Whatever happened to good old fashioned kindness? In a tweet overnight Miranda Devine labelled David Pocock a ‘tosser’ for a try celebration which included ‘jazz hands’ after scoring one of his three tries in a winning performance at Canberra Stadium on Friday night. Contrary to Devine’s nasty tweet, the footage of the match shows a modest gesture which was done with eyes downcast and lasted for less than a second. Hardly an overt touch down style celebration that deserves the ire of a political columnist. Never mind that he had played an outstanding match of representative football and been a huge asset for his team – certainly he deserved to celebrate.
In this instance, Devine picked on the wrong guy. Far from the political personalities she usually reserves her ire for, there is no skeleton in this closet. Pocock is somewhat of a good bloke. He has been outspoken in his condemnation of homophobia in sport, in particular in his chosen sport of rugby. He was an ambassador for the Bingham Cup in 2014, which is the World Cup of gay rugby. Recently, he chained himself to a digger with a local farmer in protest of a controversial coal mine in north western NSW. And on Friday night he signed to his friend watching from home in Auslan after scoring a try. Jazz hands they may have appeared, but in fact in this case Pocock was signing ‘clapping’ to his friend who is hearing impaired.
In the world in which he exists, these types of gestures are unusual. Elite Australian sport, (especially for males), exists against a back drop of sexism, homophobia, violence and sometimes extraordinary arrogance. Not that all male sports personalities carry such traits, but they are there and they are tolerated – sometimes even celebrated.
And here we have a man at the very pinnacle of his game, an international, a former and quite possibly future Wallaby captain, a man who stands on principle and defends those he cares about. And he is mocked for his ‘jazz hands.’
I hate to be the one to state the obvious, but social media, much like being a media personality, carries with it great power as well as great responsibility. It is capable of remarkable acts of kindness. It can be a great equaliser, giving everyone a voice. It can be used for activism, for education, for information transfer, for celebrating the increasingly rare good things that absolutely deserve celebration. And it can be used by the lowest common denominator to get a few cheap laughs or as click bait at someone else’s expense.
Like a mirror to the real world, it shines a light on our less attractive qualities. What a difference it would have made if Miranda Devine decide to say something nice instead of something nasty. What a difference if she’d have said ‘congratulations on a great performance’ instead of the equivalent of sniggering in the back of the class room whispering to the other mean girls ‘did you check out his jazz hands???’
If David Pocock did do jazz hands after scoring a try at an elite level of international sport he had certainly earned the right to do so and it wasn’t hurting Devine in the slightest. The fact that we simply cannot live and let live is almost as distressing as the fact that someone with considerable voice can’t exercise the self control not to make a nasty comment in a very public way. The saving grace in this saga is that the good guy didn’t resort to name calling or being nasty to make his point. Of course, he didn’t need to. If only there were more people in the world with kind hearts using social media accounts.