Podcast Movement 2022 Left Me Confused
First, it was great to see so many podcasters out and networking. The event was a success, ran smoothly, and aside from a plague of crickets caused by flooding, was a great time. Then Ben Shapiro walked in and shook hands for 10 minutes. I had never heard of Ben Shapiro until everyone freaked out that he appeared. The other thing that left me confused is podcasters are some of the coolest people on the planet and people were afraid of them.
I've Participated in Coexisting Conversations
At a podcast event, there were two left-leaning, two right-leaning, and one LGBQT+ person at a table and we all listened and talked about our experiences. This was the first time I realized what I learned in school was not accurate. This was such a cool conversation that I remember it, and so does David Hooper (one of the guys at the table). It was like, “Hey remember when people could have a dialogue?”
So What Happened?
I sat down at a table with Eve and two other people, and someone asked if I had heard about, “The tweet heard around the world?” The tweet had a picture of Ben Shapiro from about 50 feet away with the caption “Hey Podcast Movement WTF?” To this I asked, “Who is Ben Shapiro?” and Eve pointed to the booth with his picture on it. We were sitting in front of it, and she said, “He came in and took pictures for about 10 minutes. I saw the whole thing, so I’m not sure what this apology is about.” Eve was confused. Eve had actually gotten up and had her picture taken with Ben. Eve along with the other people at my table had a lovely time sharing ideas and viewpoints. It was great.
One last point. Eve was trans. I could care less. For me, as an example, world hunger, gun violence, corrupt politicians, and big pharma are all much more important things to focus on than what and who you do in the bedroom.
The apology from podcast movement stated, “Hi folks, we owe you an apology before sessions kick-off for the day,” Podcast Movement tweeted Thursday morning. “Yesterday afternoon, Ben Shapiro briefly visited the PM22 expo area near The Daily Wire booth. Though he was not registered or expected, we take full responsibility for the harm done by his presence.
Those of you who called this “unacceptable” are right. In 9 wonderful years growing and celebrating this medium, PM has made mistakes. The pain caused by this one will always stick with us. We promise that sponsors will be more carefully considered moving forward.
This confused me. I understand how someone’s presence can be triggering, but this new definition of harm is new to me. Let me explain.
Podcast Movement Reminds Me of a High School Reunion
Jr High was awful for me. I was bullied, and in one case belittled on a regular basis. We will call him Norman. His parents were rich. My parents were not. I was in Norman’s very nice house once and I saw that he had a guitar in his closet. I asked,
“Is that a Fender Stratocaster?” to which he replied,
“Yes, American made (meaning more expensive).
Can I play it (as I played the guitar and Norman did not)? To this Normal replied,
“Buy one of your own.”
This is just one example.
When I attended a reunion, Norman (not his real name) was there. He met the criteria. He was part of my graduating class. I wasn’t happy to see him, and if I wanted to, I could’ve left. I didn’t. I ignored him. I didn’t demand an apology. Ben Shapiro met the criteria to be at this conference. He has a very popular show. His network is #6 with fewer shows which means they are VERY popular.
So did Norman harm me? No. Norman helped make me who I am. It’s not a coincidence that I’m the guy who wrote the book Profit from Your Podcast. I had to be creative in making money since I was 14.
Now you might say, “But he didn't have a badge. He didn't register.” To this, I point to the $30,000 he paid to be the booth you see when you walk in the door. For me, I think a 10-minute, unplanned, meet and greet comes with the booth.
Speak With Your Wallet and Not Your Mouth
Previous to Podcast Movement there was the New Media Expo. It had podcasting, blogging, video, social media, etc and I was at their last event when a bunch of people said, “It would be cool if we had one of these for just podcasters.” Hence, Podcast Movement was started and outsold its first event (to the point where they needed to move to a new location).
If you want an event that only talks about what you want to talk about, created it. It seems to work. Don’t believe me? Go to She Podcasts in Washington DC.
Trying to Silence Someone Can Backfire
By bringing up Ben Shapiro there were people like me who had never heard of him, and immediately downloaded episodes the minute we were connected to wifi. So by trying to silence him, you may have inadvertently grown his audience. In my opinion, those kinds of acts got former President Trump elected. He would say something outrageous, and the media would react. If his campaign trail got cold, all he needed to do was say something inflammatory, and he was back in the media.
Because We Are Complex There are Many Sides
On the Podcast Movement About Page, it states, “Podcasters are busy people, and our community is complex.” With this in mind, finding a “one size fits all” is impossible. Here are some possible solutions:
Check Your Politics at the Door
I understand that you might want to follow the example of the song “we are the World” from 1985 where there was a sign that read, “Check your ego at the door.” I guess when you have Michael Jackson, Bono, Steve Perry, and Bruce Springsteen in the same room, you might need that.
So, can we have a “Check your politics at the door sign?” This seems to make sense as we are there to talk about and learn content creation – not politics.
I worked with a Lesbian who was spit on growing up, and maybe being in a room with fans of Ben Shapiro may make you fearful. I get that. This is again where I get confused.
Do you feel that way when you go to Walmart, the Movies, or Sporting Events? Ben has a very popular show which means there are Ben Shapiro fans everywhere (not just Podcast Movement). I'd love to better understand.
Can You Apologize Too Much?
I understand that some people feel if you apologize unnecessarily you might be expected to apologize for everything. The analogy here is the small child that falls and looks to see if anyone saw them. If so, they begin to cry. A parent who saw this happen often will simply tell them, “I know you’re scared, you fell down. You’re ok, you’re ok.” The child then learns that not everything is something to cry about.
Just think of the phrase “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families” after a mass shooting. “I'm sorry” are two of the most powerful words on the planet, unless you say them about everything.
As someone who was married to someone I felt never apologized, I know how soul-crushing it can be to need an apology and not get it.
See why I’m confused? I understand both sides
What Happened to the Co-exist Movement?
I remember a decade ago when everyone was driving a Toyota Prius with a Coexist bumper sticker. Where are those people? When did we switch from focusing on co-existing to cancel culture? We need counsel culture. I'm trying to learn.
We All Need to Quote Sources
The minute I was connected to wifi, I went and downloaded an episode of the Ben Shapiro show and found two things:
1. Ben rarely quotes his sources (at least in the episode I listened to).
2. He is the MASTER of transitioning in and out of advertisements.
When I asked Google, “Why do people hate Ben Shapiro,” I saw articles with statements like, “He wants to kill me” but (like I just did) no link to the actual article where this was said (frustrating right?). I finally found the GLAAD site that had a list with links. When I saw that he has argued homosexuality should remain in the DSM as a mental illness, I could see why people find him offensive.
What Would Dave Do?
For me, I would’ve gone the, “It’s OK, I know you’re scared (acknowledge the valid feelings), but you’re at a podcast conference. Everyone is cool here. You don’t have to worry” approach.
Am I mad that they apologized? No. It’s their conference.
Am I going to attend in the future? Absolutely.
I have been disappointed when they’ve canceled speakers in the past. I could’ve learned from those speakers. If any event turns into a conference that doesn’t serve my needs, I’ll stop.
It's Like Planning A Wedding Only Worse
I love Dan and Jared. They've done a great job with this event for years, but realize any public event is a no-win situation.
Think of a wedding where you have the complexity of food, seating charts, locations, and family squabbles and multiply it by 5000.
You're never going to make everyone happy. The people who run the Podcast Awards have received death threats because someone thought that they deserved a trophy.
Not Everyone is Your Target Audience
The thing I was bummed to see is after all the shouting about the apology, one person named Will Williams said, “I want to be extremely clear: I do not accept this apology.”
This does not appear to be someone who is interested in a dialogue. It makes me feel bad for Podcast Movement.
The article continues, “This was not an isolated infraction against the humanity of marginalized people by Podcast Movement. This was not an inevitable mistake, not a small mistake, not a mistake made out of ignorance. It is 2022. Anti-trans legislation is in the news constantly. To be ignorant is not an accident; it is a choice.”
This makes me feel like they won’t be happy until, well, it makes me feel like they are never going to be happy. When I attended the very first She Podcasts event, I didn’t complain that all the speakers were female, all the topics were for females, Jessica and Elsie invite everyone to She Podcasts, but it’s a podcast for females. I am not a female. I am not their target audience. I was welcomed with open arms. They did not stop me from attending, but I needed to realize that this conference was for women, and I am not a woman.
Tal Miner stated in a medium article, “ I know this because I tweeted about the Daily Wire Booth (captioned “oh come on”), and got no traction. I tweeted about Shapiro (captioned “hey Podcast Movement what the fuck”) and had to lock my Twitter for safety.“
Which makes it sound like there was no stopping until the tweets got some attention. At the end of the article, it mentions that “This thread was, of course, widely spread,” and that they’d “Do it again.” (My apologies to Tal, I originally used the wrong pronoun. I did not mean any disrespect).
I do a show on Saturday mornings where I answer podcast questions with a co-host – live. I had someone email me PAGES of notes about the show. There was only one problem. He wanted a completely different show. He wanted guests and other things that were not part of a live “call-in” show. Do I not care about this person? I do care, but in the end, that person is not my target audience. There are plenty of other shows that they can consume.
Why Is There a List of Demands?
But I (Tal) join Will Williams in their list of demands:
– I would love to see Jared Easley removed entirely from Podcast Movement.
– I want Podcast Movement to develop statements and policies regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion.
– I want them to hire full-time DEI employees.
– I want them to develop standards for whose money they take and whose they reject.
– I want them to donate the money received from The Daily Wire.
We need to stop and think about our demands. When you cancel a person (Jared Easily), you cancel their family. In some cases, it appears that this is what people want. They want a person to lose everything. This means you're fine with taking the food out of the mouths of Jared's daughter and wife. It seems off that you demand apologies, but don't accept them. I'm confused.
This is when a dialogue appears to go from a discussion to the sport of recreational outrage.
For those that are new to the discussion, DEI is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The inclusion part again leaves me confused. It sure sounds like everyone is welcome except Ben Shapiro. If you are inclusive you include everyone. The goal is to learn from everyone. Otherwise, you end up sounding like the Pocahauntus Exception.
The article continues:
Sometimes I’m too much of an optimist — but I think yall can do it. Build an event I can safely be at, and you’ll have me there.
And if you don’t? I’ll find another conference to speak at. Or I’ll make my own. I’m not going to stop being queer and nonbinary, I’m not going to stop being a podcaster, and I’m not going to stop pushing this industry in a better direction. Get used to it.
Here again, I say, I've attended MANY podcast conferences and I've never heard anyone ask someone to “turn down your queerness.” Podcasters focus on the event. It's about the event and the industry.
Focusing on The Industry
I was in a meeting with four different media hosting companies (so they are all competitors) and not a single one brought up an agenda item about their company. In fact, it was the opposite. We congratulated Blubrry for coming out with a new player that targets the deaf. We realize that this puts pressure on the competitors, and moves the industry in the right direction. If the industry doesn't survive, then none of these companies survive.
For me, this is what a podcast event is meant to do. You help new podcasters get started. You help current podcasters grow their show. You learn strategies to grow your audience. That is the primary focus of the event. If I can learn about different cultures and insights (which I often do) then that is the cherry on top of the sundae.
If I'm missing something, I'd love to hop on a Zoom call with you. I'm still confused.