Tag Archives: Web

Writers Can Get Caught in Web

By Jason Menard

Dave, Dave, Dave. You broke two of the cardinal rules of the Information Age: Don’t do anything that you’re not willing to stand behind for years to come; and just because everyone CAN blog, doesn’t mean everyone SHOULD blog.

Too often people think that a strike of the delete key is enough to erase one’s activities from the electronic world. Some think that their thoughts and actions can simply get lost in the vastness of the Internet world — unfortunately, we’ve seen time and time again that nothing is every truly gone.

Dave Burghardt, son of former Liberal MP Jack and a now-former campaign worker for Glen Pearson’s Liberal bid for the London North-Centre riding, is suffering the political fallout from blogging. And while he’s apologized for his self-professed indiscretions and ill-chosen words, the fact is that if he wasn’t going to stand behind what he wrote in the first place, he never should have committed his thoughts to ink – or cyber ink as the case may be.

Simply put, everyone and their mother can blog, but that doesn’t mean everyone should. Most people can write a sentence, but that doesn’t mean they’re qualified to write for a newspaper, does it? So why should the standard be any less on-line? There are a very few responsible bloggers who take their craft seriously. There are a number of quality reporters and opinion columnist who ascribe to the basic tenets of journalism. They provide fair and balanced reports, or informed commentary, based on facts. They avoid libelous situations and stand by their actions.

Then there are the stream-of-conscious bloggers who feel their life story is fodder for the masses. For these people, their self-inflated view that their life is of interest to all generally runs out of gas. These blogs get abandoned once the novelty – or notoriety – wears off.

But these are innocent, mindless blogs. Fluff, as you would have it. Unfortunately, there is a segment of our society who believes in the anonymity of the Internet. They believe that their effects posting – either behind their own name, or through a pseudonym — only exists in Cyberspace and can’t be traced back to their every day lives. But, as Burghardt has discovered, these things can come back to bite you – hard.

It’s a safe assumption to say that nothing is every permanently deleted on the Internet. I’m sure there are ways known to people who are smarter than I am, but for the most part it’s safe to say that anything that ventures into the World Wide Web can be retrieved for years to come. And that’s not a bad thing.

Bloggers need to treat their forum with the same respect that people who write for publications do. They need to understand that their text will have the same permanency that someone who is dealing in newsprint and ink has. In fact, in some cases, those who write on the Web have a longer reach and more permanence than those who write for local publications. While an article that exists only in print may be kept in an archive, only to be discovered when someone blows off the dust from the storage box, those pieces that appear on the Internet can be searched for by people all around the world, in real time, whenever they choose.

Articles can be copied and posted on others’ Web sites. They can be linked to or mirrored. They can be quoted, referenced, or acknowledged on literally thousands of other sites without the original author’s knowledge or permission.

So it’s clear that a simple delete of the files just won’t cut it.

Blogging is still in its infancy. And, in fact, many of those with an on-line presence who deal in the creation of opinions pieces avoid labelling themselves with the term Blogger due to its negative connotations. However, as this forum of expression continues to grow, so too will the understanding that one must stand behind each and every comment one makes.

On-line or in print, a responsible opinion writer will adhere to strict journalistic principles of truth and fact-checking. The writer should be aware of libel issues and avoid writing anything that could be considered to contravene the laws of this country. And that takes research, understanding, and knowledge. Most importantly, you have to realize that your commentary today can resonate for years to come. I am proud to say that I stand behind each and every piece I’ve written over the past decade – and I can do so in confidence because I’ve taken extreme care to write what I believe, based on facts, knowledge, and opinion.

One’s opinion may change over time – which is the natural effect of growing older. But if you’re going to venture into the world of on-line commentary, make sure that you understand its permanency. If you want to write hate literature, or any other sort of commentary that you feel may affect you negatively in the future, then be smart about it and use pencil and paper – or maybe even an Etch-a-Sketch. That way, when you erase it, it’s permanent.

If you choose to write things that you feel will cause you embarrassment in the future, resist the lure of positing on-line. After all, if you play with fire, you’re likely to get burned. Ask Dave Burghardt about that.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Putting the Humane in Humanity

By Jason Menard

Is the idea of being nice to each other out of date? Does the Golden Rule, which permeates any number of religions and societal structures, no longer apply to the modern world?

Kenneth Hemmerick, a Montreal-based, interdisciplinary fine artist has created an on-line course entitled, A Guide to Humane Awareness. It’s intended to be a tool to be used to reflect upon our own behaviour and attitudes, and to make us more aware of actively pursuing a humane way of living.

Yet, when I floated this concept around, reactions were decidedly mixed. While most thought it was a good concept, they felt that it wouldn’t resonate with the masses. There were a lot of “Yes, but…” and “Well, we know a lot of this, but on a day-to-day basis…” The most astute observation came from one person who said that those who are already good-natured and want to better themselves will be the ones who log on, but those who really need a course like this won’t look twice at it.

Essentially, what Mr. Hemmerick is trying to promote is a world where people consider the ramifications of their actions and the impact they may have on the world around them. But instead of lauding his efforts, many choose to look upon this innocent concept, shake our head sagely, and mutter something to the effect of, “but in the real world…”

But why does the real world have to be one where cynicism reigns supreme? Really, we all pay lip service to being nice to one another and making the world a better place, but when push comes to shove, we choose to isolate ourselves from the world around us and protect our own interests. We call it looking out for Number One, which is appropriate because we’ve elevated the satisfaction of our individuality over the needs of the community around us.

And I’m no different than many of you. I strain my life experience through a filter of cynicism, looking at the world through a jaundiced eye, preferring to find ulterior motives for random acts of kindness instead of appreciating them for what they are. How many of us, when hearing about someone making a large donation to charity think, “Oh, it’s just a PR stunt?” We attribute the motive behind displays of generosity to goodwill-generating, self-promotion in the hopes of receiving a return on that investment.

In fact, we’ve commercialized kindness to such an extent that we’ve created mantras promoting the concept. We’ve turned Karma into a commodity. It’s great to do a good deed as long it’s returned – with interest. The idea of doing a good deed just for the sake of itself is outdated.

So why has this happened? Is the pace of life increasing so quickly that we hold on for dear life to those things with which we’re comfortable, instead of just enjoying the ride and the experiences along the way? Do we, as a people, just not have the level of compassion required to make our “Do unto others…” Golden Rule Utopia a reality?

There’s something to be said for the fact that this world we live on is overwhelming. Technology has made the far reaches of the world closer than ever before. Our intellectual revolution has brought us instant access to the world around us. And with that comes a daily deluge of tragedy, loss, and sorrow. With every natural disaster, with every report from a war-torn country, with every plague, virus, or outbreak our reservoir of compassion is drained a little more, until finally we decide to turn off the spigot.

But when that compassion stops flowing, does our humanity dry up as well?

The idea of compassion seems so foreign to our dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest view of the world. Many would say that one can’t exist in the presence of the other. And, if that’s the case, then it becomes our choice as to what kind of world we want to live in – and what kind of world do we want to leave for our children?

I look on in wonderment at the innocence of my children. To them, the world is, inherently, a good place where people share, are nice to each other, and love one another – and this is because that’s all they’ve experienced. I smile looking at them, marvelling at their naiveté, and lamenting the fact that eventually they’ll have to see that the world is not all good.

But maybe we they don’t have to grow up knowing that. Maybe projects like Mr. Hemmerick’s can be a first step along the path to creating the world that we’ve always aspired to, but never attempted to realize.

It’s got to start somewhere. And perhaps the key to being a good human being is to start being a humane being.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved