Out There: To Nunzio, with love

"Parents naturally want their children to hear good things about them, not abuse; why show them a vicious tweet from someone I don’t know".

Illustration parenting 370 (photo credit: Pepe Fainberg)
Illustration parenting 370
(photo credit: Pepe Fainberg)
One of the most valuable parental assets, one of the most prized parental possessions, is being held in high esteem by your children: having them look up to you, hold you in high regard.
It takes years to earn that esteem, and is the product of many different elements, including treating them fairly, treating one’s spouse with respect, earning a livelihood honorably, and generally behaving like a mensch.
Many are the reasons to live an upright life, my father taught me in a life lesson I will impart to my own kids, not the least to ensure that those whom you love continue to respect and look up to you. Many as well are the brakes on committing indiscretions, none the more powerful than losing the esteem of those whose esteem actually matters.
And with that message ringing in my ears, I recently briefly debated whether to share the following tweet with my children: “@HerbKeinon,” tweeted one Nunzio Amitrano, “you disgusting misleading piece of s**t.”
Whoa, was my first thought as that tweet mugged me from my computer screen. Obviously it’s no pleasure seeing your name in such a context. My second thought: should I share this with the kids?
Parents naturally want their children to hear good things about them, not abuse. How many people, even believers in “full disclosure,” run home from work, sit around the macaroni at dinner, and – after asking how their children’s days were – blurt out: “My boss told me today I was as worthless as a worm, and all my colleagues agreed.”
No, that’s not what builds you up in your kids’ eyes.
Then why show them a vicious tweet from someone I don’t know and whose words mean nothing? Simply because I wanted their advice on how to respond.
WHAT ANGERED the gentle Nunzio, someone obviously consumed by hatred for Israel, was a tweet I posted just after Lina Mahoul won The Voice contest last Saturday night.
“Israel chooses Israeli-Arab as The Voice winner, couple weeks after crowning a black Miss Israel. What a racist country,” I tweeted.
I’m guessing Amitrano disagreed.
Obviously this is not the first time I have received unfavorable reader reviews. It comes with the territory. You’re not going to please everybody. But this time the stark vulgarity irritated me.
In the old days, criticism would take the form of letters sent to the office. Most of those letters were signed, however, meaning the censure was tempered a bit, and ad hominem denigration less prevalent. People are not going to call you a “son of a dog” if they have to sign their name to it.
As technology advanced, however, the criticism morphed into angry talkbacks on the Internet. At first I was intrigued by the immediacy of talkbacks. Write an article, see it online, and then – poof – within minutes readers can respond. I was intrigued, until some of the feedback got mean.
One of the structural problems with talkbacks is their anonymity, and anonymity breeds nastiness. I find the people who praise me in talkbacks, even if anonymous, very insightful. But the nasty folks, I think they are morons (see, I’ve picked up the talkback lingo).
Nevertheless, at times I have found even the insulting talkbacks useful – they help me fend off complaints from my children about my political leanings.
A couple of my kids, bless ‘em, think I am too far to the Left. To convince them otherwise, to try to talk them into actually letting me speak at one of their B’nei Akiva activities, I collect those talkbacks accusing me of being a right-wing fanatic. It helps me build up my bonafides with the children.
And then along came Twitter. Twitter created a whole new dimension. Some of the tweets, or responses to some of my own tweets, are signed, which means the tone should be less vile. However, unlike talkbacks, tweets are not moderated, which therefore enables them to be extremely vile.
Also, unlike talkbacks (which I now seldom read because I refuse to wade through one ad hominem attack by a talkbacker against another until I get to the attacks on me) responses to my tweets just kind of appear magically on my computer where I can see them.
Thus I saw Amitrano’s tweet.
MY FIRST instinct to his invective was to fire back in kind. What am I, a potted plant?
And this, indeed, is one of the dangers and pitfalls of email and Twitter – it is all too instantaneous and rapid fire. You get something on email, or see something on Twitter, and the reflex is to shoot back. There is no time to let the anger cool, to proverbially “sleep on it.” But if you fire back on email, what you fire back in anger is out there – can be forwarded and re-forwarded, and re-forwarded ad infinitum – and can never be recalled.
Which is why when I get something that angers me, I generally ask The Wife’s counsel before responding. But this time she was sleeping, so I turned to the kids.
“Curse him back,” said my middle son Skippy, just out of high school and before the army. “You don’t have to put up with that.”
My oldest son, out of the army and in college, took a more measured approach.
“Leave it,” The Lad counseled, sounding like his mother. “Don’t be bothered. Why get into it with someone who you don’t know? It doesn’t matter. Forget about it.”
Wise advice... but still. I was curious about my heckler, so I looked at his Twitter account to get a feel for the person.
Amitrano, it appears, lives in London, and follows 43 people and organizations, among them Iran’s PressTV, the co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, and British MP George Galloway, that oh-so liberal and enlightened MP who stomped out of a debate at Oxford recently because an Israeli had the gall to get up and debate him.
But the kicker: Amitrano also follows the Dalai Lama.
I chuckled seeing the tranquil Dalai Lama’s face among those Amitrano follows. “I notice you follow the Dalai Lama,” I thought, composing a tweet in my mind. “Well done – I see you’ve successfully internalized his peaceful teachings.”
That tweet I never sent. No, I was going to be mature, I was going to rise above the name calling, I was going to listen to The Lad and be better than all that. Besides, why suffice with just a 140-character tweet, when I could respond to dear Nunzio in an entire column instead.