Twitter is the new Colosseum. Few victims survive the onslaught

“…Closer to home, less dramatic but as yet unresolved, is the case of popular conservative radio host Andrew Lawton of London, Ontario’s AM980 (who has very competently interviewed me a number of times). On Feb. 2 Andrew remarked on Facebook that a “push poll” was trying to paint Londoners as homophobic.  He then posted the annual number of sexual-orientation crimes in Canada: 185, followed by the catalytic remark: “Number of HIV/AIDS infections from men having sex with men in Canada per year: 1450 – Who is the real enemy?” The question was interpreted as homophobic — it was at the least ill-considered — and even though Andrew published a clarifying statement of regret on Feb. 3, a Twitter campaign sprang into action, hashtagged #fireandrewlawton.

On Feb. 4 Andrew was suspended “for at least the rest of [the] week.” Not good enough! Mobbers descended on a show sponsor, which refused the bait (to their credit). Pressure continued. It was announced that Andrew was now suspended until Feb. 23. A Facebook counter-campaign by Andrew’s supporters was launched: “Bring back Andrew Lawton,” followed by a counter-counter Facebook page, “Keep Lawton off the air.” Petitions on both sides were mounted. One supporter sent repeated emails to station manager, Nathan Smith, asking for a link to the “social media policies” and “broadcast standards” that Smith had mentioned in his statement of suspension. He had no response. I asked Mr. Smith for an interview. No response.

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