In the wake of the Aurora movie theater massacre during which seventy people were shot and twelve killed, the entire NHL rallied in remembrance of Jessica “Jessi Red” Redfield Ghawi. A scholarship fund was established in Jessica’s memory, the purpose of which is to allow budding sports journalists like her have an opportunity to spark their own careers. Donations poured in from all over. The LA Kings donated $10,000 and hockey fans from coast to coast contributed. Her death touched a nerve. Affiliations with particular teams were far less important than honoring her memory.
Yesterday Dr. Scott Schnee of Phoenix, Arizona, a pediatric cardiologist, soiled Jessica’s memory in an unconscionable way using social media. He snidely encouraged Denver Post Columnist Adrian Dater to “catch a movie in Aurora” and to “join Jessica” simply because he was unhappy with Dater’s takes on his beloved Phoenix Coyotes. Schnee’s ill-advised comments touched off a miniature firestorm of outrage across Colorado and in the national blogosphere. Channel 9 followed the story locally and a TV station in Arizona sent cameras to Schnee’s home.
Banner Health, the HMO that manages Dr. Schnee’s practice was forced to issue a statement and promise to look into his irresponsible use of Twitter. Dr. Schnee could be facing sanctions. Or perhaps not. Maybe he will only receive a stern talking to. Either way, his bravado has taken a hit. After Dr. Schnee directed his offensive comments at Dater, he continued with banter on Twitter, calling Colorado fans “soft” for their reaction. A short while later Dr. Schnee had deleted his Twitter account.
Hopefully Dr. Scott Schnee learned something yesterday about the immediacy and potency of social media. Hopefully we can all learn from his mistake. It’s doubtful that he became a pediatric cardiologist without being a man of discipline. He allowed himself to slip and, in doing so, found himself the focus of an alarming amount of public ire. In being critical of Schnee I have to confess that I am living in a bit of a glass house.
Who among us hasn’t made a sideways comment on Twitter? I certainly admit that I have. Most recently, when Lebron James was lighting up the scoreboard as the heat faced the Thunder in Oklahoma City I wisecracked about Lebron’s “explosiveness”. The comment was intended as a dig at OKC over a horrifically tragic event in that city’s history. My Tweet was no less irresponsible than those Dr. Schnee directed at Adrian Dater yesterday. I am not a doctor, of course. I Tweet under an assumed name and have nowhere near the prominence in my community as Schnee does in his. But that doesn’t excuse what I said at all.
The overwhelming reaction to Dr. Schnee’s comments and the widespread fallout fall out was surprising even to me. It caused me to reflect on my own sometimes dark sense of humor and wonder if I have even hurt people’s feelings. It caused me to consider the impact of Twitter in a new way. It’s a lesson we can all use to learn. Unfortunately, for Dr. Scott Schnee, he’s the one in the spotlight, but it could just as easily be somebody else who had tipped back a couple of beers, was feeling snarky and loose and let some barbs fly.
I’m not saying that I feel badly for the guy. He made his bed and now he gets to lay in it. But it’s dishonest to call the kettle black without taking time out to ask myself what color I am. In a way I am grateful to the Doctor for being so shocking and over the top as to make some of my own comments fade into the background. It gives me a chance to reassess my own behavior in the vastness of social space.
By the time the weekend rolls around, Dr. Scott Schnee will be beginning to put all of this behind him. The media will have moved on the next outrage. The Twitterverse will have, too, for the most part. It’s a quickly moving world. The hurt feelings will remain, though. Jessica Redfield’s friends and family will still be without the beautiful redheaded girl that they loved so much. Oklahoma City will still be mourning lost souls, too, as the city has since April 19, 1995. Schnee’s barbs still won’t be the least bit funny and neither will mine.
Can we all learn something from the mess in which Dr. Scott Schnee finds himself? I think so. I have a feeling Jessica would agree.