I’m Sorry

To make a long story short, I, Stephen Whitworth, editor of Prairie Dog, have acted like a jerk. I’m an idiot who sets off social media shitstorms by calling people mean names.

What’s wrong with me?

The last month or so has been awful, with a mass murder at a Florida gay club, two Black men killed by police in the U.S., and a retaliatory shooting that left five cops dead and seven more injured (plus two civilians). There was also a debatably divisive but inarguably important Black Lives Matter protest at Toronto’s Pride parade, which became a nexus for social media hostility and racism.

It’s all a little much to take in, and I’ve been stressed out, freaked out and dumber than usual. That doesn’t excuse my being mean to other freaked-out people and calling them names, though, which I did — and for which I unreservedly apologize.

And while, in this world of Donald Trumps, Vladimir Putins and Nigel Farages, I can’t promise I’ll never call someone a mean name on Prairie Dog’s Twitter account, I can vow that in the future I won’t pettily name-call people who are trying to do good work.

Hopefully this apology will restore confidence in Prairie Dog so that it can remain a safe space for debate and discussion of issues by those seeking to build a better world.

Once again, I’m sorry.

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth was carried to Regina in a swarm of bees. He's been with Prairie Dog since May 1999 and will die at his keyboard before admitting his career a terrible, terrible mistake.

14 thoughts on “I’m Sorry”

  1. Name-calling, whether directed at people “trying to do good work” or not, never moves discussion in good ways. It shows thinking with the spleen instead of the brain, and has been so characteristic of PD for so long that an apology for what has rightly been called unprofessional behaviour (see your FB page) is long overdue.

    That said, the apology is unfortunately qualified by (a) an appeal on the grounds of emotional stress, and (b) a lack of firm resolve to do better, so is it still an apology?

    The cute-temper-tantrum schtick long practised by the editor has worn out its welcome and has eroded PD’s ability to “remain a safe space for debate and discussion of issues by those seeking to build a better world”. If PD goes toes-up, which I hope it doesn’t, it will be due to this undermining from within.

    There’s a book out called “I’m Right and You’re an Idiot”. It’s about the destruction of discourse and how that can be remedied, and by golly, it’s written by a left-of-centre thinker. Might be worth a read.

  2. I have to agree with Barb (which is funny, as I rarely agree with her posts from an ideological standpoint, but think they’re a fine example of intelligent disagreement, and often are an excellent counterpoint to blog posts here).

    Let’s add a bit of nuance: I wrote for Planet S, the sister mag to PD, for a nearly a decade, and one of the things that was interesting – and educational – regarding my editor there, Chris Kirkland, is that he was a calm blanket to some of my hotter statements, as I was writing about art, the art community, etc., and I have to admit that I was surprised to see that he’s done with this space, and that PD goes on the same.

    Chris sometimes frustrated me, as I felt that some individuals – on the right, and especially the left – were so richly deserving of approbation and some public shaming, but his editing was such that I knew what he would, and wouldn’t, allow, and I always understood why he made these edits. They were professional and considered, and erred on the side of responsibility to allow opinion, but not vitriolic bias and bile. I valued a conversation we had once, about an artist who had a merited reputation for abuse and racism, and how her exhibition was quite horrid, and I was unsure how to approach it and be honest, and Chris’ advice was very real, and very honest, and he promised to edit me with a heavy hand, if needed. I appreciated that, and I’ve written for – and continue to write for – magazines across the country, and Kirkland was one of my favourite – if sometimes “opposing”, if I may – editors.

    I’m posting this as there is necessary space for criticism, but PD isn’t a balanced or leading space, and hasn’t been for some time.
    Barb’s points are, as usual, painfully exact in speaking to hypocrisy: I also find it difficult to take PD seriously as you remind me of a conversation I had with a representative from the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce. On learning I wrote for the Planet, he said how much he disliked John Conway as a columnist. I countered by saying how often I disliked John Gormley. We then had a great conversation about how what we both disliked was their rabid, often ignorant, partisan approach to each and every issue, and realised we had more interest in balanced conversations than anything else.
    When the PD talks about artists and the SAA, and cites someone like Marcus Miller, but ignores clear facts about his own role in institutional racism at both the U of S and aka artist run, I just feel like I’m one of those “party members” that Doris Lessing wrote about in The Golden Notebook, who get shot for having the wrong opinion. Hypocrisy serves no one. Clive Robertson like to tease me that I overuse the term “Stalinist”, but that ideological blinder is in play, here, I think.

    So, do better, as you need to do so if you’re to be taken seriously. Or don’t, and another worthwhile – potentially worthwhile, if I may be caustic – media space will fail.

  3. I think what Stephen needs is merely a refresher course in professionalism in the workplace. Maybe another holiday to Pittsburgh or the Far East. I, however, find this self-satisfying “agreeing-to-disagree”, “finding common ground” thing as a bit of a self-pleasuring measure. I like to start from the point that, for the most part, we’re all 95% identical anyway – eat same food, drink same drink, breathe same air, cheer for the Riders. So for at least 95% of the time, I’m pretty sure we should all have no problem getting along. Nothing too mystical about it. Don;t think people need to hold themselves in too high esteem for that. Kind of a hipster thing nowadays. But Stephen shouldn’t be bullying or attacking people. At this point, he should maybe be acting as more of a role model or mentor.

    Phenomena such as Trump, Bernie, Brexit, however, do show great restlessness and dissatisfaction with our status quo. There is a bit of a middle-to-upper-class, millennial-to-middle-ager bubble going on even in places like Regina where we do act isolated from “that stuff”. Growing evidence showing “despair” among the middle-age cutting their life expectancy in regions such as the rust-belt. These are real fault lines, not to mention terrorism, racism, possibly ushering in a new, mini Dark Age across Europe and maybe here.

    People in our status quo distinguishing themselves as measured, “balanced” thinkers is almost another assertion of their elitism. Most of us are. We just don;t brag about it. Some of us aren’t. Those people could use your help, not shame or condemnation. However, for some, like in the rust belt, it may go deeper than that.

    Bottom line here is, Stephen needs to act more professionally. But a more self-satisfying, bourgeois agree-to-disagree among cultural and business elites is not what the PDog needs. JUst spitballing here.

  4. i.e. There have long been volatile divisions between thems on the liberal-left, both horizontally and vertically. Just look at Brexit. Look at the failure of the Sask NDP to re-launch. And those divisions are now finally starting to appear on the right, as well. Just look at Brexit. Look at Trump.

    So, an educated left-of-centre person with a defined benefit pension plan making between $60-$100, or a spouse who makes that, probably always has and always will have more “common ground” with the same on the right of centre.

    Frankly, where we’re almost all failing is to make those bonds vertically, the single mom looking for a deal on Puritan stew at the Giant Tiger with the deep religious values or working man who chain smokes and hates immigrants who nonetheless vote NDP and the secular well-dressed stable middle class government office workers who vote NDP.

    Horizontal affinities between left and right are child’s play; lemme see some common ground on the widening gap between under and over

  5. We’re all fearless commenters here so far, so what worries me a little is that there isn’t a comment from a new face, or someone who felt slighted, but now readily accepts this apology. The comments above are obviously all well considered, and while I don’t agree entirely with their analysis or predictions, they are worth considering.

    I don’t have a suggestion about what to do next that I’m confident would restore things to the way they were (if we and PD should even go there).

  6. Most of the posters here share one thing in common with PD.
    Concerns about professionalism.
    To put it politely, Mr. Whitworth has a certain flair or style to express his passionate views, beliefs, support for/against and whom he likes/despises. Especially on overuse of sarcasms.
    This risks to become misconstrued or escalates into something which turns many people off.
    As the old saying goes, “To Err Is Human”.
    Maybe his apology is sincere or 50/50. Either way, I’m prepared to cut him some slack.
    We are not in his shoes when it comes to running a small independent bi-monthly paper.

    Remember Paul Dechene asked to have his PD postings restricted for no comments for a short time prior heading to Malta for nearly a year. Mainly due to stress.
    Perhaps Mr. Whitworth is due for some time away?

  7. PD’s finest hours, in my opinion, were the months of coverage of the malpractice and politics which nearly destroyed First Nations University. I remember phoning Stephen (there was no dogblog at the time) to praise Stephen LaRose’s consistent fine work, and to ask if there was a media award for which I as a regular reader would be happy to nominate him. Since then, but most particularly since the Harper Conservatives got their majority government, PD went into a tailspin from which it has never recovered. True wit and analysis was replaced by curse-fests; advertisers were alienated; other media were railed against instead of competed with; and it seemed that PD wasn’t sure anymore who its audience was. It also seemed that PD was quite willing to dish out the vitriol but not take it, and that’s a sure sign of lack of professionalism.

    I don’t think that time away is going to solve anything.

  8. I write sporadically here and learned long ago to stay away from social media.

    I shut down not one but two facebook accounts as I did not like what was happening there. The only time I think I may miss anything is when someone posts their wedding invitation only on facebook! Huh? I guess we weren’t such good friends if you could not email or call me to attend your special event. I had to learn it from someone I keep in contact with face to face.

    I have no idea what Stephen did. I really don’t care. When in a work setting, one must stay diplomatic even though you want to wring someone else’s neck. Even in a personal setting, one must stay cognizant of your actions as it affects your work, your personal life, etc. How many times have we heard of someone acting like an idiot away from work but losing their job because of it? Too many times to count.

    And, with that, I will bid adieu and continue on with my personal life not bared for all to see.

  9. I don’t know what the editor wrote to feel that he needs to apologize. In certain positions in society, such as editorial staff, it is important to remain balanced, I concur.

    But I am aligned with the side of society that says all of the media shows brief moments of only some wisdom. Sadly, there is a deliberate attempt in recent years to have any excuse to NOT LISTEN. And that is what I find deploring about some of the commentary made before I try to post mine at this web page.

    I am writing a book on the base dishonesty of our ‘democracy’. The media IS a major culprit to what crumbles the reputations of our democracies. All of our ‘media’ and journalists seem to forget that it was the outside editor (watch The Last Sentence if you need easy reference to an editor of integrity) who, in 1933, challenged the world on why they did not stand against Hitler.

    Oh, there are moments of hope. This common failure of the most important component of democracy, our ‘newspapers and their editors’, only momentarily disappears in instances that raise hope. Frankly, I did not know PD existed until I happened to stumble across the PD’s report on ‘those killings’ in high school in a Saskatchewan small town that brought even outside reporters into the Saskatchewan world. The PD reporter at that event was the only one (?) allowed to remain in that town, why? Because some understanding to the dilemmas and the rights of the small town citizens apparently came through.

    But, the irony is that, when I petitioned this ‘newspaper’ to get exposing deeper issues in the Saskatchewan provincial election, even this rag went silent. Why? Because I have a history of castigating our media as being part of the problem, along with unaccountable politicians?

    Or because I dare to call even members of our media ‘idiots’ to the lessons of 1945?

    Irony that much of the commentary appearing here comes from ‘the editor’s own profession’, with not a lot of navel gazing to the question for all citizens, “Do you really listen?”, or just use every excuse in the book to turn off the real debates you do not want to hear?

    I am in Wolseley, Saskatchewan, writing books that will use ‘bad language’ and expose that I dare to call the corrupt ‘names’. I am rushing to finish one that challenges the world’s citizens to why racism, elitism, sexism and religious fanaticism rules around us in the Donald Trump and Barack Obama and George Bush eras. I dare to use what some might define as ‘name calling’.

    Why? Because even this paper’s editor has a right to make record of human emotions of the moment, and to then decide if that will get him to where he should ‘professionally be’. That is self-censorship that we choose.

    HOWEVER, when we censor others, or even censor our honest anger, our right to be angry at a world around us, then we enter into the dangerous ground one of the commentators references.

    When it is ‘the advertisers’ who decide whether a paper will be published or not on the basis of what words are written and how they are written, then we allow greed and a real dishonesty to our human history to prevail. So, when do you, the pompous commentators, at least one who admits that they agreed to ‘edited language’ from ‘editors’ (in a news report maybe. In an opinion column, whether it be on the arts or anything else, why?), ‘get it?’

    I am a ‘professional forester’ from Ontario, forced to come to Saskatchewan so that I could survive to make record of what happens when some of us try to keep our personal integrity and demand honesty, even in personal business that could get us rich. In 1982, in the month that Canada’s ironic constitution arrived, I was fired from my government job.. Along with a truly professional forester, George Marek, who was originally from Czechoslovakia, I refused to lie on public documents as the partisans of the day wanted, for the sake of a good partisan business man, ‘friend’.

    I had decided that, when in Lakehead University, ‘being trained’ (now our universities are instruments of ‘indoctrination’ to the premise that ‘free enterprise’ is ‘democracy’), I wanted to work for Marek. Why? Because this man, who had barely escaped summary execution by the Nazis and then fled the Russian advance, demanded honesty to the scientific truths.

    What Marek and I, and a very few other truly professional foresters in Ontario, predicted in 1981 came to be. The science was there that predicted what happened in 20 years time. No matter what state of lies all three partisan groups then presented in the 15 years I worked inside government after I won my job back, Ontario’s forest industry would face an irresponsible decline. That was predictable because of base greed and incompetence, for the sake of profits.

    Marek swore like a trooper and still died a respected man except with whom? The high and mighty in our society who retired to the golf course and high condos.

    So, in 1989, I saw the science of global warming that we are incompetent to, why? Because ‘editor’ Steve or whatever his name may be is afraid to curse the individuals in our society who act like idiots? And strip away responsible democracy.

    In 1989, the science warned that we, humanity all, needed to change our ways or the survival of humanity was threatened in 60 years time. 25 years later, we are still bumbling along because Saskatchewan’s people are not dying in the increased natural disasters (predictable droughts and violent storms) that other parts of our world are experiencing.

    Blame it on Toronto? Blame it on general human incompetence that does not extend beyond the comfort of the moment.

    1933? A Swedish editor’s stern warnings, using ‘polite language’?

    Shame on all of you for re-entering the state of concentrating on what words are used INSTEAD OF LISTENING, as democracy compels us.

    Don MacAlpine,. Wolseley, Saskatchewan…. visit http://TakeBackDemocracy.ca to visit the biography that I gave this editor access to as the farcical Saskatchewan election followed an illegal federal one… read the laws that I post there that compel our freedom to use words freely, apologize for them if we have second thoughts but to never suggest that we bow to the premise that we need to accede to the premise that books about “I am Right and You’re an Idiot” should guide our personal behaviours. Instead, watch that movie about Swedish editor Torgny Segerstedt and then tell me what hurts most: angry words of a moment that urge us to end the wrong… or machine gun bullets, torture chambers and gas chambers when we suppress the angry words for the sake of? Polite comfort that allows us to, maybe, survive ‘one more day’.

    PPS… this paper’s editor was given access to a story where partisan cops arrested me because I dared to yell, loudly in writing, at partisan lawyers in high places. When do ‘you get it’?

    This is the self-censorship and censorship of others that sickens me, given our world’s lessons to 1945.

  10. Don, you may want to read his words before making your haughty judgements and wagging your finger at others.

    His rant was essentially a childish tantrum – telling people to fuck off etc.

    There is a basic level of professionalism that the public expects from a news publication. PD fell far, far below that line.

  11. Hasan… AW, yes, read ‘his words’ and make no judgements about the general professional irresponsibility that arises because an editor uses the words that express emotion in a manner that others view as ‘childish’.. My point made… Many will, too many, will deny the right of the emotion of anger. I do not need to read this editor’s ‘editorial’. His need to apologize AND his ‘professional cohorts’ arrogance to the implications of their own comments ARE my issue here. Instead of reading David Suzuki sponsored books (I’m Right and You’re an Idiot). I suggest that the lot of these commentators who are journalists or writers (and suggest another book sponsored by a ‘scientist’ who sponsors what partisan group?) read Jean Amery’s 1977 republication of his 1966 book, At The Mind’s Limits. Amery’s record is a sorry record of a survival of Auschwitz. Ironically, the first review of the book recommended in commentary here (I’m Right …) gives it a one out of 10, at Goodreads. Why? Because someone realized that the agenda of ‘safe discourse’ is the very thing that Jean Amery decried as a survivor? Not really. The reviewer was tired of the term ‘climate change’, because of? I give Amery’s book a 10 on the same scale. Unfortunately, Amery did not awaken to see the equation of how partisan sponsorship of books, newspapers and every part of our media hides what happens when partisans are already inside our courts and policing stations, judging on our behalf what partisans do to us inside the policing stations, courts and the media. ‘Journalists’ and ‘editors’ do not get the equation that Amery misses in a cry out against the antisemitism he was back into by 1966. Partisans in the wrong place is a critical part of our ‘democracies’ that is missed.. Despite Amery’s lessons. Had Amery not committed suicide in 1978, the year my first born arrived, he and I might have had good discussions on the mechanics of silencing, yes, inside our media, that lead us back to 1929. We do not have time to play these games ‘of talk as I insist you must’. It is time the censorship stopped and we all started to listen to the discourse instead of demanding how the discourse will happen before we listen. That is my issue, NOT what this editor said in his original editorial. So, no, Hasan, I WILL NOT take the time to read the original editorial. I have my own discourse to complete. And, no, I will not be censoring my angry discourse after experiencing (1971 to 2016) 45 years of witnessing to the factors that should trouble even you. AW, yes, ‘haughty’ is just another word for ‘knowing all’… judge me not on mere sentences. IF you choose to censor my life experiences from your own daily accountability, that is your choice but not a responsible one. Given Amery’s and others, during and after 1945, too sad experiences…

  12. By all means be angry. Anyone who doesn’t get angry about what is going on around us lives with his or her head in the sand. But I believe it is more effective to express that anger in rational language without name calling and swearing.

  13. Don, I’m really scratching my head over your responses. You are quite emphatic that you WILL NOT take the time to read the original editorial.

    Also who’s censoring you? Why are you referencing 1945?

    Stephen did a thing, and apologized for that thing. That’s good enough for most people and we can move on.

    In your two extraordinarily long comments, you really are mostly talking about yourself. For very different reasons than yours, I did not read your entire post. Honestly I got through the first few sentences, skimmed another paragraph, and now here I am.

    Anyways – whatever your point was I hope you made it in there somewhere. Happy Friday!

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