The Internet, Kindness and Anthony Bourdain
Many years ago, I saw Anthony Bourdain speak in Raleigh. He appeared on stage with a beer and a few pieces of paper. He seemed both addled and sedated. I knew it would be a long night when he began reading verbatim from his notes.
We showed up expecting stories from an intellectual mastermind, but what we got were a series of unfunny anecdotes anchored on the appearance and quirky behaviors of Sandra Lee, a TV personality on the Food Network. The whole bit was stupid and offensive.
I wrote about the experience on my blog and said that Anthony Bourdain is a piece of shit. The room was packed, the audience was on his side, and he alienated quite a few of us with his misogynistic language.
Many years passed, and I forgot all about that post. In fact, I watched his show on CNN. Every time he traveled around the world and spoke about people and culture, I was reminded of his great book called “Kitchen Confidential.”
Then, when Tony Bourdain became a vocal advocate for the #MeToo movement in 2017, I remembered my old blog post.
The internet is a harsh place, and, with hindsight, it was wrong of me to add to that cruelty. My brand of hostile sarcasm and cynicism was unique in the early 2000s, but, in the light of day, it’s no better than Tony Bourdain’s comments about Sandra Lee.
And, as a public speaker, I’ve matured and learned that you bring whatever issues you have with you on stage (addiction, insecurities, fear) and hope that your audience appreciates your effort and message. All of us have bad nights where we blow it. One shaky performance doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or lazy. It was wrong of me to make those statements.
Anthony Bourdain’s excellent work on #MeToo and his compelling comments about human resources prompted me to rethink my toxic behavior on the internet.
So, I pulled my awful blog post down in a heartbeat and hoped he never saw it.
And then I worked with a community organizer and event planner to pull together a #MeToo conference. Anthony Bourdain became our “dream speaker” because of his progressive and heartfelt advocacy for the women assaulted by Harvey Weinstein.
Unfortunately, I never met Tony again. And his death reminds me those unkind moments on the internet accumulate in our society and have a lasting impact on our collective unconscious.
So, in honor of Anthony Bourdain, I’m asking you to look at your own noxious behavior. Have you written something unkind and cruel? Do you have a blog post that is harsh? Have you tweeted something nasty about someone’s looks or appearance?
Today’s the day to glance at your archives and take it down.