Y’all know how dismissive I was about Facebook a few months ago. Still am, to a great extent. It just seems like a lousy way to communicate, compared to blogs. I mean, I’m ADD enough without constantly being interrupted by the face that someone I knew 30 years ago is going to the supermarket today, or some such. And Twitter is worse, in this regard.
But now I see that Facebook is capable of fostering sustained thought, and serious discussion. This is a revelation to me. But I find myself wondering: Why not just have this discussion on a blog? After all, that’s where it started, with this item by Adam Beam on The State‘s “Metro Desk” blog:
For $250, you can be Charles Austin’s friend
The Columbia Urban League is hosting a retirement tribute for former Columbia City Manager Charles Austin June 15 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
The Urban League is sending out letters to community leaders, asking them to join the “Sponsorship” category with a $1,000 donation. The money gets you a nod in the program and eight reserved seats. Donors of at least $250 become “Friends of Charles Austin” and get two tickets.
The money, according to the letter, will support youth leadership programs at the Columbia Urban League.
Austin served as Columbia’s police chief for more than a decade before becoming Columbia’s City Manager in 2003. He retired in January after one of the worst budgeting crisis in the city’s history. He will remain on the city’s payroll as a consultant through June 30.
That fostered a Facebook discussion of admirable depth and seriousness, with none of the pointless digressions that you find too often in the blogosphere. Maybe it’s the nature of the Facebook community, being based however losely on the concept of “friends” rather than random strangers. I don’t know. In fact, I don’t even know if y’all can go read it unless you’re “friends” with these particular people. I suppose I could copy the whole discussion here, but it’s really long.
Here’s a sample, from our own Kathryn Braun Fenner, that illustrates how this discussion dealt with some pretty sensitive topics with both frankness and civility:
I have already come perilously close to being seen as racist, if not having crossed that line, when I have suggested in the past that some of the black community’s emperors have no clothes. Perhaps it would be better heard from someone with darker skin.
I believe the way to progress as a multi-racial society is to move toward colorblindness–judging on the content of character, etc., and that cuts both ways. I support some affirmative action, but only insofar as it does not “Peter Principle” unqualified people into places where they merely reinforce truly racist perceptions. [See, e.g., Charles Austin]
The mostly white power elite know what the deal is–they are paying “tribute” fees to the black power elite. Nelson Mullins wants to show off that it is a Platinum level sponsor while Parker Poe only ponied up Gold level, ergo, Nelson Mullins is the friend of the black man (!). Like I said, there are some talented African-Americans who have achieved a great deal against not insignificant odds, like some of us in this discussion, who are never feted in these events. Then there are the usual suspects.
Mind you, I’m not endorsing all the opinions expressed in the discussion. It’s dismissively harsh toward my friends with Columbia Urban League (I was on the board for 10 years). And once or twice it’s too harsh toward Charles Austin, who is a really good guy, but a terrible city manager. But his honor is quite eloquently defended, also — without blinking at his failures running the city. On that point, here’s Kathryn again:
Whoa–what do you mean Charlie doesn’t have any honor left?!?!?
He didn’t steal. He didn’t lie. He didn’t commit any crimes or ethical violations. He just was too nice to fire incompetent people, and didn’t know what he was doing. He tried to “live” his faith, and found that you can’t run, or at least he couldn’t run, a city like a Sunday School. I think that’s plenty honorable.
…and how exactly are we going to hold “folks accountable at the ballot box”? I’m not going to vote for Joe Azar over Bob Coble. Steve Benjamin has payday lender issues and hasn’t formally announced yet. Who’s running against Sam, and is it right to kick him out? Tameika is up, too–is she responsible? Who’s running against her–someone better?
Charlie was accountable and he resigned. Pretty honorable all told. Not perfect, could have done it sooner, should have done it sooner, but he did ultimately do the right thing. He’s essentially getting severance, which is dubious under current conditions especially, but not unwarranted under the circumstances of his long, and for the most part, excellent service. He basically deserved and got an honorable discharge. Being promoted beyond your competence and doing your best, honestly, and failing, is not in any way dishonorable!
He didn’t even torture anybody!
So it’s a good discussion all around.
And what I want to know is, why didn’t this discussion happen on a blog?