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Many years ago, I saw Anthony Bourdain speak in Raleigh. He appeared on stage with a beer and a few pieces of paper. He seemed both addled and sedated. I knew it would be a long night when he began reading verbatim from his notes. 

We showed up expecting stories from an intellectual mastermind, but what we got were a series of unfunny anecdotes anchored on the appearance and quirky behaviors of Sandra Lee, a TV personality on the Food Network. The whole bit was stupid and offensive.

I wrote about the experience on my blog and said that Anthony Bourdain is a piece of shit. The room was packed, the audience was on his side, and he alienated quite a few of us with his misogynistic language.

Many years passed, and I forgot all about that post. In fact, I watched his show on CNN. Every time he traveled around the world and spoke about people and culture, I was reminded of his great book called “Kitchen Confidential.” 

Then, when Tony Bourdain became a vocal advocate for the #MeToo movement in 2017, I remembered my old blog post. 

The internet is a harsh place, and, with hindsight, it was wrong of me to add to that cruelty. My brand of hostile sarcasm and cynicism was unique in the early 2000s, but, in the light of day, it’s no better than Tony Bourdain’s comments about Sandra Lee. 

And, as a public speaker, I’ve matured and learned that you bring whatever issues you have with you on stage (addiction, insecurities, fear) and hope that your audience appreciates your effort and message. All of us have bad nights where we blow it. One shaky performance doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or lazy. It was wrong of me to make those statements.

Anthony Bourdain’s excellent work on #MeToo and his compelling comments about human resources prompted me to rethink my toxic behavior on the internet.

So, I pulled my awful blog post down in a heartbeat and hoped he never saw it.

And then I worked with a community organizer and event planner to pull together a #MeToo conference. Anthony Bourdain became our “dream speaker” because of his progressive and heartfelt advocacy for the women assaulted by Harvey Weinstein.

Unfortunately, I never met Tony again. And his death reminds me those unkind moments on the internet accumulate in our society and have a lasting impact on our collective unconscious. 

So, in honor of Anthony Bourdain, I’m asking you to look at your own noxious behavior. Have you written something unkind and cruel? Do you have a blog post that is harsh? Have you tweeted something nasty about someone’s looks or appearance?

Today’s the day to glance at your archives and take it down. 

6 Responses to The Internet, Kindness and Anthony Bourdain
  1. Stoutcat

    While I love the sentiment of re-thinking toxic behavior, I’m going to have to disagree with you on one point. You shouldn’t take down your old blog post. Add an update if you must, but leave it up.

    Our history helps us learn. You felt quite strongly when you wrote the original post. Were you wrong at the time? Or have you matured since then and now feel differently? Our body of work is our own: good, bad, right, or wrong. We can certainly learn from it, but perhaps so can others. Leave the post up. Add an update. Learn from it. And let others learn, too.

    Erasing history never ends well.

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  3. R. J. MORRIS

    Really, really well done.

  4. George Guajardo

    Humans are complicated at the best of times. When you add the passage of time, it becomes difficult to evaluate or occasionally justify an action that seemed justifyable at the moment.

    I never met AB. I enjoyed the person he appeared to be through the media outlets I cared to consume. I recognized major parts of myself in him and still do. But part of staying in a healthy mind-frame as a depressive, is to let go of the past. So much of what I wrote before (a reflection of my thoughts and who I was) can be painfully embarrassing and for a variety of reasons. Instead of deleting them, burning pages, or even re-contextualizing them, I have found it best to simply walk away. They were the product of a different person at a different time.

    I must hope they are judged with as much lenience as I believe to apply to others now.

  5. Will Thomson

    You know what is funny Laurie.. You know I used to write a lot. I used to mouth of my opinion all the time. I would use harsh words and I regret it. I hardly write anymore.. I kind of keep to myself.. You never know how it will affect someone. Great post.
    Will

  6. dougshaw

    Thanks Laurie. I’ve had cause on a few occasions to revisit and remove stuff about which I felt justified at the time, but which was, in truth, hurtful. I’ll take another look in case I’ve missed anything. Cheers!