Another Twitter misstep has led to a person losing their job in the real world. I won’t go into the details, but a conservative writer had what can only be described as a meltdown on Twitter, attacking well-regarded journalist Yashar Ali. This person later apologized and deleted the tweets, but the damage may already be done–two writing outlets have dismissed the writer.
This is sad in two ways: that it happened, and that this is a near-weekly event in the post-grace age.
We have reached a place as a nation where entertainment, social media, and politics have merged into a unity. If this were the plot of a superhero movie, Steppenwolf would win, because Superman is dead and not coming back. There is no Justice League in the real world.
What are we to think when the President of the United States leads chants of “AOC sucks!” in a rally, and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez in response cements her relationship to historical fiction by claiming the 22nd Amendment was to keep the (by then already-dead) FDR from running for another term? This isn’t politics, it’s entertainment.
Trump and AOC can get away with egregious behavior because their actions are baked in to the brand. Nobody votes for Trump because they are happy with his deep policy knowledge evidenced by his rally and online behavior. And nobody votes for AOC because they believe she’s wonky. Both are opposite ends of the political entertainment spectrum.
The political entertainment axis includes those inside government and in the media who cast their lot in being the most outrageous, divisive, partisan, and above all, first to report something driving the news cycle. Being right isn’t part of that equation, and the decision makers who write checks know this.
But those outside the political entertainment axis, whether inside or outside the media, Hollywood, or politics, take weaponized hits from social media, and are held ultra-accountable for missteps any of us could make in a moment of weakness. If your brand doesn’t include being a misanthropic jerk, then you may find yourself unemployed for something you tweeted yesterday, or ten years ago.
Ask James Gunn.
Some of this started when progressives began “outing” executives who donated to pro-traditional-marriage causes. It continued when the Boy Scouts were submarined (and now likely destroyed) by pressure to end their ban on gay scout leaders, despite a rock-solid Supreme Court ruling upholding their right to do it. It continues to this day with the unending drumbeat to torpedo Chick-fil-A because of remarks made to a Baptist magazine several years ago by its Christian owners.
Now, the lack of grace is so pronounced that Twitter behavior can get practically any person fired for something regardless of whether that person apologizes. And those who never, ever apologize get a free pass to continue misbehaving.
America cannot continue down this post-grace path and expect anything but more division, more pain, and more sorrow. The answer to it is simple forgiveness, combined with a healthy dose of accountability.
Everyone has bad days, and everyone should be given some grace, especially online where inhibitions have vanished. Nothing good will come of this new age where the only unity is one of rage and vengeance.