Now that comments are trickling in at only 3 or 4 an hour instead of 20 or 30, I feel like I can breathe again. What a weird couple of days!
Let me see. What have I learned so far about having a post go viral?
Nothing prepares you for it.
There was no way I thought more than a few dozen people were going to read that post. When it started getting tweeted back and forth and facebooked all over the place, and suddenly politicians and writers and chiefs and people I’ve never met in my life were talking about it, I had no idea what the heck to do about it. For two solid days straight I was online trying to keep up with comments.
The most views I’d gotten in a single day before all this was 132. The day after I posted the Attawapiskat piece, there were over 38,000 views!
I didn’t write that piece for a large audience, I wrote it for myself and for my friends. I realise that this is part of the appeal, but it’s like preparing a few talking points for a class discussion and discovering you’re presenting to a stadium. Yikes!
More importantly, not being prepared meant I did not have time to really consider whether I wanted my real name out there or not. I gave an interview with cbc, and boom. There I was. I’m not sure I’d make the same choice again.
Some people want you to explain absolutely everything in a single post.
A lot of comments critiquing this post have to do with information I didn’t give, and things I didn’t explain. As it is, that post is loooooong! Can you imagine if I tried to tackle more in a single piece? You’d be crying tears of boredom trying to get through it. All I did was dig a little deeper into the number being discussed so heavily in the media. I was disturbed by the surface detail being presented in articles and talked about in the comments.
This is just how I write. I’m not a professional journalist. I’m not a political activist or a politician. I’m not a host of weird things people have been saying they believe I am. I’m just a snoopy person who doesn’t take people’s word for it, particularly anonymous people on the internet. I like sources. I like facts I can check. I find that when you present these things to people, then you aren’t just pointlessly trading opinions.
This blog isn’t commercial in any way and I haven’t made a cent from this. My most ambitious goal for this post and subsequent topical posts was to be able to use them in online debates. Responses to accusations I see made over and over again and have gotten tired of responding to from scratch with such an expense of personal energy. If other people could use them as well, then that was a bonus. It certainly wasn’t prepared for national consumption in mind!
You can’t control where your piece ends up.
This blog has been reposted so many different places I gave up trying to track it anymore. Most people have been great about asking first. Not all have, however.
The mix-up with the National Post, where they attributed my work to someone else by accident, is not really a big deal to me. (By the way, I really want to clarify something here. The fellow who had his name attached to the article was not trying to pass himself off as the author. He came across the post the same way most of you did, and sent it to the National Post who didn’t fact check rigorously enough and published it with his name. I appreciate that people were upset, but this guy shouldn’t be blamed for what happened.)
What freaks me out a little more is the simple fact that it was posted on the National Post at all. I wouldn’t have chosen that publication to have my piece in. I wrote about Attawapiskat on my blog specifically to get away from awful, hateful, racist comments. I can control the comments on my blog, and when people just start smearing me, or others, I can edit their posts.
(Contrary to some claims, I haven’t had to do this much. Maybe 10 posts out of over 700 comments, plenty of which are comments that don’t agree with me and have remained up, unchanged. However, I think that people were more willing to engage here for whatever reason, and perhaps the kind of environment on places like the National Post just encourages inflammatory remarks rather than dialogue.)
Anyway, let me just say that it’s bad enough having people say really ugly things about you in general. Having them say ugly things about you when they know your name and roughly where you live? That’s just plain creepy. I have never had any desire to be in the spotlight. I avoid those comment sections not just because people say ignorant and hateful things…but because now I’ve got people saying ignorant and hateful things about me, personally.
I know I shouldn’t focus on that, because most people aren’t hating on me. My name is out there now, and there’s nothing I can do about it. My blog post is out there being picked to pieces, and that’s out of my hands too. On the positive side, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people who were really happy to read this, and honestly there’s been way more on that positive side than on the negative.
I am trying not to let it get to me that people have all sorts of assumptions about why I wrote this, or what I’m trying to say. I can’t correct all the weird misconceptions. Man do people like to accuse, though! It’s pretty hardcore. This is me, growing a much thicker skin in the span of a few days!
Most of all though? I wasn’t wrong. People really are awesome.
You’ve got to ask yourself sometimes, as a native person, hell just as a person in general, if things are ever going to change. I’ve been fighting a long time against stereotypes and misconceptions (maybe that’s why some people are claiming I’m some sort of activist). It can get you down pretty badly sometimes, because you constantly face that crap when you start speaking out about it. When you’re that voice in the back of the room saying, “wait a minute…” you end up having to deal with a lot of demands like, “well justify this to me then” or hearing about how you just don’t understand reality and so on… because speaking out makes you a target.
A lot of people I know are really good at just not getting into it with people, and just living their lives in that good way. I really admire that. They hear all the same crap, but they just let it pass over them. I’ve never been able to do that. Wish I could sometimes.
What I’m trying to say is, sometimes you feel like not trying anymore. Like it’s not worth it to keep explaining things over and over again. You want to turn inward, and you start not trusting people.
This whole thing has affirmed something really important for me. I no longer have any doubt about the sincerity of the majority of people to engage in dialogue and learning. I don’t have all the answers, I never have and I never will, and all I’ve ever wanted is to get past the anger to just have good conversations with people. I feel like that was possible here. I feel like it’s possible into the future.
I know I’m not the only one feeling it. People talk about inspiration, well, I’ve been inspired. Yes, there are some angry, closed-minded people out there. Most of the rest of us are just living our lives, and we don’t seem to have time for all of that crap. So I want to thank the people who have read the Attawapiskat post, who have shared it, who have talked with people about it…even those many of you who don’t necessarily agree with me or who still have questions (which you should). Thank you for moving us a little beyond the embarassment of grown men in important positions calling each other names and using the misery of others to score political points.
Still, I’ll be happy when it’s over.
The nice thing about the bizarre internet phenomenon of viral anything? It comes quickly, and leaves quickly. I’ll be happy when this blog can once again just be about quirky aspects of Cree grammar, or the odd rant here and there about whatever is going on.
Thanks for letting me vent, I’ve got to go start scrubbing all the boot-marks off the blog floor now. It’s been quite the stampede, but all the fry-bread is eaten up and I’ll bet people will be trickling back to their regular haunts soon!
I received a phonecall from Kelly McParland at the National Post, and he apologised for the mix-up. He said that he thought it was a really good piece, and didn’t check up on who the author was well enough. Once he realised the mistake, he felt it was important to keep the piece up with clarification as to what happened, rather than take it down and cause further confusion. He noted that the policy of the National Post is to first ask permission of the author before republishing, and once more he apologised that this did not happen in this case. I don’t have contact information on this blog, so he had to do a bit of digging to find my number and talk to me about it.
It was pretty nice to hear from him, honestly and I feel a lot better about the whole thing. I think it was an honest mistake. As I’ve mentioned in some of the comments, enough people have talked to me about the pros of having the piece in the National Post that a lot of my initial unease about being ‘outed’ has faded. Yes, I would have liked the chance to think over whether I wanted to appear in the National Post, but things happen, and I think it has turned out well.
Whew, now we can get back to the real issues! 😀