clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chris Douglas-Roberts' Twitter account chronicles a fascinating story

Politics generally aren't our thing here at Brew Hoop, but in a world that's getting smaller and more connected by the minute, it's no longer uncommon for sports and the real world to interact in new and interesting ways. With that in mind, our Dan Sinclair put together this piece on the events of the past 24 hours and how it relates to the NBA, its athletes, and the democracy of new media.  Check out SBN for more.

Last night, the United States accomplished a goal laid out almost ten years ago. The leader of the terrorist organization that carried out the largest attack on American soil in history was killed in a small raid in northeast Pakistan. It is a defining triumph, a distinct victory in a war with borders and objectives that are often so blurry against the background.

It is difficult to predict how things will change with the death of Osama bin Laden. By some accounts, his terrorist network was already in shambles compared to its form of ten years ago. There are certainly a number of willing successors who will take his place, and the fight against terror and evil in the world will continue. But as pure symbolism, this is a powerful moment. Justice, an inherent ideal cherished not just by the United States but the world as a whole, has been done.

The speed of information today is blinding. As fast as the news was released, the whole word became a forum of reaction, aided in no small part by the same internet architecture we use to discuss our favorite sports. So as expected, there were incidents.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, whose stay in Milwaukee appears likely a pit-stop rather than an endpoint, has always been an entertaining character to follow. He picked up an enormous fanbase here in Wisconsin almost immediately following the news of his trade to the Bucks (aided twitter!). And where Chris Douglas-Roberts goes, Chris Douglas-Roberts tweets, and he tweets with flawless honesty. So while many Americans were cheering in the streets (justifiably so, in my opinion), CD-R brought us a contrasting, sober view:

It took 919,967 deaths to kill that one guy.

It took 10 years & 2 Wars to kill that...guy.

It cost us (USA) roughly $1,188,263,000,000 to kill that...........guy. But we  though. Haaaa. (Sarcasm)

I should give much credit to SBN Editor Andrew Sharp for putting together his piece we linked to above. While I saw CD-R's tweeting last night, it was quickly lost in the whirlwind of reaction on the internet. Without Sharp, I might not have known about the backlash that resulted.

The beauty of Twitter as a form of communication is its real-time evolution of ideas, and CD-R's fell in the middle of what was probably the most impassioned time in the collective consciousness of the United States since the attacks of 2001. So naturally, CD-R was met with some opposition, much of it evidently vulgar and insulting. Chris spoke his mind, sharing an apparently unpopular viewpoint with the world, taking full advantage of the rights afforded him in this great country, and a great deal of people had the audacity to declare him out of line. Some told him his role was simply to, "thank the troops and keep your opinion to yourself." Many accused him of having no understanding of the magnitude of the event, making whatever he had to say a waste of time. Our own Frank Madden offers an exceptional take on the sequence:

As someone who was following Twitter throughout the Bin Laden coverage late last night, it was definitely interesting how quickly the CD-R commentary started and ended. It started with CD-R's original reaction--which from my memory was a bit scattered (as Twitter tends to be), but mostly just melancholy about the notion of celebrating Bin Laden's killing when so many people have died over the past decade. Within minutes it had transitioned to CD-R commenting/retweeting some of the hate-mentions he received, and shortly thereafter a series of media-types (David Aldridge among them) and others in my feed were already rallying to support CD-R's right to express himself.

Granted, Twitter is by nature a selected sample--you only see what people you follow are saying or retweeting--but it was a fascinating study in how social media and Twitter in particular has accelerated and distorted the news cycle. With so many people reacting without filter in real time, Twitter can act like a funhouse mirror for real news and a magnifying glass for the more innocuous brushfires that inevitably flare up when so many people are looking for something interesting to say. Normally the whole process of an athlete or other public figure weighing in on a controversial topic, receiving public criticism for it, and then having support rally back around him would take a few days or a week. In the Twitterverse? It took about an hour.

We've dissected and torn apart parts of CD-R's game here at BrewHoop, but we have never torn down his person. The status of a citizen as a professional basketball player offers no detriment to his character, nor bearing on his right to voice an opinion. The cause of justice is of the highest order, and I have no doubt that Douglas-Roberts would agree, but the cost is great. This is undeniable; only its justification is subject to questioning.

As the world comes to terms with the news of last night, we are reminded that this country, and indeed much of the world, is great not because we are all the same, but because we feel that every individual is important and his differences valuable. In Kantian spirit, we hope to create a society where humans have value not as means to an end, but as ends in themselves. Chris Douglas-Roberts' Twitter bandbox is but a small point in what was surely a very crowded mess of ideas and opinions last night, but its existence is as important as anything. The United States carried out the direst of actions to protect that point. We should not scoff at what CD-R does with it.

Note: While we wholeheartedly endorse a free and open exchange of ideas, the sensitivity of this subject is clear. Please be considerate with your comments.