Blaming the Victim

As I type this, I am watching a Twitter exchange between the MPR NewsCut blogger (Bob Collins) and several of my friends on Twitter. In a short version, Collins tweeted:

The idea of a youth camp run by a political party is kinda scary.

Several people (my friends included) called him out on this, and it's degenerated into kind of a Twitter snipe-fest; though anyone is welcome to have their own views, I don't think that if I were tweeting for public radio I would respond is such a curmudgeonly manner.

What Collins fails to grasp is that he is more than welcome to his opinion about whether or not political parties should run camps. But to make that your very first tweet on the subject after tweeting earlier simply that you were "Following Oslo..." reeks of "blame the victim." I think it someone had commented after Columbine that it was a "scary high school," there would have been all kinds of offense taken — and rightfully so.

Collins' comment is not unusual. It's not really all that different than wondering out-loud "Well, what was she doing there?" when finding out a woman was attacked in a bad neighborhood, or any other comment that draws an unwarranted relationship between unrelated issues. He claims that:

What I said was I like to think ppl who folo me are able to differentiate btween finding camps scary & wishing ill on attendees.

If so, why make the comment now, as your first impression of the Norway shootings? What Collins fails to grasp is that cause and effect don't stop with an issue, they continue into the reporting on it. Twitter, blogs, and other citizen-journalist methods are rapidly gaining ground as how we learn about things. And I think we owe them all a little more thought.

Comments

Bob Collins said…
(I have to break this into multiple parts. Sorry)

I appreciate your comment, Bethany but there are many levels on which you have it wrong.

You are suggesting I'm blaming the victim because it SEEMS to you that I'm blaming the victims.

I'm not. I said I find the concept of political camps for "youth" (there is some question about the cultural value of the term "youth" here) to be kind of scary, because I do.

Now, is that the same thing as saying the people deserve to be dead because they attended a camp, the concept of which I find a little scary. I don't see how and I didn't see in your post how it does.

The reason I responded "curmudgeonly" , as you put it, is because it's a horrible, horrible thing to suggest. It's unfair to suggest. And it's particularly unfair to suggest when you (a) don't follow me and (b) reached the conclusion without adequate data to reach it.

The concept of being glad someone is dead because they attended a political education camp is beyond outrageous. I would hope my tone matched that and made that point. I fear it did not.
Bob Collins said…
You don't follow me on Twitter. If you did, you would know that I engage people in observations and we discuss them intelligently -- usually in NewsCut. We don't just haul off and go right to the nuclear option.

Your comment about Columbine is an interesting one. You probably wouldn't have liked what I would have tweeted -- had their been a Twitter then -- because I would have expressed sympathy that the shooters never got the mental health treatment they should have gotten to avoid such a terrible tragedy.

Trust me, that would outraged the "let's string em" Twitterverse. Now, people tend to understand things a bit better.

//It's not really all that different than wondering out-loud "Well, what was she doing there?" when finding out a woman was attacked in a bad neighborhood, or any other comment that draws an unwarranted relationship between unrelated issues. He claims that:

But you see what you're doing here, right? You've taken your assumption, turned it into fact, and then are demanding it be rebutted. It's NOT the same as blaming the victim of a rape for her rape.

There are two separate thoughts here that can easily co-exist. (a) The notion of a government running an educational camp is scary to me (I'm probably older than you but I think you can figure out why) and (b) It's a horrible thing that happened in Oslo today for which the victims were not at all responsible.

There are not two thoughts in a rape similar to that that can co-exist.


//Twitter, blogs, and other citizen-journalist methods are rapidly gaining ground as how we learn about things. And I think we owe them all a little more thought.

We do it owe it more thought. But what we owe it is honesty and transparency. Twitter changes the relationship that journalists have with people. You get to know them as people. You have exchanges with them. You might find some pleasant, you might not. But you being to understand the way they are, how they think the way they do and -- maybe over time -- you begin discussions by extending a benefit of the doubt to someone you disagree with.

This, it seems to me, is the power of Twitter and social networking. It is the antidote to the current political debate structure which is decidedly NOT about wanting or engaging in an intelligent discourse, let alone extending the benefit of the doubt until you can get to that point.

It breaks down all the walls and all the barriers that exist -- especially where media is concerned -- between the audience and the media, in this case. It creates a level playing field for that discussion which can be just as frank, and heated, and invigorating as any other person you know, without fear of re-erecting those walls when it's convenient to "win" a discussion.

And that's the problem with the current political environment. Discussions are about winning. And the more outrage, the more distracting, the better for the effort.

You don't follow me on Twitter. You don't know anything about me. You simply had a friend who claimed two thoughts were related, and you jumped in. That's fine, but you deny yourself all of those things that you profess Twitter should bring to the table in doing so.

I'm sorry -- I really am -- that you've come away from this with this perspective. I'm sorry I was too frank on responding to you because I denied myself the same thing.

Twitter is a wonderful tool when it's not used like the comment area of YouTube. I hope to have another opportunity sometime to show you how powerful that can be when we're willing to give it a chance.
bethanyg said…
Bob - More response later. One key comment you keep repeating, though, is that "you don't follow me on Twitter." Just because someone has not hit the "follow" button does not mean that they do not, somehow, "understand" you. For all you know, I check your posts 10x a day, or have you on a list which does not require "following." As someone who has close friends and family in Olso, I found your comments insensitive and ill-timed, and that's exactly what my blog post said. And despite your assertion that I did not have enough data, one tweet in itself is enough data to have a visceral response.
Bob Collins said…
I am sorry to have offended you, considering your family in Norway. I hope the best for them, of course.

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