“There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys.
There’s only you and me and we just disagree.”
— Lyrics by Dave Mason, English musician,
from “We Just Disagree”
A couple of weeks ago, after a reader blasted me by email in error — confusing me with another Pam who had mused on Facebook about a certain aspect of the premier’s anatomy — I wrote a column about the imprudence of lambasting someone without getting your facts straight.
I said I had asked for an apology and didn’t get one.
I’d like to set the record straight by saying that, in fact, the reader did send me an apology — just not in time for me to change the direction of my column.
It was an apology I accepted, although after reading my column, he wrote me again with a few complaints.
He said I was out of line for having repeated his comments publicly, since he had sent them to me mistakenly.
I disagreed, saying they were sent to my email address, using my name.
He ended by writing, “The low stuff seems to be coming from the journalists. If you are going to dish it out, then, be prepared to have some people in the public shoot back with some hard comment.”
He and I agree on that.
I put my opinions and experiences and feelings out there, under my name and face, and I expect people to react, whether with agreement, disdain or indifference.
In fact, it’s quite unsettling when a column gets no reaction. You write because you hope someone will read what you have to say and find it funny or interesting or thought-provoking.
I’ve received plenty of positive feedback, as well as comments from some people who think I’m an idiot. But people are generally civil.
And that’s fair enough.
What isn’t fair is when people respond to something that I — or any other commentator — says with a personal attack, particularly when our targets were merely political.
Writing about the war in Iraq in 2004, I talked about how the identities of people affected — on either side of the conflict — were being lost in the carnage. They were being reduced to faceless, nameless “detainees” or “troops” or “combatants” or “militants” or “civilian casualties,” which often happens in wartime — language gets sanitized because that’s easier for us to take; it’s less unsettling.
This is one of the responses I received:
“How dare you compare enemy prisoners (they were arrested for a reason) being laughed at and exposed, to the beheading of a person with a knife in the name of Allah. We are all human? Ya think? I beg to differ. Are you raising your kids to fight the infidel for jihad? Did you strap a bomb to them yet?”
This was not the kind of reaction I had been expecting. To take my observation on one aspect of the war and conclude that I was a crazy zealot ready to blow up my kids for the cause was abominable.
Disagree with me? Go right ahead. I can take it. But don’t bring my children into it. As a matter of fact, when that column was written, I didn’t even have children.
I replied to the reader in that case and tried to clarify my point of view.
He responded by saying, “p.s. sorry to have bothered you, I had a few beers and wanted to vent. lol.”
That “lol” — email parlance for “laugh out loud” — said it all. People get all ramped up and fire off a volley of vitriol without considering that there is a person on the other end. And that goes for whoever the target is.
As the reader mentioned at the top of this column pointed out, “Politicians have feelings. They are people too!! They have wives, husbands, children, grandchildren.”
Yes, they do. And so do other folks.
Hate, on Line 1
Which brings me to the reprehensible, disturbing, racist message left for cancer specialist Dr. Pradip Ganguly on his home phone in St. John’s this week.
Imagine the fear he must have felt — and will feel, unless the caller is found and brought to justice — at hearing such a chilling message directed at him and his family.
When Ganguly held a press conference supporting the provincial government’s version of a meeting held in 2008 between politicians and certain medical specialists, I have no doubt he expected a reaction.
He did nothing to deserve this.
There is no “lol” here.
Whether people agree or disagree with Ganguly’s comments and actions is immaterial. To call him at home and denigrate his race, call him a disgrace to his profession and threaten to kill him and his family is despicable.
Ganguly has served cancer patients in this province with dedication, and it’s appalling that anyone thinks this labour dispute is worth killing for, or — at the very least — inciting fear.
Politicians and physicians, come to an agreement — soon.
Opposition and disagreement are healthy in a democracy. This has gone way too far.
A death threat is not a reaction — it’s a crime.
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s
story editor. She can be reached by email