Facebook and twitter feeds have filled with righteous anger directed at Tony Veitch and venomous abuse snarled back by Veitchy supporters.
The trigger was a thoughtless ‘joke’ Veitch made about McCaw getting punched in the face during the NZ-France RWC match. This ‘joke’ was construed by critics as the tasteless comments of a wealthy white privileged male who brutally assaulted his previous girlfriend and broke her spine in a vicious attack. This lack of self awareness was compounded by Veitch’s appalling Facebook comment (above) that shows he just doesn’t really ‘get it’. A clever version of what he should have said if he’d had some insight has been doing the rounds…
…the backlash by many Veitch supporters to those who are criticising Veitch has seen the sort of sexism that inspires the burning of libraries. The totally unacceptable abuse directed at those calling out Veitch highlights the very kind of engrained domestic violence culture that seems to have protected his career.
I don’t know if Veitch was making some snide comment about his own personal history of domestic abuse when he commented on the rugby punch, based on his fairly immature Facebook posting, I’d suggest that maybe he isn’t that self aware and was in fact referring to some other incident. Regardless, his history and position of privilege meant that when he was challenged, he and his supporters became ultra defensive and abusive.
No one likes to be called on their privilege. It paints an unflattering picture of ourselves from ill-thought out comments thrown around without consideration. Social media in particular has created a culture where voices rarely heard in the mainstream can give their opinions unedited by the normal level of civility required by face to face contact.
This means we can be as harsh and blistering as we like.
This ability to say what we like when we like disrupts gatekeepers and rebalances the power dynamics, which is what makes social media so important and special. Rather than flinch and react angrily to these opinions in our social media feeds, people should put aside the righteous anger and understand where that anger is coming from.
This is by no means an easy task, when you face people hell bent on misconstruing anything you say to paint you out as negatively as possible, you need to learn how to block, unfriend or just accept some people are simply mean.
Beyond petty personality attacks, listening tends to be more important than reacting to social media fights.
Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault who never get justice have every right to see Veitch as the very embodiment of privilege that compounds the pain they suffer.
Transgender activists are furious that they must face rape and violence daily while liberals do little to champion their human rights.
Maori whose experience of colonialism almost resulted in the collapse of their race have every right to question the honesty of the Treaty.
The poor are righteously aggrieved at a political system that empowers and benefits the rich.
Veitch’s embarrassed and juvenile response are the words of a humiliated individual who has been called out and lacks the maturity to understand. The resulting social media flogging of Veitch won’t provide insight to him, and the social media pile ons may in fact be incredibly counter productive, but it should be a lesson to privileged spectators that the righteousness of that anger has a justification.
If we want progressive change we need to take less personal insult from righteous anger and try to understand why that anger is righteous.
That way we grow.
*PLEASE NOTE: I’ve removed my example in this blog to people who are merely mean as the use of the example has offended some people.