Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Steynamite night

Disclaimer: the following play-by-play is based wholly on my chicken scratch notes. If the quotes strike you as unbelievable, it's likely that in my haste, my own bias toned down the rhetorical vitriol. I assure you that Steyn was far more offensive in person. 

Author/Provocateur Mark Steyn brought his surreal, one-man-show to Toronto last night. From my seat in the balcony, it looked like a good crowd - nearly filling the 1330-seat John Bassett Theatre.

The message? Canada's Human Rights Commissions and their international equivalencies are the single greatest threat to human rights in the western world.

The medium? A darkened theatre, where Steyn lectured, serenaded (possible motto: with so many great keys, why sing in just one?), and danced, punctuated by an ongoing skit with a fellow dressed as an Imam and a brief appearance by a woman in a Burqa, who at one point, was the subject of a mimed beating.

National Post editor Jonathan Kay introduced the "conservative fusion jamboree." Lamenting the "explosive motif," but heralding Steyn as the only person on earth who could pull off the explosives-themed evening in a crowded Toronto theatre.

Sun News fixture Michael Coren opened with a quick speech (like "Maggie Trudeau warming up for the rolling stones, or is that warming up the Rolling Stones?"), that was equal parts comedy schtick, sun news promo, and defense of christianity in the public square.

He advised the audience not to expect the usual political rally, rather to prepare themselves for a Carol Burnett-like experience.

Mark Steyn entered dressed as Dick Cheney in hunting gear, complete with a life-like rubber mask, flannel shirt, and a shotgun in hand. The real Cheney was scheduled to speak, but cancelled, afraid for his safety. Steyn/Cheney flailed around a bit before mistakenly shooting Coren. The aforementioned Imam appeared from stage left to drag his lifeless body out of view.

Steyn's first polemic was aimed at various awareness campaigns:

"In the 1920s, they cured polio, tuberculosis, and diphtheria, without a single awareness-raising day.... Today we have achieved phenomenal breakthroughs in awareness ribbon colours."

Though the futility of the campaigns irked him, Steyn took particular offense to the pressure to comply with the campaigns in schools, particularly Ontario's anti-bullying "Day of Pink." According to Steyn, the pink t-shirt wearing children were themselves victims of large-scale bullying in the form of social engineering.

Steyn donned a pink shirt for the event, which he professed to have worn since April 11th, the Day of Pink. His personal campaign was to raise awareness of body odor: "Canada's silent killer."

Similarly, his pink socks spoke to the ravages of ankle cancer, his pink handkerchief, to "what a nosebleed Justin Trudeau is." His pink boxers, the most pragmatic of all, reminded onlookers of the perils of mixing reds with whites in the wash.

He ended the stint by proposing a day of his own, "Individual liberty for free-born citizens day." Where you "make your own damn ribbon."

Next on the hit-list was the HRC's. He ran through an exhaustive list of the ludicrous suits heard in the kangaroo courts, including his own.

In 2008, Maclean's magazine was acquitted of "flagrant Islamophobia," by the British Columbia HRC, a charge garnered by Steyn's article "The Future Belongs to Islam."

His defense strategy was to "go magna carta" on a certain HRC chief commissar's "medieval ass," though he didn't hang his success on strategizing alone. The acquittal, rather, was a "political decision," because the HRC couldn't "stand the heat" of a guilty verdict.

The takeaway? The sensitivity crackdowns aren't "just nuts, they're evil." The HRC "Legitimizes the state as the only mediator of social conflicts" leaving Canadians "less free than our grandparents by nearly every particular, except sexual freedom."

Coren and Steyn fielded a few questions, including one from a person who identified herself "as a black woman from the West Indies, who is unapologetically conservative" and wanted to know how to appeal to "her people," who were loyal to the Liberal party, having immigrated while they were in power.

Coren stated that politicians who claim to have a particular ethnic vote in the bag are "inherently racists." Oddly, after what was a truly politically incorrect field day, he could not bring himself to "say the words" some "leftist liberals" used to describe Conservative minorities.

Steyn, on the other hand, took aim at those who identify first as a member of a group: "You and me and Omar Kadhr are all the same, our cultural identity does not trump our identity as citizens."

Over the course of the night, Steyn sang three songs. The first, his own rendition of "Kung Fu Fighting." A homage to Simon Ledger, who was arrested for racism after singing the tune at a karaoke bar (In case anyone was feeling litigious, he swore he was only lip-synching to Michael Buble). The second, "My Sharia Amour," which he crooned to his Burqa-clad "third wife."

The third and final number was "York, York." AKA, "New York, New York," only tailored to the Toronto audiences. He was accompanied by pianist Bruce Harvey, who expertly modulated to keep up with the uniquely Steynian key signature.

What was my overall impression of the evening? I don't think he hit the right note.   I "get" it. I get that Steyn was being offensive not only to assert his right to do so, but to demonstrate the harmlessness of "hate speech." I'm confident he proved that point - I doubt there was a spike of crime in the neighborhood post-Steynamite.

Still, this wasn't a regular political rally. It was an extravaganza! It was entertainment! And it wasn't all that funny. The combination of the type of rude jokes and the fairly white-bread audience didn't mesh. When Steyn writes for a national newspaper, it makes sense that he attack the nation's sacred cows. When he's surrounded by admirers, he ought to take a jab at their goat. We're going for intellectual pluralism here, folks, and that means variety.

Friday, April 13, 2012

How to enjoy twitter without making friends or influencing people

Two weeks ago I didn't "get" twitter. I thought it was for preachy social media experts, or smarmy salespeople hawking their product, or exhibitionists who got a kick out of trawling the depths of the internet for followers they would never talk to or meet. It sounded like the dinner party from hell - where Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber reigned supreme.

That, my friends, is the twitter dark side. But there is light!

The beauty of twitter is that it's public and searchable. You don't need to have a lot of friends who use twitter to enjoy the medium. You just need to find your niche. To seek out people who share your interests.

I'm pretty new to twitter. I've had my account for a while, but it sat barely-used until I was stuck in my house nursing my sore gums post-wisdom teeth extraction. I looked funny and couldn't talk comfortably. I was driven to social media out of desperation for some form of human contact.

Here's the thing - I still don't follow a lot of people, and I don't have a lot of followers. This isn't about how to become the most popular boy or girl on twitter, though I suspect it has something to do with attracting lots of pornbots. (AKA "my base.") This is about enjoying the twitter experience from day 1. When you're twitterlost and twitterconfused.

1. Follow public lists on topics you love
Lists are the newbie shortcut to getting plugged-in. The kind souls who have used twitter for years have compiled lists by topic, that you can subscribe to. It's basically an "in" to an expertly curated twitter account.

Finding interesting twitter peeps to follow takes time. After a few days of poking around, I found a grand total of 88 fascinating individuals. Not all of them tweet very often. Updates were few and far between. My twitterverse was boring.

But then I found lists! I now follow five lists, that include 1,686 people. There's always something happening, and it's a great way to meet kindred spirits.

Recommended: @sree 's  SocMedia Editors , @acoyne 's Canada Journos , @antderosa 's Reuters Journalists

2. Follow real people, not companies
Love news? Following newspapers is soo impersonal, and if they aren't listed, they will clutter up your shiny new twitterfeed. Instead, do a quick search and see if your favorite journalists are logged on. They'll let you know about their latest piece before it goes to print, alert you to breaking news, and if you have a question or comment, you can ask them directly.

Recommended: Jesse Kline @accessd, Paul Wells @InklessPW, Andrew Coyne @acoyne, Steve Murray @NPsteve

3. If you have other social media accounts, avoid redundancy 
My initial strategy to find twitter peeps was to follow whichever facebook friends or pages updated their statuses via twitter. Bad idea. It ensured that twitter didn't offer anything new.

Also, I found the twitterers who routed their tweets directly to facebook were the self-promoting broadcast types. E.g. They'd only update with links to their blogs. Those people aren't much fun. By all means, follow your friends, but don't stop there!

That reminds me...

4. Don't fully integrate your accounts 
Twitter and Facebook lend themselves to different types of communication. Their style is different. Use selected tweets if you want to add some of your twitter content to facebook. Don't flood both mediums.

5. Use a profile picture, and make it a friendly one
A friendly one of YOUR FACE. Make it personal, baby. You look so nice today. Also, once you figure out what you're interested in, put the specifics in your twitter bio. It'll help like-minded people connect with you.

If you don't know exactly what you're looking for, that's cool too. At first, my bio was simply "What would Jessica Fletcher do?" Which said it all.

6. Be extra careful when you click on a link 
Haha okay so I sort of lied. I had a twitter account many moons ago, but I shut it down. Why? The site was glitchy beyond belief (it's gotten better). But also, I had a hilariously unfortunate spambot highjack my account and send all my followers a message that stated I was 25 and horny. And dude, I was only 22 at the time. How embarrassing.

Don't let it happen to you.

So there you go! Enjoy the twitterverse. It has much to offer. If you try my tips and it still doesn't float your boat, remember - I didn't enjoy twitter until I had my wisdom teeth removed. Maybe they are what is holding you back. I know a good surgeon.