I happened upon Kevin Lossner’s blog some time ago. He voiced some of my own concerns. Initially, and beyond the subject matter, the translation profession and practices, his irreverent style drew me in. Fairly quickly, his incessant ranting drove me away. Yesterday, a provocatively vague tweet regarding Translators without Borders (TWB) prompted me to return to his blog. The post, a ham-fisted rant that impugned the reputations of TWB and the members of its boards, and the ensuing comments compelled me to write this post.
Mr. Lossner, a translator, bills his content as “quirky”. He vigorously champions decent rates for translators, fulminates against commoditization, blasts the Big Agencies, decries the advent of machine translation and fights back against those he considers to be the powers that be.
So far, so good. I repeat. I share many of Lossner’s concerns.
His puerile and scatological digs at his perceived nemeses, however, put me off. I stopped following his blog.
Yesterday, Mr. Lossner posted a clever tweet that got past my bullshit radar. I fell for the come-on and clicked. Mistake.
The link directed me to a post dated October 29 that in turn led me to another posted October 24. Ever keen to get to the bottom of things, I quickly clicked to the earlier post. It is this post that left me gobsmacked.
Once past the clever Sound and Fury clip—wink, wink, know what I mean?—and the Kilgray plug, the post calls into question TWB’s practices and the worthiness of its board of directors. A loosey-goosey parallel is drawn between a fictitious board of directors for Reporters Without Borders (Murdoch, Huffington, Bloomberg and Berlusconi) and TWB’s actual board of directors and advisory board. The latter is a slapped-together affair with sloppy identifying labels pasted on.
Next up, an off-handed reference to “the Silvio Berlusconi of translation” and representatives from “companies with significant interests in the commoditization and sometimes hampsterization of the translation profession”. Mr. Lossner goes on to suggest that “language assets” donated to TWB might be reused for profit by the nefarious private interests of those on the governing boards.
In the post, Lossner offers no basis for his disquiet. Anyone who follows his posts knows that deep-seated skepticism is Lossner’s middle name. In a comment, however, he refers to private exchanges at translation confabs, cries, whispers and gossip offered by those too intimidated to express their concerns publicly. Specifically, according to Lossner, TWB’s critics fear “deliberate attempts at defamation”.
Lossner’s comment turned up in a lengthy thread that might better be described as a slugfest between supporters of Lossner’s graceless appeal for transparency and defenders of TWB, including two members of TWB’s advisory board. A former ATA president had at it in multiple entries. Anonymous, “someone only peripherally related” to the issue, also weighed in, natch. Some folks aimed for well-reasoned arguments; others opted for snark. Overall, the tone of the exchanges sickened me. I had to walk away a few times before reading all the contributions. Took me two days.
I’m all for taking on the baddies, asking tough questions and speaking truth to power. I am also a big fan of transparency and don’t think any organization, charitable or otherwise, should be immune from scrutiny.
Here’s the thing. I shied away from commenting because, although het up, I really had nothing really productive to add. Mostly, I feared I might be feeding the trolls. And that really burns me up.
In the past year or so, I have seen a slew of “discussions” devolve into name-calling and nastiness on translator blogs and in LinkedIn groups. Frankly, the sheer amount of hurtful and hateful vitriol, the alarming level of toxicity, in some quarters boggles the mind. Bottom line: I no longer even lurk where translators gather to natter online.
How does the saying go? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. So, yes, shame on me for again being drawn into yet another morass of dispiriting angst instigated by some armchair spitballing from Mr. Lossner.
Mr. Lossner’s fans will be delighted to learn that there are more startling revelations to come. Oh, that zany Mr. Lossner! What a tease, right?
As for me, I will not be reading any follow-up reportage crafted by Mr. Lossner or his guests. Why? I don’t trust him anymore. Plus, I don’t want to contribute to his Klout score any more than I already have. And that’s really what this is all about isn’t it, Mr. Lossner? Scoring points.
Photo credit: Renato Mismetti as The Fool in Pagliacci, an opero by Leoncavallo via Wikimedia Commons