! However, that’s how we roll.

Social media is not your living room. People who don’t know you, don’t know you. Be mindful and cautious of that and you won’t have to Monday morning quarterback. Truthfully, I hope CNN does not fire him, several  people, who are paid for their shocking personalities, have stepped in it, apologized and kept their jobs. CNN knows Roland, and they knew who they hired. They have a number of people with polarizing personalities on their shows to keep them colorful. I think Roland needs to wave his white ascot, apologize and learn from this Social Media Faux pas.

What do you think? Is Twitter only for articles and telling people what you had for breakfast? Is it a forum for free speech?  Should your virtual living room be policed?

6 responses to “Social Media Faux Pas

  1. Such an interesting and thought-provoking post! Thanks for addressing this issue. I’ve been following the story since I learned about it yesterday. I agree that the issue is tricky. I also believe that twitter has become more than a virtual living room, but a tool to reach thousands of people. The bottom line (for me) for all these media tools is that they are not private. Mr. Martin’s tweet, I believe, is rightly up for scrutiny because he is a public figure who used twitter to communicate with thousands of people.

    As for the comment itself, none of us knows the true intent of the post. It’s quite possible that both his anti-soccer views and his anti-gay views are on display here. Yes, it might ver well be a soccer joke. But why did he single out “dudes” for liking an erotic male underwear ad? This tweet followed an earlier one in which Mr. Martin made fun of a man dressed in pink. And in a larger context, Mr. Martin also supports conversion therapy, has suggested that no religion accepts LGBT people (mine and many others do), and defended Tracy Morgan’s rant about killing his child if he were gay. (Tracy Morgan, I thought, responded thoughtfully and responsibly. He ended up, in the end, turning something negative into a positive.)

    So the bigger question for me is how we respond to criticism over sensitive issues. I emailed Mr. Martin a few years ago about what I considered a homophobic remark. He emailed me back immediately, telling me I was out of touch. Whenever someone brings to our attention that we might be using offensive language around gender, religion, race, sexual orientation, etc, I think the best course of action is to ask oneself, “Could there be truth to this?” It’s how we grow. This is what Tracy Morgan did. We have to examine our hearts; none of them are pure.

    Thanks again for a great post. I’m so lucky to have had the chance to teach you.

    • Mr. Harvey, I appreciate the context you add to this debate. You are one of the finest teachers I’ve every had the pleasure of being taught by. You are also one of the pillars of the Gay literary community that I hold in extremely high regard. This is one of the reason’s I feel so torn about this issue. I think Twitter is definitely a tool and it is easy for us to forget that and move beyond comfort in it. I do believe that one must be held accountable for their words especially when they have such an influential reach. I also do believe CNN hired Roland because of his snarky radio show. So it is a double edged sword.
      I am so glad I know you! You made a middle class minority student feel important smart and just as worth of a private education as the wealthy majority!

  2. I only know Roland through his posts on the black journalists listserv, so that’s not a thorough view of who he is. I also follow him on Twitter and I have to say that he talks and awful lot about what makes a man, machismo and masculinity. When I saw his David Beckham tweet, I thought it was gay bashing. I thought he had crossed the line.

    On Monday he said he was actually bashing soccer players with that tweet. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt since I don’t know him that well. But I will be closely watching his words.

    As far as his CNN gig, he’s paid to have opinions and he does that very well. He should not lose his job over this tweet and I’m glad to see that he has apologized for his remark. Since his job IS to have opinions, I think he gets a little more rope when it comes to social media.

  3. Karen thanks for your thoughts. Social media tools open up a debate on ethics and sensitivity that really should be discussed. While I don’t know what Roland meant. I hope this experience is a learning one for him. He may come to terms with how his messages are received and debated! The best thing I’ve ever learned is that enlightenment comes from healthy discourse.

  4. Interesting piece on regarding Martin’s history with comments about gays. Doesn’t look good for him. I’m not ready to call for his ouster, but I do feel NLGJA is right to watch him closely.

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