You know you have reached a certain time in your life when you start reading Playboy for the quality of its authors, rather than for the quality of its silicone. Personally, I still bounce between the two factions. I respect the genius of past contributors (Joseph Heller, Roald Dahl, Jack Kerouac, to name a few), but I can’t help but get distracted by the beautiful female “journalists”, and their use of split infinitives and saucy lingerie.
Anyway, after you’ve finished here, I urge you to go read Gilbert Gottfried’s piece in June’s edition (link below). Within The Apology Epidemic, he assassinates the social media dwellers that seem to be in a perpetual state of being offended or outraged by something. It’s hilarious, wickedly insightful, and required reading for a few people I recently ran into.
Gottfried is no stranger to controversy. Tweeting jokes about the Japanese tsunami, and baiting the outraged masses on social media, he was dismissed from a recurring television advertisement campaign as a direct result.
Honestly, if it’s that easy to destroy the livelihood of comedians you find offensive, why isn’t Michael Macintyre and the cast of Mock the Week claiming jobseekers allowance right now?
However, not a month after the Gottfried piece went out in Playboy, Anthony Cumia, from the Opie and Anthony Show on Sirius XM, was sacked for reasons that were equally amazing and staggeringly familiar.
It would seem that Cumia, whilst taking photos in Times Square late one night, was assaulted by an African-American woman who claimed he had taken her photo without permission. Rather than report the attack, Cumia recounted the experience to his Twitter followers. Big mistake!
Ignoring the vicious and unprovoked act of violence he had endured, the faceless offended picked over his tweets and simply branded the guy a racist.
Looking at the comments made it’s fair to say his words were unforgiving, understandably angry, and clearly written “in the moment”. But it’s a leap to call them racist.
Stupidly taking the bait, and engaging in the hatred (when he should have perhaps ignored the resulting tweets as nothing more than gravy-train outrage from the worst examples of social media bottom-feeders), Cumia was later dismissed from his radio show. All thanks to a few tweets and a lot of outraged people with internet access.
Now is it me, or are these ridiculous social media reactions nothing more than an example of the toxic piling-on culture that seems to be the proclivity of the more “sensitive” user?
Usually hiding behind their anonymity (a luxury not all of us have!), these people add their thoughts (loose term) and shake a disapproving fist at things they have either not fully understood or should not care about – certainly not as much as they profess too, as you will see later.
Perhaps naively, not only did it surprise me that so many people could be so hate-filled by such banality (seriously, you people can’t find anything else to get a tad miffed about? How about wartime rape or state-sanctioned child abuse?), but it also inspired me to experience a little of the heat for myself.
Now, I only became a Twitter person recently, and solely for the purpose of advertising this shambolic website. I use it every now and again, checking in on a few people I know, and a few I would like to know (I’m looking at you, Anna Kendrick!).
During the signing-up process, I remember being offered a few friendly suggestions on who I should be following – one of these was the UK X-Factor winner, James Arthur.
It was James who sprung to mind when choosing my muse. You see, I needed someone I could post a stupid comment too, and guarantee myself a shower of disapproving zealots who will bundle in and take issue with my obnoxious bullshit.
But that wouldn’t be enough, I also had to write something dumb and thoughtless enough that most would simply ignore as the act of an attention-seeking moron, but spiteful enough to lure out the whack-a-doodles and flick their Pavlovian conditioning to chase the bone thrown, en masse.
If my goal was to say something a little stupid and misguided, then I was in good company with dear old James. Here was a guy that had certainly seen his share of outspoken moments and strange controversy – my personal favourite being his alleged dropping from a record label for glamorising terrorism!
Seriously, Bananarama would turn in their grave if they knew what today’s pop stars were up too!
Anyway, with my research into his brand of followers concluded, I was ready. I had sent a few testers in previous weeks to see how deep the waters ran, and to explore what would provoke the right reaction.
But then something happened.
On the day I decided to drop the bomb, I read online that Mr Arthur was considering the removal of his Christian (first) name within the title of his next album, in the hope of shaking off yet more controversy. This time it was certain lyrics that had been deemed homophobic (by whoever monitors the use of homophobic lyrics in songs, I guess!). This was too good to miss.
After preparing my apology (because I knew I would need one), I sent the following recommendation to James… sorry… I sent the following recommendation to Arthur.
“Rather than drop the James @JamesArthur23 , how about dropping yourself from a multi-story car park? Just a suggestion. Think about it.”
Honestly, I felt pretty shitty when I sent it. You see, I have no interest in James Arthur, or his name dilemma. I don’t know his music, or hold any malice towards him. He seems to be a decent guy who is trying to deal with the shitty side of instant fame as he sees it. Not an easy thing to do, and something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy – regardless of the groupies and money made from lucrative Iceland adverts!
However, I knew James had a particular sort of following that would leap at my tweet. Sure enough, they came running – threats and all.
One follower suggested that,
“…his [my] son must be proud of him [me]”.
I can only assume this person was so angry they carried out a search on my name, found my website (thanks for the bump in readership!), noted that I had referred to my 4 year-old son in the past, and then used this information against me, in order to make a very creepy point.
Is this the work of a stable individual? I’ll let you judge.
Another stated that,
“When somebody tweets that they clearly lack intellect or empathy”.
Now that’s a very fair point to make. However, just as I thought I had found a sensible voice among the chorus of bile and hatred, the same person tweeted,
“Paul, you are clearly a fucktard”.
As much as I smiled at the moniker, the irony in their words was far more typical of the breed.
Finally, someone tweeted the below picture and rhyme.
I’ll be honest; I’m really not sure what to say on this one. Whilst it has provided some amusement over here at Snarky Towers, I resent being called a “troll”.
For the record, I only go under bridges in order to receive £10 hand-jobs from whatever homeless person is living there.
Relax! I’m making a joke! Please, I don’t want to hear from any offended homeless people who happen to have a smart phone, a Twitter account, and a better hand-job pricing structure than the one I eluded too.
Anyway, after an hour of dutifully taking all of the above comments on the chin, I issued the prepared apology and explained the reasons for my actions. I also provided my email address should any of the outraged tweeters wished to contact me directly for a calmer, more constructive, discussion.
If I had genuinely offended anyone, or caused a second of unnecessary upset, I wanted to discuss it and offer an honest apology – one that would be longer than 140 characters and perhaps a little more human.
Amazingly, all those people that had so much to say during their throws of being so unforgivably offended; suddenly dried up upon seeing the reality of the moment.
In short, when offered the chance to honestly engage with the person they found so deplorable and had freely insulted, threatened and vilified – they chose to become opaque and disappeared as quickly as a chip being fought over by a plague of starved rats.
I can only assume my dumb-ass comment hadn’t offended anyone that night. It pointed more towards a moment seized upon by a group of people that perhaps lack a more meaningful anchor within their lives – caring a little too much about a pop star, and not enough about their own questionable actions of self-justified retaliation?
In essence, these outraged and offended followers had only managed to mimic the ignorant and malicious position I had adopted – the only saving grace was that mine was a construct, I can only guess at what their genuine reasons for such behaviour were.
And once the mob mentality and knee-jerk piling on had disbanded enough to become unworthy of their faux abhorrence, the validity of the concern shown became truly transparent, comical and utterly indicative.
For the most part, the whole evening had stunk of that acceptable facet of verbal assault, via keyboard, which seems destined to be the foul undercurrent of an otherwise remarkable tool of mass communication.
Social media seems to have provided a flawless breeding ground for some truly breathtaking witch-hunts. The ability for people to group together, and attack from the safety of large numbers and unknowable distance, is truly frightening – particularly if you don’t have the stones to dismiss it all as stupid Twitter comments, and really not worth the candle to begin with.
For me, it’s a wicked by-product towards the larger benefits enjoyed from freedom of speech. How the likes of Twitter and Facebook can provide anyone with a podium to have their views and voice made public. Albeit usually from behind a curtain of absolute anonymity, and delivered without real ownership or consequence.
I should also add that throughout this episode, James Arthur was the only one of us who responded like a responsible, measured and assured human being.
How does that saying go: “You can choose your friends, but not the crazies that follow you!”
Paul Millard 2014
I HESITATE TO SUGGEST ANYONE LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS ONE!