Parents gather at a public trustee meeting, April 24, 2023, to protest the remarks made by WCDSB trustee Wendy Ashby on social media. Photo courtesy PAFE

Editorial: Beware loose lips

  • May 4, 2023

Catholic school trustee Wendy Ashby has shown a penitential measure of class and character April 26 by publicly apologizing for her bizarre Twitter outburst against “white Christian” men and the “white women” who support “christofascist patriarchy.”

Of course, the Waterloo Catholic District School Board member should have displayed an even greater of degree circumspection before putting her fingers to keyboard. She could then have avoided the well-deserved public scolding she received from her fellow trustees once the twits hit the fan.

The board as a whole would have been spared officially distancing itself from, and ordering a formal review of, her remarks. The wider world beyond Waterloo would have gotten along just fine, thanks, without Rebel News showing up at the next board meeting to unconscionably milk the local controversy for all the YouTube likes it was worth.

As Register reporter Quinton Amundson writes in this issue, a Rebel “reporter” — we confess to contorting the term far beyond its accepted definition — apparently acted out a delusion that the Waterloo Catholic board is somehow accountable to him. He subsequently hooted long enough and obnoxiously enough at trustees that police were called to restore order. Perhaps a Rebel leader will whisper in the young man’s ear that whatever fantasy image he was conjuring, behaving like a minor league media circus clown has nothing whatever to do with the craft of journalism.

All could have been avoided had Ashby had made the right first choice between delete and tweet. Instead, social media was set in motion with the usual ill effects of bloated outrage, polarized finger-pointing and utterly pointless embarrassment over words that never needed to be said. That said, her relatively rapid recanting of her inexplicable ranting does merit her being shown political forgiveness on Catholic grounds at least

To borrow from St. Paul, all have sinned and fallen short of resisting Twitter’s temptations. It’s instruction she has taken to heart by cancelling her account. Ashby’s lesson, in fact, reinforces a crucial contemporary lesson for the rest of us. The very existence and nature of free speech compels us to daily renewal of our obligation to exercise self-restraint. We’re equally free to speak, and captives of the cost of what we say.

Recently, we’ve witnessed a $785.5 million quantification of self-restraint’s importance in the Fox News legal settlement with the Dominion Voting machine company. In its wanton gluttony for ever higher audience appeal, and resulting advertising dollars, Fox aired reams of news content it knew to be false, and now faces a near billion-dollar bill as the price of its profligacy.

As in trustee Ashby’s localized minor variation, all could be avoided by adhering to Our Lord’s injunction in Matthew’s Gospel: “It is not the thing that enters the mouth that defiles us, but the thing that proceeds from the mouth.” Add in typing fingers as well, as we have an adage fit for the social media apologizing age.

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