Definition: Internet Troll. In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotionalresponse or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. – Wikipedia
Years ago in the mid 90s I was a writer and editor for the urban Toronto magazine, Word. During my tenure there I wrote a piece that bothered me for years. It was about Christie Blatchford, then a longtime Toronto Sun columnist who was Ann Coulter before Coulter was. Back in the day there was a lot of animosity between Blatchford and Toronto’s afrosomething cognoscenti over was what perceived to be a racial bias against young African-Canadians in her far-right columns. Indeed during my database research it was evident that Blatchford negatively obsessed over blacks, especially Jamaicans, far more than any other ethnic group I queried.
As a journalist, however, I approached the story objectively and attempted to find the human behind the inflammatory prose. Turns out she indeed had a human side; she was affable, thoughtful and, as I vaguely recall, may have undergone a failed marriage and other empathetic experiences. We got along quite well during the interview and I especially liked her hip eyewear.
By the time the article was published I had moved to the Bronx, New York and was taken aback by the cover page headline the editors had chosen for my piece: Christie Blatchford Likes It Doggystyle (a reference to her admission of including Snoopy Doggy Dogg in her CD collection). In addition to the puerile headline, I was troubled by “my” article as it included words I had not written, allowing the editors to anonymously hide behind my by-line and lob all sorts of slings and arrows at Blatchford. Whether deserved or not, the story was far cruder than what I had intended and for years after, I had hoped to apologize to Blatchford if we ever crossed lines in Toronto’s overlapping media circles.
Less than 24 hours after the sudden and shocking death of Opposition leader Jack Layton, Blatchford penned a crafty diatribe against the popular NDP icon, claiming his final letter to Canadians was “vainglorious” and remarking “who seriously writes of himself, ‘All my life I have worked to make things better’?” Apart from the reality that in the dying moments of one’s life, rewrites are highly unlikely, Blatchford condescendingly dismisses the work Layton did “to make things better.” Lest we forget, as Blatchford has clearly done, here’s what Layton did to make things better:
- strengthened Canadian unity by vanquishing the separatist Bloc Quebecois party to unofficial status
- showed Canadians (especially younger voters) you can win a historical number of seats without resorting to negative campaigning.
- authored several books, the most influential of which was Homelessness — an issue that former Mayor Mel Lastman admitted this week was made a high priority because of Layton’s gentle but persistent nudging. Layton didn’t just write about it; he opened the first food bank in Toronto.
- co-founded the White Ribbon Campaign — an organization dedicated to preventing violence against women and now represented in 60 countries
- was a vehement champion of protecting the environment well before An Inconvenient Truth made it trendy
- was a strong supporter of LGBT communities, leading the way on HIV/AIDS funding and regularly attending the Pride Parade (again, before it became trendy)
Even his less heralded achievements made things better including supporting bike infrastructure (fighting to get bikes on the TTC and popularizing the now ubiquitous ring-and-post stands that provide thousands of Torontonians a safe place to lock their bikes).
Blatchford didn’t just take several ill-timed digs at a man who had just succumbed to cancer, she also derided Canadians who, on a rare occasion, were unified in grief. Heartlessly and yet with unaccredited authority, she equates mourning of a transformative national leader to the death of a Jersey Shore cast member:
“Certainly, Canadians liked Mr. Layton, but the public over-the-top nature of such events — by fans for lost celebrities they never met, by television personalities for those they interviewed once for 10 minutes, by the sad and lost for the dead — make it if not impossible then difficult to separate the mourning wheat from the mourning chaff. ”
Somehow, Blatchford is unable to see what even conservative politicians like Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Toronto mayor Rob Ford honorably acknowledged — death transcends everything including politics, geographical borders and even the cold, sociopathic need to sell newspapers at any cost including human decency. There is no separation of wheat and chaff when it comes to the ending of a human being’s life, particularly one cut short because of disease.
And perhaps the worst part is the fact that Blatchford knows all of this and yet wrote a stunningly tasteless column to sell newspapers and generate pageviews. It is a sad confirmation that the columnist is not much more than a troll, seeking attention at any cost. Unfortunately her bottom-feeding worked like a Perez Hilton blog post as her name continues to be a trending topic on Twitter nearly 48 hours after publishing this untimely bile.
One can only hope when her own time runs out, Blatchford will finally realize there is more to life than just being a troll. — MG
Below is my favorite of the many videos circulating in memory of a well-liked politician and great Canadian.