about the Twitter conversation with Carman Pirie

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On Monday I was checking out the Twitter feed of a Halifax-based web designer whose work I admire, Carman Pirie of Kula Partners. As I was scrolling through, I saw a tweet he wrote where he said,

Despite the fact that I don’t actually know much about the bridge protest issue, I wrote back,

And it went from there. You can see the whole conversation by clicking here. At the point where he said the thing about year-long kitchen parties and pogey dying in the 90’s, I took a screenshot and posted it to my Facebook timeline. I got about 15 comments on it, varying from “what an ass” to “Far from being entitled, Cape Breton workers have a long history of labor struggle. Coal and steel workers knew that the only concessions they won were the concessions they fought for. The Company didn’t give anything away.” (Thanks for that Randy!)

People were pissed. One woman I know said she was going to write to the companies who Mr. Pirie designs for and tell them about his opinion on Cape Breton, and how much it angered her. A few others asked for the name of his company so that they might never hire him. More shared the photo on their own timeline with their own thoughts.

It made me pretty angry too, but I spent enough time in chat rooms in my teenage years to know that no-one really wins a battle of wits on the Internet. And I had other stuff to do (like, uh, attending school so I can get a year-round job, yo). And so I’ve been mulling it since Monday. Feeling pissed off and unsure what to do, since I didn’t want to spend any more energy on a centuries-old argument. And, although I don’t know Mr. Pirie, I’m willing to bet he’s not actually out to get Cape Bretoners, and I have a feeling it’s more that he gets a kick out of saying controversial stuff and riling people up. (I happen to love someone a bit like that.) And, I don’t want my blog and my timeline to be full of angry crap; I prefer positivity, on the whole.

But seriously. Why is it OK to say that shit? What, uh, entitles him to accuse an entire island of people of basically being year-round drunks and bums? It’s a stereotype. And it’s as bad, I’d argue, as the ones about blacks or Native people, the kind of stereotypes I won’t even repeat here, and that no-one in their right mind goes around spouting on social media, especially the social media attached to their business and real name.

It’s one of the great questions of our time what is a valid joke, and what is offensive?

I, for one, felt like when someone insults your family… It’s like, no dude, I’m allowed to do that, but you? Back off.

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6 Responses to about the Twitter conversation with Carman Pirie

  1. cpirie says:

    Appreciate the post Leah. I think the context of the discussion / debate was pretty important at the time and there’s a certain nuance that’s lost in the back and forth on Twitter. Certainly the pogey comment was intended to rile (as you note), but I do not, and have never, painted all with the same brush. As the conversation thread details, I mention that some get it, and some don’t…. just like in rural NB where I grew up (and just like a lot of places, I expect). Some seem to feel entitled to a living, others seem to understand that it’s up to them. For the record, I have had plenty, and will have many more, lovely times in Cape Breton with lovely people. It is unfortunate, however, that some of your Facebook friends do not understand that someone can own a business and have / share personally held political views simultaneously. I apologize for offending—what was intended as spirited political banter was obviously taken more personally. That wasn’t my intent, and I’m sorry.

    All of that said, my original point remains: when you see something like the bridge protests happening against the backdrop of an EU trade deal, it all seems a touch out of step.

  2. suzanne1953 says:

    Can we bring this back to the original topic itself maybe? I’m interested in why you (cpirie) would consider the EU trade deal a winner for Cape Bretoners in particular? This particular protest was local unionized labourers taking issue with an out-of-province company doing work at the site with non-union workers. How would the EU deal affect that situation?

  3. cpirie says:

    For clarity, I did not offer comment on whether or not the EU trade deal is a “winner for Cape Bretoners”. Similarly, I did not suggest the EU deal would impact the bridge protest situation in any way. I was simply offering comment on the juxtaposition between the EU trade deal—one intended to remove barriers to trade with a 700M+ european market—with the fact that trade is challenged between two relatively tiny jurisdictions on the east coast of Canada.

    • suzanne1953 says:

      Oh, okay I understand that. Yes it’s certainly ironic. But that is big government, doing with one hand what the other hand has no idea about. But why do you say “some get it, and some dont”? Get what, exactly? That conditions are just fine for earning money locally if only they are willing to work for it? (Certainly you implied that the EU deal would affect Cape Breton positively — did you not mean to?) I don’t think most people are excited about the EU deal either. Really it has nothing to do with pogey or Cape Bretoners. And it is confusing that you intended to rile! I missed the point of that. Am I one of those who don’t get it? To me, the problems are all about unregulated capitalists who come here (and glean financial incentives from our government to do so) and take the profits elsewhere, whether they are from NB or EU or wherever else. Not to mention the unions, which have become as terrible as the original sins they were meant to mitigate.

  4. yv0nnej says:

    I think, regardless of motives, if that is your business twitter (or is easily linked back to the business) then it’s in poor taste. We’ve seen it time& time again. CEOs make comments about personal thoughts& then people show their disagreement by boycotting the product/ company/ whatever. Poor decision making to say things like in a medium where they stay forever& can be so easily misconstrued.

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