Surprise! Crotchety, Trolling Columnist Dan Shaughnessy Isn’t A Twitter Fan
Today, The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy penned a classy tribute to Myra Kraft, the wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft who died of cancer yesterday. People had only glowing things to say about Myra Kraft and the way she devoted her life to giving back. Shaughnessy detailed just how dedicated she was to helping those who weren't blessed with the same kind of good fortune, and he won praise for it.
Indeed, and unfortunately, the Shaughnessy we usually see is someone different - someone condescending, sanctimonious, and proudly ignorant. Shaughnessy's column on Kraft, though precipitated by an event we all wish never happened, was a refreshing change from his usual routine. Had we seen a sea change in style? When would we see the usual Shaughnessy come back? Would we even see that?
In a piece from yesterday that bears suspicious resemblance to what many might consider a blog(!!!!!!!!!!!!!) post, Shaughnessy talks about subjects like Terry Francona and Logan Mankins, as one might expect a Boston columnist to do. And then...he talked about Twitter. He opens his screed by saying, "Pardon me if I sound like Larry King, but what’s up with this Twitter madness?" He doesn't sound like Larry King (who, we should note, has one of those things, even if he might not do the tweeting himself), though. Amazingly, he sounds even older. And it gets worse:
What you had for lunch is of no interest to me.
This, of course, is a required crack to make among everyone who doesn't know anything about Twitter. Using this line at all is classic Shaughnessy - he's the same guy who called people who consider statistical analysis a useful tool in analyzing and enjoying the game of baseball as "those get-a-lifers who are sucking all the joy out of our national pastime," amazingly avoiding a "mother's basement" reference (though he had less success with that here). Using it when Twitter-bashing has already been a tired topic for years is just...sublime, multi-layered hackiness. It's lazy on top of lazy. Shaughnessy is the sports columnist version of the old SNL skit "Stand Up And Win," where the entire point was to make the dullest, most played-out stand-up comedy "observations" on every topic that came up. And unbelievably, Shaughnessy's riffing gets worse still:
It strikes me as trendy, immature, and entirely unnecessary.
Oh, great, now in addition to his "wit," Shaughnessy is blessing us with his moral compass. Re: "trendy," we should note that Shaughnessy also says he didn't get a cell phone for a long while, hoping the popularity of the device would simply blow over and disappear, so he might not want to trust his intuition all that much when it comes to which technological innovations will be short-lived fads. (Oh, and also the fact "Twitter" was one of the most-searched words of 2009 also doesn't help too much.) As far as "entirely unnecessary" goes...well, perhaps, but could one not say that about pretty much any modern innovation the world got by without before it was created?
That brings us to the worst part of Shaughnessy's entire rant, or whatever one might call it: describing Twitter as "immature." Remember when Iranians used Twitter to organize protests against the oppressive regime in power in that nation? Glad they stopped being so immature. When the people of Tunisia revolted against - and overthrew - their leader, and even those who didn't view Twitter as the primary driving force acknowledged social media played some role? What an immature people's revolution. When Eric LeGrand chronicles his ongoing rehabilitation in an attempt to make a positive impact on people everywhere? Grow up, kid. When we check Twitter (or Facebook) to see if our friend with leukemia or any of his family members posted any new updates on his status? Guess we should get our heads out of the clouds and pay a visit to the real, adult world.
Dan Shaughnessy, by his own admission, knows nothing about Twitter, so no, he didn't mean to say those things are childish. But that's what he said, and that is actually offensive. Sure, much of what he does is undoubtedly trolling meant to stir up reactions like this one, but...how do you counteract a troll? You can point out that a troll is getting exactly what he wants...but that troll just keeps trolling and trolling, because that's what a troll does.
And so maybe the only way to really counteract such individuals are to not give them platforms where they can vomit out their deliberately uninformed opinions that are not only wrong, but have been wrong for the years that other almost-as-uninformed writers have already made them. We saw in the Myra Kraft piece that Shaughnessy's capable of producing a good column. We saw with his Twitter slop that he doesn't always care to. And the really immature thing is ripping something you know nothing about in the least creative way possible, just to rile people up. We knew Dan Shaughnessy could scrape the bottom of the barrel, but frankly, we're a little surprised he can stoop this low. And when that's what passes for an accomplishment in someone's world, maybe the joke isn't ultimately on Twitter users.
Protest photo: Getty (Behrouz Mehri), via Boston.com
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