It was interesting to note the “death” of an arctic blog that has happened in the last few days. Larry was always a pretty blunt blogger, which I enjoyed. He had controversial opinions and argued them well. If he had a fault, it’s that he didn’t update the blog enough for my liking, but hell, there was some solid craftsmanship in his writing. I’m prepared to wait awhile if the writing is good enough.
However, one thought always used to go through my mind when reading Larry’s blog. And that was “how much longer is he going to be able to get away with this?” Because he didn’t pull any punches. If there was shit going on in his community that he didn’t like, he said it. He was very blunt about it. And I knew that was going to piss someone off enough eventually that they would complain to his employer. And lo and behold, they did.
This marks at least the fourth incident I know of regarding northern bloggers getting into trouble for their writing with employers. Only one has lost their job and that was before my time up here. Penelope Cholmondeley, aka Polar Penny, was fired after writing some things that upset a couple of people, who complained to her employer, who promptly fired her. That actually created a small international racket, about whether or not her employer was right to do that. For what it’s worth, and from what little I know second hand of the situation, I think they over-reacted.
The other three bloggers have received warnings and took steps, including removing the offending posts or, as in the case of Larry, killing his old blog. Again, for the record, I don’t think what Larry has done to deal with the situation will hold up for long. But we shall see.
I understand the frustration. When you get annoyed about something, it's great therapy to be able to rant about it on your blog. I’d love to write about what I do at work or even issues tangently related to what I do. I think it’s quite interesting. But it would be insane. I could do it with the best of intentions and it wouldn’t matter. I would get in trouble. Especially when you consider the volume of reporters who are bloggers in Nunavut (there are at least four), let alone the ones who don't blog, but still surf them. And you can't say reporters won't give you a call if they see something interesting on your blog, because they will.
By the way, I'm not slagging Nunavut reporters. They're doing their job, looking for stories. If you start writing about, for example, how terrible things are at your school, don't be surprised if one of them calls. I don't blame them for trying to find a good story. I would certainly do it if positions were reversed.
You can argue its suppression of free speech. You can argue what you do in your spare time when you’re not at work is none of your employers business. And hell, I’m not inclined to argue with you too much. But here are a few simple realities about blogging in the north:
1. We live in a small territory population-wise. Maybe in places like Toronto or Vancouver you could blog about work related issues and your employer would never find out. There is little chance of that happening here.
2. This is even more the case if you live in a small community. The fact is, very few Inuit blog. So if you’re a Kablunak blogging in a small community, someone will figure it out eventually. Even posting anonymously will only cover you for so long.
3. If you talk about work in a public forum, either what your job entails or interpersonal relationships at work, your employer will eventually make it their business.
So you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? Most employers do not want you to talk about work. Perhaps some do want you to talk. Perhaps some don’t care. But many, especially if they are governments, care very much about what you say in public about your job. Most of us write blogs as a hobby. There's no money involved. I write because I go mad when I don't. But if I was told to stop tomorrow or lose my job, well, I'll find other creative outlets.
This isn’t to get into a free speech debate. This is your annual reality check if you’re a northern blogger. Be careful what you write about. Always ask yourself “do I really need to post this” before clicking “send”, especially if you're upset. And remember, as shocking as it is, there are people outside your friends and family reading your blog. Install Statcounter if you don't believe me. And they will not always like what you have to say.
If it’s an important issue and you need to speak out, then by all means I think you should do so. Just make sure you pick your fights. Too often bloggers get in trouble over relatively minor events.
1. The way you want it - Keane
2. The shadow governments - They Might Be Giants
3. Rhythm and soul - Spoon
4. Falling through your clothes - The New Pornographers*
5. Armor and sword - Rush