The Internet can be both a god and a demon. It serves to link us to people all over the world, to information, networks and social media sites. Unless you've been in a coma for 10 years you know just how vile un-moderated forum or website comments can be. Behind the veil of anonymity the most appalling behaviour takes hold of (I continue to hope it's a minority) disproportionately vocal and vicious people on the Internet.
As we regularly use social media, it's easy to forget that what we post or tweet is instantly and pretty much irretrievably in the public domain. It affects, sometimes immediately - and at other time incrementally, our reputation. Freudian slips, bad jokes, racist overtones, discriminatory comments, injudicious posts or tweets can come back to haunt us. They're there for future clients, customers, employers, friends and others to see. Image is not created only by advertising, marketing and PR. It's very much a result of the direct experience one has of a person or organisation. Yesterday was a reminder for me of just that.
Tanya Kovarsky, (@TanyaKovarsky on twitter) the editor of CLEO magazine in South Africa tweeted the following : 'Yay – Castor (sic) Semenya won. Good for him!' This was re-tweeted almost immediately by Nechama Brodie (@brodiegal). It elicited a series of nudge-nudge, wink-wink little jibes on Kovarsky's public timeline.
I replied on twitter by saying: 'Utterly disgusted by CLEO mag editor @TanyaKovarsky referring 2 Caster Semenya as 'he' and getting name spelling wrong.' As a magazine editor she cannot possibly be unaware of the deep embarrassment and emotional pain that Caster Semenya's had to endure over the last year as a result of her gender status being under international scrutiny. So for someone in the publishing industry and an editor to boot to make a statement like this is simply beyond the pale. For Brodie to re-tweet it when she's a business woman and regularly published feature and article writer is equally unacceptable. When people have access to media, they wield power. That power must I believe be exercised judiciously and with respect. Both Kovarsky and Brodie are involved with publications and businesses. There's no dividing line between what a brand-custodian says and the reputation of the organisation they own or represent. They're like Siamese twins.
Kovarsky claimed 'it was a typo', and implied I was taking her too seriously (the 'joke' cop-out). Yes, 'Castor' may have been a typo. But 'him' instead of 'her' ain't a typo. It was an inexcusable cheap shot in a public forum. My opinion is vindicated in that despite Kovarsky's posturing, bluster and bravado she went to the considerable trouble of deleting the tweet from her public timeline.
If it had in fact been a genuine error, a simple, 'Oops, sorry' and a correction would have let the matter go away. But Kovarsky and Brodie then bandied about a series of tweets with Kovarsky using the word 'test' (on spelling Caster's name) and having a personal go at me. A further demonstration of juvenile, socially unskilled, emotionally unintelligent, insensitive behaviour.
My final point is this. Both of these women are evidently Jewish. Coming from a tradition and a history in which their forebears might have been killed simply for being 'different' I would expect a higher level of sensitivity on matters like this. Yes, the anti-Semitic card will be played as it always is (it already has been obliquely used on twitter). I'm cool with that. The issue of using the 'Jewish' word and being vilified for it really doesn't trouble me.
Storm in a teacup? I don't think so. I believe it flags the dangers of thoughtless and painful jibes, jeers and discriminatory comments on the Internet. I also wonder if either woman would be proud to use this behaviour as an example for children?