Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When Social Media Reveals Our Character … Or Our Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is not a way of getting back to the moral high ground. Pretending you're moral, saying your moral is not the same as acting morally. - Alan Dershowitz

The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy. - William Hazlitt

Back in December of 2013, a then member of the public communication team (which in the modern era means social media team) for then Premier of Alberta Alison Redford had an interesting response to a simple question from a member of the public.

The “public communications expert” tweeted this to the citizen:

"You are a truly disgusting human being #ableg"

As a member of the same political party to which this “expert” belonged, I thought this and other tweets attributed to the team he was a member of were terribly impolite and unprofessional to citizens merely asking for accountability and so I demanded from the Premier that we choose our words more carefully when addressing the public at large.

Curiously enough, I didn’t give this individual much thought after that until last week when I was making some comments (politely as I usually do) in a political forum and the same individual surfaced again with these observations directed at me:

So yes, I can speak about good government. I was given a first hand lesson by voters. One you apparently have opted not to learn. Care to address the issue or do you just want to attack the PC's?

There was the same attitude again, confrontational and insulting, to someone merely asking questions.  When I challenged the author of the statements as to why he continued to be so insulting to people on social media, he wrapped up a reply with these words.

Do you know that after the "terrible human being" tweet I cried for hours in my office and offered my resignation three times for the disgrace I caused? For the cruelty I showed towards Michael. That it was on my suggestion that I should apologize personally because I felt it was the right thing to do?

Followed later by ….

None of this belongs on Facebook Harry, I would welcome the chance to actually sit down and have a friendly conversation with you.

And with those words, I thought “Fair enough – the guy indicated he was remorseful for that foul event in the past and had sought to make amends for his error.”

I accepted his Facebook request with an eye toward fruitful dialog, after which he then chastised me again in private.

So much for remorse.  It reminded me of this Despair.com poster of people who cannot rationally discuss pretty much anything.

Arrogance: The best leaders inspire by example.  When that's not an option, brute intimidation works pretty well too.

Arrogance: The best leaders inspire by example.  When that's not an option, brute intimidation works pretty well too.

I don’t dwell on such stuff and so I moved on until it was revealed this week that an executive of the PC Party made an inappropriate jab at the weight of the new Health Minister of Alberta as noted in McIver to investigate after PC executive mocks weight of Alberta Health minister (the executive has since apologized when he noted on Twitter – “I recognize I made a dumb comment. I apologize to Sarah Hoffman and all who read it for my insensitive remark. Once again, I'm sorry”).

Now I could make an observation that good people should never think such things, let alone say them, but given that none of us are perfect, I let the original mistake go since we are supposed to accept apologies and move on.

However, I was surprised by the public reappearance of the afore mentioned former member of the Premier’s communication staff who made this statement on social media in response to the PC executive’s faux pas (click on the image for a larger copy – *warning* harsh language).

mitchell 2

While much can be suggested or inferred from such a response including the need for a more positive view of himself, it is also clear that while this individual demands forgiveness for his mistakes, he is quick to judge the mistakes of others.  It is also interesting to note that when paid by the PC Party, he attacked others ruthlessly but once released from the employ of the Party, he now takes offense at others who do the same for the same Party.

Even his Twitter bio reveals some hypocrisy:

Many of us are blessed with either time or money. Please use them to help your community! :}

He falls into the classic trap of social media – the notion of feeling empowered to say something that:

  1. We wouldn’t have the courage to say to someone’s face
  2. We wouldn’t want said to us if we made a mistake
  3. May not be a reflection of who we really are (good or bad)
  4. Oftentimes is made before we have taken a moment to rationally think the statement through instead of letting anger carry the day.

It reminds me of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant from Matthew 18:21-34:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him.  Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’  The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’, he demanded.

His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.”

The Bottom Line

The PC Executive’s disparaging remarks against the Health Minister were not professional, ethical or fair (and not very intelligent, to be honest).

However, when we see something that needs to be fixed, how we call out the person who made the error and how we choose to address the issue reveals much about our character – possibly more than the character that we choose to criticize in others.

Demanding a higher standard is not enough.

We must live it.

Do you live to a higher standard or merely demand it of others?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,



I didn’t share his Twitter or Facebook profiles because while I believe he serves as an example of what not to do in social media, I didn’t want to make this post about him personally.

When I pointed out to the individual in question about his inconsistency between how he expects forgiveness for himself but gives none to others, he blocked me on social media.  It is unfortunate when “blocking” is used as a shield to hide one’s ignorance, hypocrisy or lack of authenticity instead of recognizing that they had an opportunity to make things right as they expected it to be made right for them in the past.

It’s also a shame when people don’t realize that “blocking” doesn’t really block anything nor does it prevent their rants from becoming public.

But sometimes when we allow anger to be our guide, lucid, rational, respectful, solution-focused thinking takes a backseat to pretty much anything and oftentimes reveals our true character.

For those who are vehemently defending his current actions, perhaps they should review his past, lest they be corralled into something else moving forward. 

We are, after all,  the company that we keep … or “like” …. or “retweet”.

No comments:

Post a Comment