The Consequences of Negativity

NOTE:  I posted a very similar version of this over at Wildcat Maniacs.  I have edited out the forum-specific information for easier comprehension.

Many have noted the potential consequences of the strongly negative comments made by some UK fans about coach Tubby Smith.

Matt Jones has a thoughtful article over at the KSR blog about how the loud repudiation of Smith is playing out among recruits, and it is not a pretty picture. If what Matt says is true, the "Smith can't recruit" crowd are starting to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of the type UK basketball could surely do without.

I don't believe I can overstate the potential damage to our program if this situation does start to cost us recruits. Even if his detractors are able to force Smith to leave, the damage from the way the process is playing out will likely take years to repair.

Unfortunately, we cannot just tell the Smith detractors to shut up and go away. They are entitled to express their opinion, and they may not agree with me about the potential damage to the program. To the contrary, many Smith opponents have posted opinions suggesting the damage to the program will be greater if Smith stays. Both opinions are highly speculative, so it's impossible to say who is right, or rather, more right than wrong. So despite Jones' dire warnings, I expect the best those of us who share his concerns can do is to stand in there and argue our side, remaining polite and ethical and hopeful.

Jones also attacks pseudonymous posters in his article, a position I don't agree with. If someone posts a comment opposing Smith without dishonest, defamatory rhetoric, I can't see why psuedonymity or even anonymity is a problem. One of the beauties of the Internet is to allow people to make comments without fear of retribution. Concomitant with that privilege is the ethical responsibility to not to make false, defamatory or slanderous comments. When a pseudonymous poster makes an unethical or defamatory comment, they should be taken to task by all.

I will say that unethical behavior by Smith detractors is a serious problem. Some of the bile I have seen spewed around the Internet is intolerable, not because it expresses a valid opinion (to the extent they do so), but because lies, unsourced rumors and baseless accusations are part and parcel of some of them. This sort of bilge is not the behavior of a civilized fan base, and it's time we all took umbrage to those who do this. In my view, it has become a situation where "He who is silent is understood to consent". It is time for us to refuse to consent to invective, innuendo and lies. But at the same time, we must respect honest opinions ethically expressed, even when we profoundly disagree.