The news that CNN has suspended contributor Roland Martin for his homophobic tweets during the Super Bowl startled me — and not for the reasons it startled everyone else.
Look, I am as opposed to homophobia, bullying and violence as the next guy. But the assumption underlying the whole furor about Martin’s tweet is that what Martin says on Twitter is an incitement to, well, anything at all.
Twitter consists of the sustained delusion that people actually care about what you are saying.
“If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl” Martin tweeted, and then advocacy groups fell upon him. I don’t want anyone to live in a homophobic climate, and I know that homosexual people are being beaten up. But, lord, this is just going to make Roland Martin think he’s more important.
Who will see this tweet and have his principles rejiggered?
Every comment makes a difference. We must be constantly vigilant. We must take care about the climate we create. Well, yes. Absolutely. But — are there kids sitting out there thinking, as GLAAD implied, “Man, Roland Martin, a 40-something man who speaks on CNN, has just tweeted something about smacking people who enjoy seeing David Beckham in his underwear, I have to go commit homophobic violence now”?
Frankly, no. I wish that were the problem.
Look, it is awful, awful that people like the young man in the video GLAAD cited when urging Martin’s removal are still the victims of homophobic beatings. But there is a gap between remarks, however hurtful, and the action of smacking the ish out of people. And what bridges it is not the tweets of Roland S. Martin.
Twitter is full of people saying things like “If you enjoy Adele, I will disembowel you.” And those are tweets from people with more followers than Roland Martin. While I was typing this, Rob Delaney, a comic — but with approximately three times as many followers as Martin — noted that “If you’re an adult man and you get excited about a pair of sneakers I will slap your face.” That’s a joke! Delaney’s a comic! Martin isn’t, and to describe his tweet as a joke is stretching the definition of the word “joke.” Still, there’s a line between saying something on Twitter about smacking people and inciting actual violence, and it’s worth preserving, or Twitter will stop being at all enjoyable for anyone.
Of course Martin shouldn’t tweet about smacking anyone, but, land sakes, I had no idea his word was law.
Now he’s apologized, and he’s trying to counteract what he said. But that will probably have about as much effect as his statement in the first place — which is to say, precious little. “If a dude at your party is hyped enough about Roland Martin to smack someone, reconsider the ish out of your friendship.”