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Thursday
Feb092012

Roland Martin Suspension Really About When (And When Not) To Tweet

Live by the tweet. Die by the tweet.Nothing is private on the Internet. Except sometimes it's easy to get a false security of it.

Like you share photos with your Facebook friends or friends on Twitter. Maybe only your closest friends actually comment or care. But maybe you have more than just your "personal" friends following you on Facebook or Twitter. And maybe some of those people wouldn't think all that much of sharing your "private" messages and photos with the very "public" world. For most of us, our anonymity, in that we are not well-known, on television or famous in our respective fields will protect us a little from ourselves. A little. (But not really.) But if you're Roland Martin you can't really take that for granted.

Professionally, Roland Martin is in hot water over something that can be easily seen as kind of petty. He fired off some Super Bowl tweets that were crude and unfunny, but hardly out-of-character for his Twitter stream which is a typical mix of seriousness and humor, prolific in the sheer amount of tweets and their variety. 

The problem was the unfunny tweets could be interpreted as being offensive to men who are attracted to other men and are fond of wearing the color pink. Which gay rights activist group GLAAD interpreted as being offensive to gays and lesbians. They quickly called for CNN to fire Martin as a commentator. But rather than simply rest on the tweets, they also brought up blog posts Martin had written, his past praise for religious-based counseling that "cures" homosexuality and his defense of comic Tracy Morgan's anti-gay stand-up last year as evidence that Martin was an alleged homophobe.

Meaning ... GLAAD was probably waiting for this. For anything really, to take Martin down.

But they weren't the only ones. Because a lot of people don't agree or like Martin and relished in the dust-up. Glenn Beck, who's not exactly the friend of gays, jumped in, calling him an "idiot."

From Huffington Post:

The radio host called Martin "a dope," an "idiot," and a "bad guy," among other things. "He's harmless because you see him coming a mile away," Beck said. "You're like, 'really, Roland, you think that you're fooling anybody? You're a clown.'"

Beck and his co-hosts agreed that the tweets could only be interpreted as anti-gay statements. He smacked down Martin's claim that he was mocking soccer fans, calling it "the most ridiculous thing" to say.

He also pointed to Martin's history of dicey statements about gay people, and said, "If they're in context, the guy clearly, clearly has issues."

A long, long time ago, back in 2008 when the only people who read this blog were my sisters, my best friend Tiffany and my cat, I made a throwaway comment that Martin was an Barack Obama supporter. This was in January of 2008. Somehow (I assume through the magic of Google Alerts), Martin found my blog and complained that he was impartial, said nice things about Republicans and Hillary Clinton and how dare I insinuate he was an Obama supporter. I was shocked. Not that I was wrong or that he wanted a correction (and I did admit to wrongness and did issue a correction), it was more like ... why was Roland Martin who is famous and on CNN almost daily emailing the owner of a free blogger account that only 200 people a day were reading?

I mean ... shouldn't he be really, really busy?

After that it became a sort of hallmark of my blog where I would gently poke fun at Martin for what I saw as a flaw of over sensitivity. Because really? Why did he care? All he did was elevate something that absolutely no one would have known about and no one was paying attention to "HEY EVERYBODY LOOK OVER HERE!" status. But he did that over and over again, and not just with me, but with countless other bloggers big and small. And all had the same bewildered response because it was oddly personal and aggressive considering he was much better known and better well-off than any of us and the comments, in totality, were the type most people of his stature just ignored. Especially if they were on television and the chatter was coming from Twitter -- the Internet's official peanut gallery.

Criticism is part of putting yourself out there. I get criticized all the time. By readers. By other bloggers. By people online. But even I, who is no where near as accomplished as Martin, don't go on Moby Dick-style quests, fighting with random conservative commentators and anti-spanking opponents on Twitter alike. At some point, you're just supposed to be above the fray. And that was truly Martin's only problem. He never could seem to get above the fray when he relished being in the middle of it. He took a joy in slugging away, cracking jokes and being prolific in his attacks and counter-attacks -- whether it actually benefited his personal reputation or not.

But when you're as big as Martin is, at a certain point, people expect you to clean it up. To rein it in. To accept the responsibility of being a public figure and clean up your private language that is actually public because you're saying it on a social networking forum anyone can read.

Martin, after all, wasn't Tweeting from a private account in a special code only black people could comprehend. People who don't like you can access your public blog. People who don't agree with you can listen to you on the Tom Joyner Show and then accuse you of being biased on CNN because of what they heard on that show. Tom Joyner, like Twitter, is not broadcast on a special radio signal that only black people can hear. But it's easy to forget that because often these are worlds that people outside the black community don't typically wander into.

Twitter CAN feel like a conversation between fans and friends. The Tom Joyner Show can feel like it's only being broadcast in "Black America." But that's a false security. Especially when you're a commentator and journalist who wants (and expects) to be taken seriously, but in your public "personal" accounts you're anything but. Hence providing endless fodder and fuel to any and everyone you've ever offended, wronged, annoyed or just don't plain like you.

Martin, after at first dismissing the issue, has since decided he will meet with GLAAD. CNN has suspended him. The National Association of Black Journalists has called this a "teachable moment." But if you wonder why there isn't a greater cry from peers and pundits about all this -- even about how inconsistent CNN looks right now with what's OK for pundits to say (on and off the air) and what isn't -- remember that this probably isn't about the offending tweets at all, but Martin's long history of doing what most people who are at his status wouldn't bother doing.

Think about all the other black commentators, journalists, academics and pundits on Martin's level or greater and think of how many of them get into regular fights, on Twitter, over any and everything, and Tweet in Kanye West, stream-of-consciousness style of things from the serious to the mundane to the potentially offensive. How many of them seek corrections from blogs with near non-existent readerships. When was the last time you heard someone have these complaints about being too casual online, too personal, too sensitive or just tweeting too much about Melissa Harris Perry, Michael Eric Dyson, Jamal Simmons, Jonathan Capehart, Toure, Michele Bernard, Keli Goff, Sophia Nelson, Marc Lamont Hill, Soledad O'Brien, TJ Holmes, Jeff JohnsonMark Anthony Neal, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Baratunde Thurston, Don Lemon, Donna Brazile, et al?

Maybe there was one big dust up a year or so ago with someone in that list ... but have you even heard anything since? Do they have a history of it? Of course not. Because all these people want to be taken seriously and understand that some throwaway, unfunny comments can get unnecessarily blown out of proportion because of the status they have all worked so hard to get themselves to.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The man is simply too big to be tweeting like he's a 22-year-old in the middle of a manic cycle.

Especially when you know someone is looking for any excuse to come after you.

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Reader Comments (5)

There's something about Twitter that makes "certain people" think they've become members of the Cool Kids Club. As big as Roland Martin is as you stated, I suspect that deep down inside he has greater delusions of grandeur. Maybe in his head his false sense of security has reinforced the notion, that he isn't exactly one step away from being the next host of BET's 106th & Park. When in truth he's as close as a bounced tvONE check from being an episode of UnSung himself.

February 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRiPPa

Thanks for the great insights and post. I totally agree. Loved you on To the Contrary.

February 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnanda Leeke

Your article is spot on! I recently had an encounter with him on Twitter(which is probably why my GF emailed me this article). I'm not a fan of his so he didn’t take to kindly to me RTing a friend with, "Don't RT that ignorant dude into my TL." His belligerent responses ensued and the Twitter Thuggin was in full effect. I don’t wish unemployment on anyone so I hope he learns to be more professional by his return on CNN.

February 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterisaiditnowwhat

You've said all I wanted to say about Martin, except his laughable obsession with ascots and dressing.

February 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFl Lurker

We have the same insights Roland Martin. I admired you because of telling the truth, and being true to other people and to yourself.

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertyre changers

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