I probably shouldn’t write any of this. There’s very little potential upside for me personally. But perhaps it will…I don’t know…promote a more harmonious community. In all likelihood, it will just make me sound like a fool.
Politics is a rough-and-tumble sport. In the blink of an eye, an ally can become a foe. But generally, that’s for the sake of political maneuvering, to seize some political ground, hopefully to abide by a principled conviction.
But a few days ago, a Twitter dispute arose between two people I enjoy reading and actively seek out their opinions, two people I frequently find myself in agreement with politically. But this argument had nothing to do with politics.
On one side, there’s Jim Treacher, also known as @jtlol on Twitter and Sean Medlock in real life. I’ve followed him since before he joined the Daily Caller and before he was struck by a car and seriously injured. For the past year, he has undergone numerous surgeries to replace his knee and make it functional again. On most days, Jim is uproariously funny, able to boil down an issue to one brief, pithy comment.
On the other side, there’s Dan Riehl, also known as @danriehl on Twitter, an exceptionally conservative blogger at his own Riehl World View, who calls them like he sees them, though not always in the most polite—or family friendly—manner. Even when I don’t agree, I find his opinions interesting, something to take into consideration.
All of a sudden, these two got into a Twitter fight. Here’s where I probably shouldn’t say anything, but unfortunately, my point can’t be made unless something is said.
In reading through the exchange, it does seem like Jim started it. Perhaps he hasn’t ever cared for Dan. Maybe he didn’t mean anything by seeming to agree with someone calling Dan a “Riehl jerk.” Maybe it’s how these guys talk to each other all the time, and the affection between them would make Jim’s comment no big deal to either of them. I don’t know. I don’t know either of them personally. I only know them through their writing and their Twitter personas.
After a few half-joking exchanges, Dan makes a joke about Jim being hit by a car because they didn’t have cars back home, or something like that.
From Jim’s side, with all the pain and difficulty he’s been through, I can see it would be a less than hilarious joke to him. Just the night before, I had seen his tweet about being in pain because he had exerted his knee too much. To try to cheer him up, I tweeted him a lame joke about a stiff knee would prevent him being accused of having a knee-jerk reaction to anything. Yuk yuck, I know. Anyway. It got no response, which is certainly better than the response Dan got from all corners. I just hope Jim or anyone else did not take that as being insensitive to his misery; my intent was entirely the opposite.
Perhaps my joke simply proves that I’m not a good judge of sensitivity borders, because—while I hate to admit it and open myself to criticism—from Dan’s side, I don’t see his defensive joke as being particularly malicious either, especially in light of what he later wrote about it, saying he had not been aware of Jim’s recent trials with his leg. (Granted, the title and tone of the post obscure much of the apology.)
But once Dan tweeted that tweet, several of Jim’s friends began attacking Dan on Twitter, and Dan became obstinate.
For me, I felt dismay. It seemed best to just stay out of it, hope the two found some way to resolve it amicably.
They didn’t. Instead Dan had to go and mix contrition with spite with a new post and corresponding avatar featuring photos of a bruised, injured Jim. The mocking use of the pictures did cross the line. And it’s good to see that he’s gone back to his standard Twitter avatar of himself.
So Jim started it, and Dan ended it. Neither of them are blameless. But it seems that hard feelings remain, and not just for the two of them but for the people that took either side—many of whom I also respect and admire and don’t particularly want to draw their ire.
But for all of their followers that remained neutral or uninvolved, especially the ones who follow them both, we’re stuck in an uncomfortable position. Will one side take offense if I RT the other? Will their followers decide I’m unworthy to be associated with them because I didn’t take a side? Should I just lay low until most everyone has forgotten about it?
The argument didn’t change my mind about either guy; neither of them behaved that out of character from the persons I’ve come to expect. This Twitter war doesn’t seem to be just cause to forever forswear one or the other. I’m not going to quit reading either of them. In fact, I want to be able to continue to tweet and retweet them (provided neither of them blocks me after hearing of this post).
This isn’t the first Twitter/blog war to inspire these thoughts in me; it’s just the latest. I finally decided to say something because this was one that didn’t start political (as far as I know) and devolve into the personal, as so many of the other wars do.
It’s one thing if some Twitter scrub gets in a fight with another scrub. It’s another when it’s between some of our conservative Twitter celebrities, so to speak. That fractures the community.
Anyone who knows me or has followed me long enough knows I’m not a fan of bi-partisanship and the word compromise does not set my heart aflutter. I’m all for a lively debate. I understand that sometimes things get overheated and rough.
Just be aware of the effect it has on your followers. Just know that what something looks like printed on a screen may not be the way it would sound if you could hear the person say it. Twitter is perfect for communication—and miscommunication. I know. I’ve had my share of it.
So I won’t pull a Rodney King and ask “Why can’t we all just get along?” But I will ask, please don’t make me have to go get the appropriate Twibbon to signify whether I’m with the Crips or the Bloods.