Jody Vance: one innocuous tweet pondering ways to reduce plastic produced a staggering amount of vitriol. Here’s how it went down.
How do you feel about plastic bans? My feelings have changed significantly over the last week – here’s why.
On a hot August day, standing in front of pop cooler at a convenience store, I was staring at a wall of plastic bottles filled with every soda imaginable.
It got me thinking.
Here in Canada we’ve been hearing much about the environment, how we need to reduce our dependence on single use plastics, and discussions about an all-out plastic ban.
With that topic in mind, I mused on Twitter:
It went rather viral.
My feed filled with folks chiming in, as they do. Lots agreeing that putting the producers, rather than regular folk, in the crosshairs was a solid suggestion.
A mere 24 hours later, my Twitter was steeped in insults and vitriol from a global movement pushing back on banning plastic straws.
You’ll notice I made no mention of straws…but it’s all part of the problem. The pushback from the disabled community, who rely on straws for survival, feel that the environmental movement has not done due diligence on banning single use plastics, leaving them at serious risk.
Unknowingly, I’d stumbled into an ongoing fight. When a very organized group of activists jumped in to spam my timeline, it escalated incredibly quickly.
As a talk show host and opinion columnist, this piece of the plastic puzzle had not hit my radar. So I decided to look deeper.
Not “needing” straws, and knowing no one who relied on them for survival, I asked about it on Twitter, as well. The very people chastising me for “not knowing” now appeared extremely angry at my question — and unwilling to educate.
They were simply here for the fight.
Pivot to a great (or so I thought) Plan B. I reached out to a colleague, a very talented producer and hardworking young man named Ben Dooley. He happens to be disabled. I asked him to join me on radio. Ben being Ben, he immediately said “yes” and only then asked “what’s the topic?”
I tagged him on my Twitter. Even he was taken aback by the vitriol!
One activist accused me of being pro-eugenics. (I had to Google the word)
The science of improving the human species by selectively mating people with specific desirable hereditary traits with the aim of “breeding out” disease, disabilities and so-called undesirable characteristics from the human population.
This is where Ben came to my defence…only to be abused and accused of aligning with the enemy.
The list of accusations was long. On top of eugenics, there was my apparent want to remove all plastic syringes and IV bags — any medical plastics. My fingers typed furiously to clarify that at no time did I suggest anything so outlandish.
My smelling salts moment came when I referenced the Rick Hansen Foundation, my many interviews with the fine folks there on global accessibility and so much more, only to see that hit with serious slags.
The lightbulb came on that this group of angry activists were not looking to be heard, find support or to inform — they wanted to spread their frustration. My Twitter was merely a vehicle.
I guess The Middle here is the lesson that protesting by screaming into the void is backwards. Lobbing vitriol and hate silences the message.
At the end of the day, I feel horrible for those whose lives are truly placed at risk by a plastic straw ban. Read more on that here.
Feeling disenfranchised, on any topic, can leave people so angry at being unheard that they turn away from necessary intellectual discourse. Let’s find our way back to that, shall we?
Understanding that sweeping policy changes can have unintended negative impact on those already dealing with significant challenges should be at the centre of this discussion.
Shouting and wild accusations just make it harder.
Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.