Where do you go for surfing news? Back in the days, I bought surf mags, if I was lucky enough to find them on the rack. Times have surely changed. Thanks, internet!
The Roxy ad furore made it to mainstream news in several countries. Cori Schumacher led the charge, posting blogs, giving opinions to journalists, and taking action with an online petition. The Inertia made some of the better efforts in surfing circles. Eventually even Surfing Life had three articles depicting points of view. ( Unrelated to Roxy but on a serious note, thanks for ending my dreams of Indo, Huck. )
So. When news dropped that a Quiksilver staffer had resigned, I’m sure many of us went online for the source. Here’s what we initially found: …
If you were searching for a quote in the media from Quiksilver regarding the now infamous ‘butch lesbos’ comment, there was only one source: Stab Magazine. Odd? Not in surfing.
In the online world of surfing, there appear to be two protagonists in the fight for the real story. On the one side: Surf Media 1.0, otherwise known as surf magazines; and on the other: Surf Media 2.0 , aka “Trolls“( Alternate definition here. ) You know the ones. Railing against surf mags on Twitter, changing their points of view to incite controversy, playing the devil’s advocate while defenceless surf editors and journalists shake their heads at these irresponsible, anonymous mischief makers. Ahem. Not me though, I’m an ‘Anon’, which I think means member of the public who has no right to an opinion.
@VishOnAMish asking for an alternate view to support your own without providing it seems redundant. Disagree? Provide the alternative.
— Surf Lion (@Gravys) July 14, 2013
Jokes. My opinions matter. Thanks for the invitation.
But that’s a particularly polarised version of reality. Where’s mainstream media, you ask? Great question. When Quiksilver hit headlines, the company went to Stab. Likewise, when the ASP was sold, the interview went not to a mainstream outlet but to Surfer Magazine. That’s where this gets interesting.
Ladies, gentleman, trolls, those erroneously identified as trolls, those who want to be trolls but are failing at it, meet: Fred Pawle, Surf Writer for the Australian. Here’s a link to his piece that came out on the Drug Scene in modern surfing: Going to Water On Drugs. Except you’ve probably already met him. Fred Pawle knows where many of us go to find news. It’s Twitter. Here’s an example of a journalist on twitter responding to members of the public:
Surf magazines, like newspapers, maintain a presence on Social Media, but as with all journalists, managing your online handle and your professional objective position can be ethically tricky. Fred proves it’s not impossible. He knows his online persona can influence the objectivity of his job, and he manages it.
When I was baited by an ‘editor for Surfing Life for criticising an article*, I went to Surfing Life. I sent three tweets detailing mainstream and independent posts that provided alternate views to the article. I wanted better coverage. Bec Woods’ article was a huge improvement. Would they have done it without me throwing my toys? I never heard from them. I got the silent treatment. Don’t feed the trolls, as we like to say. Trolling stops when we get over it. Or when we do our jobs in the first place.
Thanks Surfing life for giving us a voice http://t.co/jYZQcyiyDN
— Bec Woods Official (@becwoods) July 18, 2013
When Fred Pawle’s article hit, here’s what happened- my hours-old post celebrating Surfing Life’s articles was hit with a relentless tirade from the same account that held me to task over my opinions on the Mimi LaMontagne article*. When that didn’t get any bites, tweets started appearing on that account about recreational drugs. What do we call it? Trolling. When do we do it? Once our magazine has been outdone.
This could be a rogue individual. It could be a coincidence that they were trying to provoke controversy at that time. But when I was defusing the tantrum using my, I admit it, patronising teacher voice, I couldn’t help but wonder “Why now?” Then I saw The Australian article. Are Surfing Life fuelling controversy, using Troll accounts to attract an audience? Are they merely maintaing a blind eye to their employees’ behaviour? Or are they using it to maintain the silence?
What is prevalent in all of this is silence. Silence about sexism. Silence about homophobic attitudes. Silence about drugs. Ssh, everybody. We’re not meant to notice.
Surf magazines face a difficult situation. They attract advertising revenue from the same industry that sponsors the athletes and competitions. so they appear to tow the line. The organisations involved sit tight. Surf mags can’t always ask the tough questions. Journalists like Fred Pawles can’t always get a quote. People wait for the fuss to die down. Sometimes it won’t.
Love them or loathe them, the unlikely allies of surfing’s marginalised communities appear to be so-called trolls. Witty, infuriating, insulting, irreverent and relentless- are they actually trolling properly?! Fighting sexism and taking on a culture of silence doesn’t entirely appear to fit the traditional definition despite indignant cries from some professionals.
Meanwhile, debate rages on, sometimes sensibly and politely. It would be easy to believe that all this noise is a dialogue, that we are contributing to change and that differing opinions were welcome. Wade on in! The water’s fine! Everything’s fine!
After what I’ve seen, and the way myself and others have been treated, perhaps not.
In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood. ~Henry David Thoreau
Why so much noise, when we start to examine the silence?
*EDIT: The troll account mentioned and the harassment it linked to is no longer available as it has been shut down since this blog post was published.